Local Governments in Somaliland: Challenges and Opportunities April2012
Local Governments in Somaliland have undergone huge changes since the initiation of decentralized local governance in Somaliland. Service delivery has been specifically enhanced, though it is not yet up to a satisfactory level.  Presently, however, local governments face numerous challenges, including fiscal constraints, capacity concerns, vague legal framework, and service delivery issues. On the other hand, there are opportunities that need to be tapped skillfully. These include the upcoming local council election, the willingness of collaboration and co-financing on the part of the local community, increasing understanding of local governance issues, and a vibrant media.  

 

 

 

 

 

Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud

Hargeisa, April 2012

 

 

 

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary ………………………………. …………………………………………..3

2. Brief History of Local Governments ……………………………………………………. 4-5

2.1 Close Loot at Local Government Functions  ……………………………………….. 5

2.2 Financial Management …………………………………………………………………… 5-6

2.3 Councils and their Functions ……………………………………………………………. 6-7

2.4 The Role of Executive Secretary ……………………………………………………….. 7

3. Challenges ………………………………………………………………………………………. 7-11

3.1 Limited Resources ……………………………………………………………………………. 7-8

3.2 Low Capacity and Demoralized Staff ……………………………………………………… -8

3.3 Service Delivery Issues ……………………………………………………………………….. 9-10

3.4 Overstaffing and Ambiguity of Roles and Responsibilities…………………………… 10-11

3.5 Stray Focus …………………………………………………………………………………………. 11

3.6 Conflicting Legal Framework …………………………………………………………………… 11

3.7 Expired Mandate …………………………………………………………………………………… 11

4. Opportunities ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 11-14

4.1 Upcoming Local Council Elections …………………………………………………………….. 12

4.2 Cost-sharing Approach …………………………………………………………………………….. 12

4.3 Availability of Development Partners  …………………………………………………………………… 13

4.4 Association of Local Government Authorities in Somaliland  ……………………………………. 13

4.5 Improved understanding of Local Governance Issues ………………………………………………. 13

4.6 National Development Plan  …………………………………………………………………………………. 14

5. Recommendations  ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 14-18

5.1 Capacity Development…………………………………………………………………………………….. 14-15

5.2 Civil Service Reform and Development of Human Resource Policy …………………………… 15

5.3 Revenue Collection and Budgeting Improved……………………………………………………… 15-16

5.4 Improved Service Delivery……………………………………………………………………………………. 16

5.5 Improved Oversight Role of the Central Government …………………………………………. 16-17

5.6 Legal Framework Harmonized………………………………………………………………………………. 17

5.7 Careful Selection of Executive Secretary………………………………………………………………… 17

5.8 Strengthened Local Government Association …………………………………………………………. 17

5.9 Creation of Local Government Award…………………………………………………………………….. 18

6. Concluding Remarks…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 18

7 References ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 19

 

 

Local Governments in Somaliland: Challenges and Opportunities

1. Executive Summary

Local Governments in Somaliland have passed through different stages during the past two decades. During the first decade, nominated district commissioners ran the businesses of local governments. However, in 2002, the first local government election was organized in Somaliland, and half a dozen political organizations registered and participated. Elected councilors took the reigns of local governments, who then elected mayors from within.

At the initiation of decentralized local governance, the functions of the municipalities were severely affected by serious power struggles that diverted the attention of local councilors and administration away from institutionalization and service delivery. This was coupled with severe limited resources, institutional and capacity concerns, and legal framework issues. However, as time went on, things improved and local councilors, receiving assistance from development partners, started to focus on their primary functions. Service delivery arrangements were specifically enhanced, though they are not yet up to a satisfactory level.  In major towns, local governments have started in the last couple of years to rehabilitate roads, construct new ones, and deliver other services. This is often done in conjunction with representatives of the neighborhoods, who contribute financially to the delivery of such developmental projects.

 

On the other hand, there are opportunities that need to be tapped skillfully. These include the upcoming local council election, the willingness of collaboration and co-financing from the local communities, increasing understanding of local governance issues and a vibrant public media.

 

Yet, local governments face numerous challenges, including fiscal constraints that put local governments in a situation where they cannot deliver the services as stipulated local government law. They have capacity concerns, contradicting legal frameworks, and service delivery issues.

This paper is however, shedding light on the status of local governments in Somaliland, in terms of administration, fiscal arrangements, the influencing legal framework, and service delivery. It explores the opportunities that are open to them and the challenges they currently face. It will also provide some recommendations, in order to improve local governance.

