Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:13:43 +0000


By Eustarkio Kazonga


This article focuses on the use of statistics in the local government system. The Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 defines local government as governance at the local level. It can further be defined as local democratic units within the unitary democratic system which are subordinate members of central government vested with prescribed powers to administer public affairs in each locality by a body representative of the community.

Local government is essentially an instrument for providing services to the general public of a given locality on behalf of the central government since it is an agent. The Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 Annex 147 (2) C, further prescribes 51 exclusive functions of the local authorities.

An ideal local government system is guided by five principles and these are: (i) local government as an agent of the central government. (ii) local authorities as creatures of the law (statute) (iii) participation of local residents in the democratic election of representatives on the local authority (iv) local government being essentially a method of getting various services run for the benefit of the community (v) local government operating on the basis partnership relationship between the politician/councillor and the professional/officer.

In the context of these principles and functions, statistics play an important role in improving the quality of administration and management of local government.

Management and Administration

Local government administrators, managers and civic leaders [Councillors and Council Chairpersons and Mayors] need to have basic statistical literacy as there are many areas in which statistics is used is rational decision making. Local authorities are expected to coordinate the production, collection, and dissemination of statistics to improve service delivery to the community. A coordinated approach in the local government system may result in greater consistency of data availability, more effective use of statistics and potentially reduced cost.

There are a number of similarities between the statistical needs of central and local governments. In many instances both parties work together to ensure an effective and efficient outcome. It is important to ensure that central and local governments are able to access key statistics at an appropriate geographic level as both parties strive to deliver services to the community.

Basic statistics on the number of councils in the country by province and category i.e. city, municipal and district council are necessary for the general management of the local government system.

Data collection can be done using interviews or questionnaires among others. One of the ways in which dissemination may be done is through publications and dissemination fora.

Trend Analysis

A good understanding of the local community and trends within it is essential if local government is to provide quality advice, information and services to achieve the most appropriate outcomes for their communities. Community groups need information on local areas. Local government needs to be mindful of the needs of all groups within society as well as the needs of future generations.

For these reasons, local government monitors very closely development proposals for change of use, building and local spatial planning, refuse removal, refuse dumps and solid waste disposal, street lighting etc. These require good quality statistics for monitoring the trend over a period of time. For example amounts of solid waste generated, amount taken to the waste disposal sites etc.

The monitoring of trends over time is an important aspect of local government responsibilities. Local government is responsible for the formulation, implementation and monitoring of a wide range of policies that impact on local communities.

Trends can be analysed in liquor licencing, collection of levies, licensing of dogs, licensing and control of undertakings that sell food to the public etc. The trend analysis can be done using a statistical concept of time series.


Local government has a number of legal regulatory obligations for which it is accountable. These include such matters as regulating the discharge of contaminants into air and water [pollution control], health, safety and building site inspections etc. Relevant, quality and timely statistics at a community level are necessary for the effective management and administration of the local government system.

Understanding the use of statistics is required in performing the regulatory functions of local authorities such as enforcement of bye-laws and other legal provisions.

Service Delivery

It is a fact that local government is the primary provider of community services. The provision and siting of these services can pose a number of challenges without adequate statistical data from which to base assumptions, for example, the nature of expected population growth in a locality. There is need for local level data to inform the decision making process and to ensure that significant funding decisions such as water supply and sanitation, markets, drainages, street lighting, local amenities and roads are made with the maximum possible available data.

Community Improvement

The democratic process of government requires that each community has available to it sufficient information to enable the people to make informed decisions that may impact on the future nature and direction of their communities. Without this localised information people are literary impotent to make decisions.

Similarly, when deciding on the placement of a community service or facility such as a market or water point, statistical information is required before a decision can be made.

For example, to determine the most appropriate location of a child-care facility, recreation and amenities, local amenities, local sport facilities, markets, local parks and recreation, planners need to know the demographic characteristics of the communities being considered.


