BY: JUMA, SOUTH SUDAN, JUN/01/2013, SSN;
By the end of this article, you will concur with me that administrative decentralization is the best system of governance that South Sudan governance should implement fully. Let me give you brief background of decentralization as a whole so that some of my readers who are not well conversant with decentralization should be in a better position to make a rationale decision concerning the type of decentralization that their conscience can deem relevant to our country.
A- Decentralization: is defined as the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to subordinate or quasi-independent government. Decentralization is divided in to various types such as:
(i) Political decentralization:
Political decentralization aims to give citizens or elected representatives more power in public decision making. It is often associated with pluralistic politics and representative government, but it can also support democratization by giving citizens, or their representatives, more influence in the formulation and implementation of policies. Advocates of political decentralization assume that decisions made with greater participation will be better informed decisions and more relevant to diverse interests in society than those made only by rational political authorities. The concept implies that the selection of representatives from local electoral jurisdictions allows citizens to know better their political representatives and allows elected officials to know better the needs and desires of their constituents.
Political decentralization often requires constitutional or statutory reforms, the development of pluralistic political parties, the strengthening of legislation, creation of political units, and the encouragement of effective public interest groups.
(ii) Administrative Decentralization:
It is a transfer of responsibility for planning, financing and management of certain public functions from central government and its agencies or commissions to field units of government agencies, or semi autonomous government (states for our case).
Administrative decentralization is categorized into:
Is often considered to be the weakest form of decentralization and is used most frequently in unitary states. It distributes decision making authority, financial and managerial responsibility among different levels of central government. it can merely shift responsibilities from central government officials in the capital city to those working in the regions, provinces, or districts or it can create strong field administration or local administrative capacity under the supervision of central government ministries.
Delegation is more extensive form of decentralization. Through delegation, central government transfer responsibility for decision making and administration of public functions to semi-autonomous organization not wholly controlled by the central government, but ultimately accountable to it. Government delegation responsibilities when they create public enterprises or corporations, housing authorities, transportation authorities, special service districts, semi autonomous school districts, regional development corporation, or special project implement units.
Usually these organizations have a great deal of discretion in decision making. They may be exempt from constraints of regular civil service personnel and May able to charge users directly for services.
When government devolves functions, they transfer authority for decision making, finance and management to semi independent local government. Devolution usually transfers responsibilities for services to municipalities that elect their own mayors, collect their own taxes (raise their own revenues locally), and have an independent authority to make investment decisions. In devolved systems, local governments have clear and legally recognized geographical boundaries over which they exercise authority and with in which they perform public functions or duties. It is this type of administrative decentralization that underlies most political decentralization.
C- Financial decentralization: Under this system, the local tiers are responsible for collecting and allocating taxes and other financial grants. Besides locally raised revenue as a source of the revenue for the local government, the central government transfers some money (grants) to local governments. Local governments are also empowered to borrow up 25% of locally generated revenue but not beyond that amount.
These grants are as follows:
Conditional grants: these are funds that are transferred from central government to local governments for specific purposes; this constitutes 88% of central government transfers to local government or states.
Unconditional grants/Block granting: this is the transfer of funds to local government for unspecified reasons or purposes; this fund constitutes 11% of the central government transfers to local governments.
Equalization grant: these are allocated to disadvantaged local governments that fare below the national average, this forms very small percentage of about 0.5% of central government transfers to local governments. This grant focuses on the services such as education, roads, health and agriculture extension. The combination of three grants constitutes 30% of central government transfers to local governments.
If we clearly compare the above narrative to what’s really happening in South Sudan, we can find that political decentralization is already in existence and in its fullest, this because, the members of the parliament for the state as well as the national legislative assemblies are both elected at the grass roots to represents the views or the interest of the local majority, what is lacking in our political decentralization is that, there is need for constitutional reforms.
There is also a need to give the local people especially the village elders to contribute to planning process, i.e. there is a need for the bottom-upwards planning so that the local views are integrated in the national planning. This will enable governments to deliver the services based on the local needs and it will also make the local people feel that, they are part of public decision making process than being mere policy implementers.
In regards to administrative decentralization, we already have half of administrative decentralization, because we have a partial devolution of powers where states can formulate their laws that suit them besides national laws that applies to every state. We have already seen states implementing various national projects like schools, roads etc. this means that, delegation as part of administrative decentralization is in practice.
Financial decentralization: which allows the states to allocate and collects the taxes was in practice before the centralized tax system was introduced due to austerity measures but there are hopes that, with resumption of the oil export, the centralized system of tax system would be reversed.