 

1. Brief History of Local Governments  

After the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, all state institutions collapsed and disintegrated. As a result, local governments, as part of the sub-national structures, ceased to exist. In 1993, after the successful Borama grand conference, the elected president – the late Egal and his administration – managed to restore the functions of the state institutions. Efforts were then initiated to establish local government institutions so that they could put together whatever had survived from the war, be it skilled civil servants or material resources.

 

The revived local governments could not immediately start the collection of revenues, due to the trying circumstances and the difficult situation on the ground. However, the nominated mayors managed – up to a certain extent – to mobilize civil servants and to resume some local government functions. Despite the fact that local governments did not provide the mandatory services to their immediate populations, mainly due to their inability to mobilize resources, the inappropriate legal framework, the lack of political will to bring about concrete initiatives, and low level of skills, yet they have gradually managed to carry out some of their tasks, and eventually reached a point where the country could think of having elected local councils. A local government election was then organized, in order to improve local governance principles: accountability, transparency, responsiveness and public participation.

 

Consequently, the first post-war local government election was held in December 2002. [1]Six political organizations registered to run and, as per the election law, the three most successful parties were supposed to emerge as national parties and thus have the legitimacy to run for the subsequent parliamentary and presidential elections (Local Government Election Law). As a result, UDUB, KULMIYE and UCID emerged as the successful national parties. Hence, elected councils were inaugurated for the first time since Somaliland unilaterally restored its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991. In accordance with the Regions and Districts Law (Law # 23/2000 and amended in 2007), grade A districts elected 21 councilors, (with the exception of Hargeisa; being the capital city, it has 25 councilors) while grade B districts put in place 17, and grade C districts have 13 councilors.

 

Local government elections took place in [2]23 districts and, therefore, only these districts have elected councils. All the rest are graded D (the lowest category), have no boundaries, do not have elected councils, and in the recent amendments to the 2002 Regions and Districts Law (Law No 23/2007) are known as “temporary administrative districts”, until their assessments are completed by the government, their boundaries delineated, and their status is confirmed by both houses. (Somaliland Local Government Re-organization through Presidential Decree in an Election Year, 2008)

 

Since the local government election was an alien phenomenon to most of the local people in Somaliland, (except for the older generation who witnessed elections in the 1960s before the military took over the reigns of Somalia in 1969) the process certainly had its hiccups and shortcomings. For one thing, electorates were not directly voting for the councilors but for the political parties, and each party put forward the list of its candidates. As a result, the quality of the councilors was not satisfying the expectation of the people because they were not elected on the basis of their experiences, qualifications and skills. Similarly, the hot issue of population figures has overshadowed the process of selecting qualified councilors, as people in districts and regions turned out in their thousands to record high number of electorates. Likewise, women could not secure enough seats in the local councils. (Only two female councilors were elected; one in Gabiley and the other in [3]Berbera) as the political organizations submitted men-dominated lists for the election (Pillars of Peace, Academy for Peace and Development, Sept, 2010)

 

As a direct consequence of this, the elected councils could not meet the expectation of the local people, and councilors in many districts wasted time and resources on fighting over petty matters at the threshold of the new system of decentralized governance. In most of the towns with elected councils, mayors were elected and replaced between one to three times. The frequent change of mayors became a problem, until central government intervened – through amendment of local government law – to resolve the case. Erigavo and Hargeisa are the only two districts that didn’t change the first elected mayors, despite many efforts to do so.

 

Despite the capacity concerns of the new councilors, and the weak understanding of their tasks, service delivery arrangement significantly improved under the auspices of the elected local councils.

2. Close Look at Local Government Functions

Local governments are mandated by law to render services to the people in their localities as stated in the constitution, article 112, and the Regions and Districts Law, article 20. The services one could expect from immediate local government include solid waste management, street-lighting, sewage system, drainage facilities and, to some extent, the provision of primary education and health services. Apart from delivery of services, local governments are mandated to administer land management and planning issues (spatial and strategic) as well as revenue collection and public expenditure management at the district level. However, in this part of the world, the situation is quite different; local governments provide only a small portion of the legally-mandated services, because they are seriously constrained by limited resources, fiscal disparities, and an inadequate legal framework.