Education is a key component of economic and community development. This is especially so for those people who are unemployed and represent a pool of untapped human resource. The key statistical issues for local government in monitoring the education are: literacy rates, pass rates, number and type of schools, teacher:pupil ratios, number of total number of pupils enrolled in schools. Statistics relating to the local education sector are important for labour force planning and also for infrastructure development.

Water Supply and Sanitation

Local authorities are responsible for the provision of water and sanitation services limited to potable water supply systems and domestic waste-water and sewage disposal systems.

Statistics can be used to determine percent distribution of households and the population, urban or rural, by source of drinking water, time taken to obtain drinking water, and water storage and treatment practices adopted by households. Local authorities are expected to have basic statistics of boreholes drilled in a particular period such as a year and their corresponding costs. These statistics can be used for measuring performance, making comparison between planned and achieved targets.

Energy Usage

The key statistical issues for local government in monitoring energy usage within their communities are: energy generation by type and source, energy sources for heating and cooking, energy consumption by type and sector and quantity of fuel sold and used by type. Specifically, cooking fuel statistics on electricity, charcoal, wood, Straw/shrubs/grass, or animal dung can be obtained to determine the most common source of cooking fuel in a particular locality.

Health Services

The health of local communities is very important. The key statistical issues for local government in monitoring the health of its residents include: access to information on life expectancy, infant mortality, number of health facilities [hospitals, clinics and health posts], staffing levels, hospital admissions and discharges for different conditions. While it is difficult to directly relate cause and effect to health illnesses, having basic health data at least assists in the provision of relevant health care facilities.


Adequate accommodation for members of the community is a very important consideration for local government. Numerous housing issues are confronted by local government regularly including crowding, housing density and building inspections. The key statistical issues for local government in monitoring the housing of its residents include: housing stock by type, number of bedrooms and living rooms and number of occupants and household projections. Statistics are required to show the materials used for the floor, roof and wall of houses constructed.


Shortcomings in transport statistics are a constant cause of concern for local government which has responsibilities for providing local transport planning and services. Both central and local government are responsible for ensuring the efficient transportation of goods and people.

Local authorities are exclusively responsible for roads and traffic automation and maintenance, traffic and parking, and district public transport. The key statistical issues for local government in monitoring transport within their communities are: origin – destination matrices at community level provide valuable input into transport data models which help to address the provision of public transport options, means of travel to work data, accident and injury statistics by type of injury, number of vehicles per household.

Waste Management

An increasingly pressing issue within the local government sector relates to waste management and recycling, and estimated solid waste generation in tonnes per year. A number of councils are facing a serious challenge plastic waste.

The level of waste generated in the country has been increasing at a rate requiring critical decisions to be made related to land-fill sites for the waste disposal.

It has become a matter of urgency that waste management statistics be collected and made available to councillors.  Specifically, possible statistics can be on the estimated quantities (tonnes/year) per category of waste, categorisation of waste into domestic, high density, medium density or low density. Additionally, number of licensed transporters of waste and operators of waste disposal sites (hazardous and non-hazardous), number of licensed solid waste transporters, number of licensed disposal sites, hazardous waste transporters, and number of hazardous waste disposal sites.

In general, the key statistical issues for local government in monitoring the waste management within their communities are: volume of waste by type and source, volume of waste by type by treatment method, recycling and disposal by material type.


In this article, I have demonstrated how statistics can be used in a number of functional areas of local government ranging from social delivery, regulation to administration. At the heart of local government is an administrative structure, and the central function of statistics in a local authority is to serve the purposes of administration in the performance of civic duties. Statistics have an important part to play in improving the quality of administration.

This requires that local government administrators should become good producers and consumers of statistics. It has to be emphasised that central and local governments should be able to access key statistics at an appropriate geographic level as both parties strive to deliver services to the community. Statistical literacy is a necessary skill for all local government administrators and managers.


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