BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA
One of the Rwanda’s key objectives as formulated in its future road map the vision 2020 and medium term strategy framework the EDPRS is good political and economic governance. Good governance is considered a key element for successful development. It is therefore related to other key objectives like rural economic transformation, development and promotion of the private sector, regional and international economic integration and poverty reduction.
Part of this roadmap entailed the adoption of the decentralization policy by Government in 2000 as one way of taking services closer to the citizens countrywide.
With this policy shift decentralization of power, authority, resources, responsibility and accountability were transferred from central to local governments.
The purpose was to ensure political, economic, social, managerial/administrative and technical empowerment of the local population to fight poverty by participating in planning and management of their own development processes.
The objective is basically centred around giving more focus on stimulating local people to actively participate and making the political process more transparent and improving the planning process.
When the concept of decentralization is combined with good governance, both concepts can be joined into the concepts of democratic decentralization. This encompasses at least two key relationships,
1- The relationship between the central government and local governments and
2- The relationship between the local government and the local population. This is a working area of Rwandese Association of Local Government Authorities [RALGA].
In terms of this relationships mentioned earlier, decentralization and good governance can be defined as development of reciprocal relationships between central and local government and its citizens.
There is therefore strong need to develop and strengthen, on a sustainable basis, the capacities of all actors and players involved to enable them sustain decentralized governance and effective local level service delivery in the country.
According to Vision 2020 pillars Rwanda is committed to deepen good governance through accountability, transparency and efficiency in deploying scarce resources to enable the economy to reap optimum returns.
But it also means having the state being respectful of democratic structures and processes. It also means having the state being committed to the rule of law and the protection human rights in particular.
Through RALGA Rwanda’s local government authorities have become recognized as the mouthpiece of local government
Therefore, the functioning of its governing bodies is essential; since it is through them that the opinions and views of the members are channeled.
This means that RALGA must speak with one voice as it represents the general interests of local authorities. In the process the forum ensures an effective, transparent and accountable process in decision making.
The RALGA General Assembly meets and plays its role of providing necessary guidelines and general orientation for the association.
Lobbying and advocacy
RALGA has embarked on a new orientation in fulfilling its lobbying and advocacy functions. It involves promoting the interests of local government with all other governmental authorities.
In its new strategic plan, a new approach is envisaged for RALGA in order for it to achieve a greater performance in fulfilling its mandate.
The Executive Committee of the Association has come up with a 5 year strategic plan whereby RALGA’s actions should assist the members in promoting good governance at local level.
This plan also seeks to promote decentralized urbanization and Umudugudu, and in achieving the MDGs, with special focus on poverty reduction, gender mainstreaming, reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health.
It was also decided that the strategic plan must devise ways for RALGA to be pro active with regard to laws and policies elaboration.
The plan also seeks to put in place a strong information and research system with an intent of improving the mechanisms of selecting and disseminating best practices and innovations.
District elected leaders and staff technical forums were organized to promote peer to peer exchange and to gather information from the field implementers for advocacy purposes.
As far as capacity building of members is concerned, a crucial step has been made.
RALGA has completed its strategy on local government capacity building. The role of RALGA in capacitating local governments is more clearly defined. The demarcations have been set, and a more clearer orientation on activities is set to be undertaken.
The forum has the task of soliciting for the local authorities issues related to building of its capabilities in areas such as trainings, acquisition of related equipment and financial means in order to allow them to fulfill their duties.
In 2008, 1,398 members of the bureaus of councils districts and sectors and the permanent secretaries of district councils (76.9% of target people) were trained.
The training focused on the following: functioning of councils, implementation of the EDPRS and economic revolution programs, transparency, accountability and fight against corruption in local governments, gender budgeting and planning in local governments and lastly how to strengthen the cell entity to make it more effective.
After the training, the functioning of councils improved as their bureaus had understood the working relationships between them and the district council on one hand, and its executive committees on the other hand.
3. HIV/aids mitigation
Over 80 Councillors and staff members of districts were sensitized on the incorporation of HIV-AIDS mitigation in local government planning. These officers were trained to use a tool on gender mainstreaming into local government planning and budgeting.
4. Prioritising governance
A workshop was organised for the members of district Executive Committees to internalize the national priority governance values agreed upon (INDANGAGACIRO) and thereafter to contribute in promoting these at local level.
These values are widely known by local officials, both technicians and politicians. The quality of service delivery has tremendously increased, and there is a tangible change as regards the time needed for service delivery.
5. Exchanging information
District elected leaders and staff technical forums were organized to promote peer to peer exchange and to gather information from the field implementers for advocacy purposes.8 meetings of technical forums were facilitated.
6. Fighting corruption
As corruption is a serious concern for the Government of Rwanda, RALGA had organized a poster writing competition and workshops around this issue in all districts in 2007.
A ceremony was organized in February 2008 to exhibit the products submitted to RALGA for the poster competition on fighting against corruption in local governments and to award the winners.
The ceremony created opportunities for synergy and collaboration between the leaders at the district level, the representatives of civil society, donors and national institutions that deal with the issues of transparency and corruption.
7. Dispensing better values within governance
The opinions and perceptions that local leaders had expressed on corruption during the workshops organized in Districts in May and June 2008 were compiled in a booklet and the 5 best posters on fight against corruption were printed.
Subsequently, 2,000 posters and booklets containing anti-corruption messages were printed and distributed to districts and sectors to be posted in public places.
8. Entrenching good governance
These products created awareness among the citizen and local leaders, on the nature of corruption and its bad effects on service delivery.
RALGA thus made an important contribution to the fight against corruption, and local government officials are informed about the forms of corruption and its drawbacks.
9. Undertaking advocacy
RALGA’s opinion on the MIFOTRA capacity building program for civil servants was taken into consideration and a decision was made that one third of the fund would be allocated to civil servants serving at local government level.
10. Mainstreaming family planning at local levels
RALGA lobbied for the release funds to be used by local governments for the implementation of HIV/AIDS and family planning programmes.
11. Networking local authorities
A local finance manager’s platform was established, bringing together district directors of finance and officials in charge of local finances in the two ministries.