2.1 Financial Management

The local government financial management practices were a very old fashioned manual system – and often an erroneous one. The financial situation of a district often depends on its status and grade. In Somaliland, districts are administratively divided into Grade [4]A, B,C and D which constitutes  substantial fiscal disparities Grade A districts are always in a better fiscal state. The main sources of income for local governments include vendors’ tax, business licenses, property tax, rental incomes, and fees charged on the usage of local governments’ properties such as slaughterhouses. According to the proposed Roadmap on Municipal Finance Policy, prepared by UN-HABITAT, revenue available to municipalities for financing their expenditure functions primarily comprises 19 sources. But most of the revenue comes actually from about [5]six sources only (Proposed Municipal Finance Policy).

 

The financial management capacity of these local governments was below an average standard. However, UN-HABITAT played a critical role in improving this system. The agency, in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, assisted local governments to improve their financial management systems, and this capacity development has reached to a point where an automated system was introduced and adopted. Its aim is to improve transparency and accountability of public funds and the municipal revenue collection, which in turn will lead to greater service delivery, if managed responsibly. Initially, some people raised concerns about the viability and sustainability of the automated system but, as its advantages were broadly observed, there has been a wide range of acceptance within the end-users in the target districts and other important stakeholders. This is one of the strongest areas of local government. They are stronger than central government institutions because of this improved capacity.

2.2  Councils and their Functions

The duties and tasks of the councils are clearly stated in the Regions and Districts Law 23/2007. It includes the following:

 

  • Promotion of economic growth and development, including initiation and implementation of development programmes and projects at the local level;
  • Promotion and care of the social welfare, such as education, health, water, electricity, sanitation;
  • Care and welfare for the environment, forestation, and animals and economic infrastructure, in collaboration with relevant sector ministries;
  • Generation, mobilization and allocation, including accounting, for the use of public resources
  • Inspection of new buildings, and those that are being renovated or require demolition, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing;
  • Provision and maintenance of public infrastructure, e.g. construction, improvement and care of roads inside the towns of the district, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing;
  • Promotion of participatory planning and community participation in local decision making;
  • Establishment of sub-committees as required. (Regions and Districts Law, 2007)

 

Apart from these legal provisions, the [6]ability of local governments to provide all these services is undermined by limited resources and absence of viable and just subsidiary plans.

 

2.3 The Role of the Executive Secretary

                                                       

In line with Article 12(3) of Regions and Districts Law, the District Executive Secretary is an official from the Ministry of Interior. Under the current structure, the secretary is a member of the municipal executive committee, and acts as the secretary of local council meetings as well. The incumbent is a signatory to all financial transactions and manages day-to-day administrative tasks of the local governments. Local governments, however, do not have full autonomy in selecting and hiring all of their senior staff. This, it may be argued, weakens accountability. Local governments do not choose their district’s Executive Secretary (ES). ES are neither hired nor appointed by the district’s mayor, and are not local elected officials, either. Instead, Executive Secretaries are appointed by Ministry of Interior. The recruitment, transfer, promotion and dismissal of a district Executive Secretary lies with the Ministry of Interior. Consequently, it could be argued that, at best, Executive Secretaries are subject to double accountability, that is, to the mayor and the Ministry of Interior (Proposed Municipal Finance Policy)

As executive secretaries and mayors have different lines of accountabilities, recurrent and persistent problems were noted, which strained the local administration. Besides, central government nominations of the executive secretaries are more of a political consideration and, as such, sidelines merit and competency-based selections. Therefore, efficiency and quality service delivery is greatly compromised in that regard.   

 

On the other hand, the frequent turnover of secretaries of the local governments has been noted, and it affects the smooth running of administration at the district level. As indicated in an Outcome Evaluation Report, prepared by an external evaluation team, many districts experienced change of secretaries. “In the six districts visited, five have had their executive secretaries changed by the central government during the last six months. Because they hold such key positions in local governments, it will take a long time for the new ones to become familiar with processes and activities” (Intermedia NCG, 2011 Outcome Evaluation Report)

 

3. Challenges

 

The challenges that local governments are presently facing are countless and complex in nature. They include capacity concerns, limited resources, over-staffing and service delivery issues.  In the coming paragraphs, we will be looking at these challenges and try to come up with solutions to resolve these observed deficiencies.