In regards to the grants that central government transfer to states and counties respectively, our country has the following this year basing on ministry of finance circular:
The counties will get additional 220 million ssps for transfer to the counties to improve basic services like education, health care and water for people in the rural areas, of this amount, 60 million SSPs will go to capitation grant for primary schools. This is an amount paid based on number of pupils enrolled.
Another 60 million ssps will go to the national procurement of suppliers. It also proposes a block grant of 50 million south Sudanese pounds (SSPS) to support basic administrative functions in counties. it further provides an additional 70 million ssps for the counties’ development grant which will then increase to 149 million ssps, this grant will fund infrastructural projects prioritized by the counties and will be allocated on population basis.
The finance ministry also proposes payam development grant of 7 million ssps to finance projects identified by Boma and payam development committees. The payam dev elopement grant will start with eight counties in four counties in four states and will gradually expands across all ten states by 2016 stated by the circular .
In summary of financial and government transfers i.e. this year’s budget, there will be:
50% cuts in housing allowances to be increased by January.
25% cuts in transfers to states to be increased in January.
360 SSPS for construction of juba international airport
50 miilion ssps will go for the construction of the power generation
130 million ssps for job creation in agriculture and other sectors
220 ssps extra amount will go counties to improve basic services in education, health care and water.
50 million ssps for new block grant to support counties’ administrative functions.
70 million ssps extra for county development grant
7 million ssps for new development grant
The sum of additional funds to the counties this amount to 350 million this year
In my view, what is lacking is that there must be a system that checks the corruption or how funds are spent in the states or countries , in Uganda for example , the government had introduced what they called “public expenditure tracking system” which ensures that , funds released to districts are accounted for by the respective recipients’ either in districts or counties , the method according to Ugandan government has ensures upwards accountability and thus tries to minimize the misappropriation of the transferred funds. In my view, the chamber of auditing should be sending teams to respective states or counties to ensure that money transferred is accounted for.
They (the team) should be protected by the law so that when they try to review public expenditures,, they should do so without any interference from centre of powers be it national or state level that would impair their independent findings . Besides, every county should have a planning unit headed by a planner who plans for the county with the help of the rest of his subordinates that reports to him.
The time for political accommodation is over; our government should employ real professionals at grass roots with attractive remunerations.
I am of a view that our nation should established “National Planning Authority,” the planning authority would be in charge of planning for short and long terms plans that would shape our nation in the near future, it would monitor the implementation of the approved plans, projects and thereafter evaluates their impacts on society and our nation as a whole. With such institution in place, the long terms plans are broken down into a series of achievable short term plans ranging from annual to five year development plans aimed at achieving lengthy plans that can cover 5, 10, 25 years or beyond.
The funds to states should be increased, a reliable source has it that , the government only sends only 14% of the national funds to the states , these funds should be increased if we are to achieved development in our States , Counties , Payam and Boma levels of government . Our government should only retain some of public functions and then decentralize the rest, for example , the government should maintain foreign affairs, security services( police, prison and defense), and national projects . The rest should be decentralized to the states, this means that, the national ministries should be reduced from 29 ministries to just 12 or 13 ministries. This will reserves more funds for the states, all in all , the total transfers to states should be increased from 14% to 45% of our national budget, and there should be very , very strict accountability as I proposed above . By implementing such measures, we will be in position to take towns to villages than a mere talking without actions.
For example, this year is our agricultural year that would ensure that 2014 becomes a year in which we shall be a self sufficient country but how is it going to be achieved, is government going to invest in large agricultural schemes or is government going to give subsidies to local farmers so as to achieved that dream? And if so, are there going to be a conditions for the support or is it going to be unconditional subsidy?
How will government change lip service to practical service delivery? ………………..the list is endless. Government should achieve the goal of our nation being a food sufficient using different approaches that suits each state.
In conclusion, our government should decentralize fully its administrative units so that each state should be in position to independently plan how it will achieve its developmental ambitions basing on local priorities. Full devolution of powers will also help reduce the size of our nation’s power struggle, reduce national government expenditures, and reduce political competition of coming to national government in Juba.
To me, the government in Juba should be reduced and strictly mandated to do regulatory service of states and lower levels of governance, so that the real service delivery is in fact carried out in the state or lower levels of government than maintaining a huge public sector that dwindles resources that should have been channelled to counties, payams and Bomas to finance developmental programs.
The writer is a concerned South Sudanese Economist