Rwanda Association of Local Government Authorities (RALGA) yesterday concluded a two-day training retreat which should be very useful. The training, whose participants are the country’s mayors, aimed at building their capacity to make decentralisation serve its full purpose. Participatory investment, budgeting and proper financial reporting are the areas that got most attention.
The Minister of Local Government reminded the mayors and their deputies that people’s participation, transparency and accountability in management of public resources is what government wanted to achieve when it embraced decentralisation.
The training was convened after establishing that district heads err in their decision making, sometimes at great cost. Whereas two days may not be an ideal length of time for such wide subjects like participatory management, accountability procedures and financial reports presentation, any amount of intellectual input should make a difference.
It should improve things, more so because the participants at least possessed basic knowledge in these fields by virtue of having been accounting officers already. The importance of management by participation cannot be overemphasized. Involving people in decision making processes effectively exploits the wealth of diverse views. Two heads are better than one.
But participatory management gives you more. Involving people can greatly inspire them. It is a huge motivating factor many times - the reason democratic setups are often more productive. Participatory approach becomes an imperative in public investment decisions. Even our development partners have at long last come to realise it.
They now consult beneficiaries of a given development project. To some extent they now involve people in identifying priority areas, plus collectively examining the viability and sustainability of programmes. In the past it was pure ramming of their ideas down our throats, and it is even that we are now totally free from it.
Additional skills in accounting procedures are also going to move the country a step forward. Quite often it has been concluded after audits that public resources may not have been misused but ill-accounted for. What ought to be a blurred line between misappropriation and flouting of accountability rules becomes distinctively different: one acceptable and the other illegal.
We all know how sinister motives can be camouflaged in ignorance. The mayors’ training should address some of these concerns.