3.1 Limited Resources           

The availability of adequate resources is understandably a paramount concern in almost every institution – and local governments are not exceptions. Despite the fact that grade A districts can be regarded not only solvent but some of them are relatively well off, the vast majority (grades B, C&D) do not generate sufficient revenues to cover operational costs and provide social services. If one could closely look at local governments’ budgets, the inevitable finding would be that revenue collection is very low in all of them and, to make matters worse, most of the generated revenues are used just to cover operational costs.

 

Inter-governmental fiscal transfer is another source of income for most of the local governments. But it is not systematic, predictable, and it often takes months to get this fund released to the respective districts.  This uncertainty of timing regarding the transfer of the grants from the central government, that appear not to follow a regular disbursement schedule, compromises to some extent the ability of local governments to plan their recurrent expenditures and operations (Road Map on Local Government Finance Policy, UN-HABITAT, Somalia Program, 2011). On another matter, the allocation formula for the fiscal transfer is questioned, as apparently strong [7]local governments with relatively diversified sources of revenues take the lion’s share of this fund, and weak ones are left in a state of helplessness. Central government transfers are meant to be financed with developmental projects; however, this remains unverified and unchecked.

3.2  Low Capacity and Demoralized Staff

As explained above, most of the elected councilors did not have a clear understanding of how councils work; thus, their functions as leaders, negotiators, facilitators, planners, and advocates for local development and policy making, were severely undermined. Similarly, the existing local governments have an acute shortage of qualified man-power, and they are unable to discharge their functions effectively and efficiently. Nevertheless, their performance has gradually improved.

 

The technical capacity to adequately and strategically plan district activities was often non-existent or very weak at the district level. Some UN agencies such as UN-HABITAT at an early stage, and the United Nations Joint Programme on Local Governance (UN JPLG), at a later stage, trained most of the councilors and local government staff on relevant modules, so that they can carry out their functions more appropriately. This effort, however, needs to be sustained through a permanent training cycle.

 

The performance of most of the municipal staff is generally low. The main reason for this poor performance is that local government staff members are not hired on the basis of their qualifications, skills and expertise; rather, preferential treatment is a common practice. The existing staff members are also seriously underpaid. Hence, local governments are unable to retain the few skilled staff at their disposal, let alone attract more qualified ones from the private sector. Equally, there is great and noticeable disparity between the working conditions and benefits in the public and private sectors – a reality that puts local governments in a most unfavorable position.

 

Specific areas in which local government staff members are particularly very weak include urban planning and land management. Poor management of land resources, particularly in urban settings, made land a central issue in the build-up to conflict, and it has caused bloodshed in major towns.  In almost all urban settlements, land has become an important economic commodity that is open for speculation and, hence, negatively impacted on planning for services. The weak systems and procedures of the local governments, in terms of land management, have surely encouraged rampant corruption and unhealthy practices in this sector. Above all, urban planning is often an alien concept to not only local government staff but also, ironically, to managers and other key staff.  This inadequate capacity has acutely undermined the efforts of national and international partners to enhance the effectiveness of local governments.

 

Despite these capacity concerns, local governments are much stronger in many aspects than the central government institutions, in terms of financial management, procurement practices and planning processes. An interesting confession came from the former Minister of Interior when he visited Hargeisa Municipality and, after supervising billing section and GIS offices, he admitted that some municipalities are more advanced than central government institutions.

 

3.3 Service Delivery Issues

 

By [8]law, local governments are mandated to provide the following public goods and services:  establishment and maintenance of roads within the towns of the district- including sidewalks, street lights, and street drainage system,  construction of water reservoirs in towns and villages, construction and management of primary schools, construction and management of centers for the care of the mother and the child, physical planning of the settlements of the districts and registration of the immovable property, solid waste collection and disposal, food and livestock markets, slaughterhouses, management of self help projects, registration and maintenance of civil register, and issuing business licenses, among others.

 

However, Local governments’ service provision is severely constrained by extremely limited capacities in both financial and human resources. Also, the government’s limited capacity to formulate effective policies and a sustainable legal framework has hindered the delivery of services. Although   service provision is weak in general, yet [9]waste management is the most serious one, and it needs the utmost attention. The collection and proper management of waste is the first expected service from local governments. But, unfortunately, they all performed poorly in addressing this predicament. In most parts of the country, tons of garbage are left uncollected in the streets each day, acting as a feeding ground for pests that spread disease, clog drains and create a myriad of related health and infrastructural problems. Many neighbourhoods in the towns have little or no access to solid waste collection, and often areas that are contiguous with the primary and secondary schools are particularly vulnerable. Yet local governments, the sole sub-national structures mandated to appropriately collect, dispose and manage waste, remain indifferent. In some towns, such as [10]Hargeisa, though the function is outsourced to private companies yet tangible improvement is yet to be witnessed.

