Local leaders; what capacity do they need?

It was reported this week that close to fifty percent of the grass root leaders elected in 2006 have already lost their jobs. This has been attributed to a number of reasons mainly issues to do with abuse of office.

It was reported this week that close to fifty percent of the grass root leaders elected in 2006 have already lost their jobs. This has been attributed to a number of reasons mainly issues to do with abuse of office.

So is it really a problem that many local leaders are vacating their offices before completing their term. Yes and no. Yes because some are losing their positions because of suspected criminal behavior.

Stealing public funds is a real problem. And many reports indicate that this is being done through dubious awarding of tenders.

No because it is a process of weeding out those who are not up to the task. Those who cannot stand the fire ought to get out of the kitchen.

Being entrusted with public office is a great calling. And it takes sacrifice to hold such offices. So those who see public office as a means of self enrichment are being weeded out.

And if there are some who bow out on their own after realizing that they are not up to the task, then that is the honorable thing to do.

But again, all this has brought one thing to the fore, as the minister of local government Protais Musoni was quoted saying. That there is lack of capacity! This presents a question.

If elected leaders are resigning because of lack of capacity, then what are the necessary conditions for people to seek different public offices?

Are the qualifications required so low to the extent that people are elected to offices which are beyond their level of competence? In any case what are the functions of elected leaders like mayors?

These people work with Executive Secretaries who are below them. The Executive Secretaries are the technical persons at the districts and hence are supposed to be the ones to handle the technical and mostly the bureaucratic aspects of managing the districts.

These Executive Secretaries have the technical capacity to handle their jobs. As such they ought to be advisors of sorts to the elected leaders.

Or are the elected leaders entangling themselves in functions that are not their responsibility.

In any case, technical capacity which in most cases comes with certain levels of education should not be an issue when it comes to elective office. This is because they represent the people.

Capacity or no capacity, in a largely agrarian society with low literacy levels, there is no need for political leaders to be highly educated because that creates a disconnection with the people they lead.

In any case the technocrats are supposed to do such functions that require high levels of technical capacity.

When mayors and other elected leaders are caught up in such issues as misuse of public funds or tender scams, there is a high probability that they are not working alone. In most cases they are likely to be conniving with the appointed technocrats or bureaucrats for that matter.

These are civil servants who are supposed to have gone through the normal civil service recruitment and appointment system.

What creates a situation whereby civil servants that are the technical people at districts have very cozy relations to the extent of cutting deals with the elected leaders so as to swindle public funds?

We have seen situations where permanent secretaries are arrested with other technical people in ministries without the line minister being implicated.

This shows that at the national level civil servants do not largely get involved with political leaders in dubious dealings.

But the fact that at the local levels such may be happening, then it shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with how the local political leaders deal with the civil servants at those levels.

Foremost, it is important to maintain checks and balances. Where as the councils at the Umurenge and Akagari levels serve the purpose of “checks and balances” on the executive committee, the executive secretary, by being the head of administration and with the responsibility of technical management, ought to guide the political leaders in some of the technical issues but more importantly, they should not overstay in the same district for so long.

They should be rotated around the country so as to avoid a situation where they get to cozy with the locals and their leaders.