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DEVOLUTION DEBATE

DEVOLUTION DEBATE

CLEARLY, President Hakainde Hichilema does not quite understand why anybody would question the principle of devolution where resources are transferred from centralisedplanning and implementation from Lusaka to the constituencies where ordinary people will participate directly in the allocation and utilisation of the funds.

Any public policy initiative must satisfy both, systemic as well as systematic properties. Systemic integrity deals with overall legal and structural harmony while systematic coherence deals with institutional capacity.

It is imperative therefore that the new Constituency Development Fund (CDF) must exhibit structural, financial and human capital competence if it is to achieve successful project implementation.  However this is only possible if vertical and lateral integration has been achieved.

In essence the new CDF must have very clear goals and an equally clear mode of operation.

Our counterparts in Kenya enshrined devolution in their constitution in 2010. Central Government has devolved very specific powers, including income generation capacity to enable the 47 local Government institutions called counties, to implement their role. 

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The 47 counties, some with sub counties, complete with their own assemblies operate under powers conferred by the constitution in articles 191 and 192. 

Each county, fully staffed by skilled officers, replicating central Government has a Governor as Chief Executive with a Commissioner appointed by Central Government to ensure that devolved responsibilities are implemented effectively.

The Board of county commissioners has wide functions which include taxing, budgeting, purchasing, property management, building inspections, county facilities management, planning and zoning, human resources administration, board and commission appointments.

Counties for their part support and maintain public infrastructure, transportation and economic development assets; keep residents healthy; ensure public safety to protect citizens; maintain public information and coordinate elections; and implement a broad array of federal, state and local programmes in a cost-effective manner.

And herein lies the problem.

Our original CDF was an expansion of the Presidential Discretionary Fund established in early 1994 which operated from State House to respond to exigencies beyond provincial or indeed national budgetary provisions. 

Institutions with urgent needs including schools, hospitals and communities could apply for emergency financial support to replace a damaged borehole, repair a damaged classroom or indeed buy a bus for a school. 

However in 1995, the fund was redesigned into CDF, with legislative capacity to serve as a mechanism to facilitate the deliverance of public developmental goods and services directly to local communities. The funds were modest reflecting the subservient role it played in the overall implementation of Government programmes.

By 2018 a new CDF Act was passed, to clarify linkages and operational competences, but the budgets remained small and projects tackled were limited in scope.

This time round things will change. All the 156 constituencies be given K25.7 million each regardless of their demographic or indeed spatial spread. 

In many respects the funds are fortuitous. They are not budgeted for and there is no structural framework in relation to function.

It may also be of interest that devolution is not a panacea to graft and corruption which are as prevalent as they are at central Government.

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