 

Grade B, C and D districts are in a poor fiscal situation and, thus, they are unable to provide services. “Currently, Grade D, C and B districts are the most dependent on inter-governmental fiscal transfers from central government, and as there are substantial vertical and horizontal fiscal imbalances, most local governments simply cannot meet their legislated obligations. (GeoPolicity: Study on Sector Functional Assignments on Water, Education and WASH, 2012)

 

While technical and financial assistance were provided to local governments by development partners, the issue of waste management still needs to be seriously addressed. Obviously, local governments alone are not responsible for poor waste management; the general public should take its share of the blame and act responsibly and in a civilized manner when it comes to disposal of garbage at the individual and family levels.

 

Nevertheless, for several years, some local governments, mainly, Hargeisa and Berbera, have demonstrated a sharp improvement in service delivery, as they reconstructed and rehabilitated many roads. In Hargeisa alone, local government constructed 25 new tarmac roads in different areas of the town, while in Berbera (mainly due to port fees) most of the roads were rehabilitated and new ones were constructed. Besides, Berbera Local Government is now financing the construction of a football stadium, as well as a housing project for municipal staff aimed at improving the livelihood of the staff. (Interview with the Mayors of Hargeisa and Berbera, Feb, 2012). Other towns in Somaliland, such as Buroa and Borama, followed suit and enhanced their service delivery capacity, though to a lesser extent.

 

3.4 Overstaffing and Ambiguity of Roles and Responsibilities

 

Almost every local government is overstaffed, as one can conclude from a simple glance at payroll sheets. They employ and, in some circumstances, are pressurized to hire a large number of staff despite their limited sources of revenue and functions. The high rate of unemployment is a national issue, but the management approach of most of the local governments has aggravated the situation whereby every mayor, unilaterally and without proper job analysis, employs a number of unnecessary staff. Above all, a large number of local government staff members are “ghost employees”, just appearing in the payroll sheets, but actually never reporting for work.

 

There are about 3,500 staff members in local governments, almost 900 of whom work for the Municipality of Hargeisa and 305 for the Municipality of Berbera (GeoPolicity: Study on Sector Functional Assignments on Water, Education and WASH, 2012). To address this overstaffing quandary, there were efforts paid by some of the mayors (such as the mayor of Hargeisa) to downsize and retain a sufficient number of staff while improving the working conditions of the remaining ones. Paradoxically, this endeavor was short-lived and was not sustained, mainly due to the widespread unemployment and pressure from the community at large.

 

Besides, the vast majority of the existing staff members doesn’t have job descriptions, and are often unaware of what they are expected to do. Understandably, the absence of clear-cut terms of references further complicates the performance of existing employees.

 

3.5 Stray Focus

 

Councilors and executive committees of the local governments were initially engaged in power struggles, rather than focusing on their core functions in their first five years in office. This competition has prevented a focus on institutionalization and development. Councilors in Gebiley broke the record of the “appoint and dismiss” drama, as they have just elected the sixth mayor since the last local government election.  However, it is worth mentioning that, for the last several years, the “fever of competition” subsided mainly due to the increasing understanding of the councilors – as well as the amended Regions and Districts Law, which demands 2/3 majority to change mayors and their deputies. Many councilors since then have demonstrated a greater degree of responsibility and they have concurrently worked towards a delivery of services, such as the improvement and construction of roads, often in partnership with local communities and some UN agencies.

 

3.6. Conflicting Legal Framework

 

Though a good number of the necessary and relevant laws were developed and enacted, yet there is a great need to harmonize these different laws that affect local governance. For instance, there is no clear distinction about which taxes should be collected by the central government and by the local governments.  To make matters worse, borders of the new districts are not delineated and, therefore, taxation dispute arises between the districts.  A taxation unification law was enacted but it is not functional in all districts, as many districts develop their tariffs as stipulated in the local government law. In addition, the main local government law has only been partially implemented, due to the substantial fiscal disparities between districts. A number of [11]sector ministries are currently in the process or revisiting sector policies and acts. However, it is not carried out in a coherent manner.

