Challenges and opportunities in service provision for Mwansabombwe town council, Zambia.

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Chomba, Mika Benise
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The University of Zambia
The creation of new districts in Zambia has in the recent past been given more attention following the implementation of the decentralisation by a devolution model in order to take public services closer to the people. The study sought to evaluate the capacity of the new Mwansabombwe Town Council in the delivery of services and development in the district by focusing on four objectives. The first objective assessed the financial capacity of Mwansabombwe Town Council by determining the sources of incomes and income and expenditure patterns. The second objective assessed the human resource capacity of Mwansabombwe Town Council by assessing the quantity and quality of staff. The third objective assessed the availability of infrastructure and equipment for service delivery, while the fourth objective sought to determine the opportunities for achieving service delivery in Mwansabombwe District. Data were collected using interviews, interview schedules, observations, survey and documentaries. Data was collected from 20 Key Informants who were purposively selected and 46 households selected by Priori Power Analysis using GPower software 3.2 and random sampling. Qualitative data was analysed using content and thematic analysis, while quantitative (documentaries) data was analysed using descriptive statistics. The findings revealed that Mwansabombwe Town Council had a low-income base, with seven sources of income which resulted in an over-reliance on government funds. From 2014 to 2018, the locally generated income was at 10.2 percent while 89.8% came from central government in the form of grants. Expenditure was always higher than income, with the largest share going to personal emoluments that accounted for 44.5%. This affected service provision as evidenced by poor waste management in communities, lack of a designated dump site, a non-functional piped water scheme, no networked sewer system, potholed roads and poor drainage. The study revealed that inadequate fiscal decentralisation, delayed disbursement of Local Government Equalization Fund, lack of priority in planning and budgeting, political interference and a lack of harmonisation of legislation and policies negatively impacted on the financial capacity of the council and, ultimately, service provision. The study revealed that Mwansabombwe Town Council had qualified staff in key positions but was understaffed in all departments, especially in the works department. The study established that the local authority which operated out of two council houses had inadequate office infrastructure, furniture and equipment. Further, the local authority lacked earth-moving equipment required for service delivery, while a light truck used in waste collection had mechanical problems. Opportunities to widen the local income base included availability of land for development and agriculture, tourism potential, the existence of water bodies, LGEF and a supportive traditional authority. It is concluded that the local authority faced challenges in providing services to the people because of inadequate financial and human resource capacity, despite the existence of numerous opportunities that could help to widen the revenue base. Recommendations include, full fiscal decentralisation, MLG to clearly define capital projects Local Authorities should undertake under the 20% capital component of the LGEF for sustainable development, expedite the harmonisation of legal and regulatory frameworks, MLG to formulate a policy clearly stating the criterion for establishing new districts based on economic and financial factors (not political convenience), build capacity of local authorities in sustainable investment using local resources, continuous professional development and the construction of offices and officers’ accommodation before new districts are created. Key Words: Fiscal Decentralization, Local finance, Decentralization in government--Zambia, Zambia--Economic policy.
Fiscal Decentralisation , Local finance , Decentralization in government--Zambia. , Zambia--Economic policy.