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Letter of the Day | Divisional offices must retain government stamp

Published:Thursday | April 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM


In his 2017-2018 Sectoral Debate presentation, Minister Desmond McKenzie made it clear that he wanted to transform local government and strengthen it as an institution. The minister announced his plans to make councillors more responsive to the needs of their constituents through funding given directly to the local elected representatives for disaster victims, funeral and education grants, etc. This commitment is welcomed as a way of reaffirming the importance of local representation as a first point of contact between citizens and government. But even more crucial is the safeguard against corruption, as the Poor Relief Department will verify the reimbursements.

If councillors are indeed to be more responsive and active within their division, it makes sense for them to have proper operational functionality and autonomy in the area. To this end, the minister announced funding assistance to build divisional offices and to continue upgrading municipal buildings. It is important for effective and efficient governance that the infrastructure is in place to support productive administrative and clerical processes. Scepticism of intergovernmental projects is warranted, but how long will we continue to fool ourselves into utilising ageing and inadequate public infrastructure?

As these new divisional offices are created to support the functions of local governance, I strongly suggest that they remain firmly as permanent public offices, not political party offices, very much unlike the member of parliament (MP) constituency offices that are established by the political parties. The MP offices can be uninviting for many who are independent and troubled by the notion of party politics, but who wish to access their elected MP or opposition caretaker, as they have the right to do. Any attempts to colour or make partisan these divisional offices will immediately mark the defeat of their true purpose.

I suspect these offices will be made to accommodate the transfer of power, hence documentation and employees within the office will be accountable to public scrutiny. Let's not make a good thing bad by gifting it to the tribal nature of our political system. This must be a chance taken to restore accountability and trust.