By Tabora Bojang
The Mayor of Banjul City Council yesterday made some straight talking before law makers at the National Assembly charging that the local government authorities in the country are facing serious financial and administrative challenges since the government is controlling two thirds of their revenue sources, which created a vicious cycle of budgetary shortfalls with little or no room for development.
Rohey Malick Lowe said this affects councils’ ability to meet exclusive development responsibilities and the provision of services and amenities to the people.
Lowe, who became the first female mayor of the country in 2017, said area councils in the country face daunting tasks of funding the infrastructure and services required to meet the basic needs of their people when their revenue generations are restricted and taken over by the central government.
She explained that councils used to earn revenues from licenses, rates and car parks but the revenue from car parks have nearly ceased.
Dwelling on the government’s annual subvention to the local governments, Mayor Lowe said the BCC has not received more than one million as a subvention which she described as shameful to be earmarked for the development of a capital city.
“We are here to complement the efforts of the central government but we are not here to compete. The truth is that councils do not have resources, nothing is coming. The only money is from the market and the licenses. Our car park resources, bill boards and subventions are not forthcoming, we are either given one or two million when in reality we should be having 20 to 50 million from car parks,” she said.
“The Local Government Act states that 25% of our development budget should come from the government but they are not giving us anything. We are naked and struggling to the core and this is very discouraging. We want to see the subventions, bill boards and the car park fees given back to the councils. The only revenue we collect comes from the D5 and D10 from market vendors,” Lowe stated.
She suggested that the government should do an overhaul of its approach to local governance system and regional development by overhauling the functions of the ministry which she alleged is not taking their portfolio of governance seriously.
The chairmen of the Brikama Area Council Sheriffo Sonko, Ebrima Janko Sanneh of Janjangbureh, Ma Lamin Bojang of Kerewan and Saihou Jawara of Kuntaur all decried similar constraints and intensified calls for the government to use the local councils as avenue for development and avoid what they called duplication of efforts.
The Director of Governance at the Ministry of Lands and Local Government, Fatou Gibba argued that most of the constraints decried by the councils are owing to the makings of their own staff and called on the councils to be more committed to their functions and change attitudes towards work.
She explained that her ministry can only advocate and lobby but does not have the money in its account to subvent the local councils.
“The ministry of finance which holds government consolidated fund should be part of the discussions to solve the problem of subventions because it is the government who created the area councils and there is no condition in the law which states area councils should perform so and so before they are given subvention.”
Meanwhile the assembly select committee on local government has unanimously agreed to remove a backlog of councils’ financial statements and allow authorities to put their houses in order and present credible financial statements from May 2019.
This was mainly triggered by the lack of records and poor financial management records the new local authorities inherited.