 

3.7  Expired Mandate

 

The term in office of the local councilors expired in 2007 and, since then, there have been recurrent extensions from the House of Elders (Guurti), which has the ultimate mandate to renew the lifespan of national institutions. Conversely, this has damaged the reputation and credibility of the elected councils and weakened their public accountability, since their term became an open-ended one. Despite the promise of the government to organize local government elections in 2012, there are fears that the elections might not actually take place in this year. As a result, a further extension from the House of Elders might once again be the unavoidable option.

4. Opportunities

There are some promising opportunities awaiting local governments in Somaliland. If these opportunities are seized competently, local governments could realize tremendous changes and positive reforms. Let us highlight these opportunities one at a time:

4.1 Upcoming Local Council Election

 

As the local council election is now expected, hopefully, to take place in this year ([12]exact date to be announced by National Electoral Commission), there is a great window of opportunity. In other words, it is an opportune moment to analyze what went wrong in the last local government election and so tighten up shoes to correct these mistakes. Therefore, electorates should seize this opportunity and elect honest, capable and qualified local councilors. As per the amended election law, the age limit of the councilors has been reduced to 25; thereby youth should actively participate in and run for the local government election. This will be beneficial for the country as a whole, for young, energetic and educated members will possibly join local councils and hence rejuvenate the council functions.

 

Political organizations are also expected to behave responsibly and identify competent and qualified candidates for the upcoming elections as mandated by law. Clearly, political organizations will pay every possible trick that will help them emerge as national parties, but one way that will surely help them gain the minds and hearts of the electorates is careful and strategic selection of candidates. Electoral commission and other concerned institutions should check the rigorous compliance of the election laws and satisfaction of basic requirements. On the gender front, the exemplary performance of the mayor of Gabiley (the only female mayor in Somaliland) should serve as a living example to women in general and, therefore, they should play a proactive role in the election and aim at having more women councilors in local governments. In short, Somaliland needs to have pragmatic and able councilors who are not pre-occupied with the famous “dismiss and replace” attitude but rather focus on a development agenda.

 

4.2 Cost-Sharing Approach 

 

The ever more popular approach of cost-sharing between local governments, on the one hand, and the ad-hoc development committees of the neighborhoods in major towns, gives an unprecedented opportunity to local governments in terms of delivery of services. Some local governments have introduced this concept and, as a result, a great change has been noticed in the services being delivered in terms of efficiency, cost effectiveness and satisfaction. Local communities, similarly, demonstrated their willingness to collaborate with local councilors when properly approached and convinced. [13]A case in point is the collaboration between the two observed in several towns in the country, where they worked together and improved a good number of roads through this cost-sharing approach. In Hargeisa, for instance, the local council managed to construct more than two dozen tarmac roads through that approach. Reportedly, many more communities are willing to contribute to local development initiatives, and local councilors are taking tough decisions as to which road to be improved and financed. (Interview with the Mayor of Hargeisa, 2011). This positive development has not only contributed to the improvement of the deteriorated roads but equally shrunk the suspicion gap and, consequently, built the trust between the two. Thus, local governments should recognize this communal awakening and make the best use of it.

 

4.3 Availability of International Development Partners

 

The availability and willingness of international development partners to contribute to local governance capacity building gives yet another hope to local governments. Such development partners include the UN Joint Programme on Local Governance and Decentralized Service Delivery. In the last couple of years, this programme has focused on building the capacity of councilors and the administration, as well as systems and procedures. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that many civil servants at the central government institutions did not have such an opportunity and, thus, their capacity is comparatively low. This joint programme, where five UN agencies joined hands to improve local governance presents an unparalleled prospect to local governments. If capitalized skillfully, local governments could obtain the much-needed technical and financial support for systems reform, institutional and capacity development, as well as greater service delivery.

 

4.4. Association of Local Governments Authority in Somaliland

 

The formation of the first local government association is another opportune development for local governments. This organization is now active, and many local governments have already subscribed to its membership. It can facilitate such vital issues as peer learning and experience sharing. Local governments, as such, can learn one from another, avoid hiccups and duplicate best practices. Though the association is struggling with issues related to institutionalization, it has already played a crucial role in creating a friendlier environment between central government and the local governments (Prospects of Decentralization in Somaliland).

 

4.5 Improved understanding of Local Governance Issues

 

As a result of thorough trainings and capacity development packages, stakeholders now enjoy better understanding of local governance issues. Councilors are now clearer on their roles and responsibilities. Local communities are on their side willing to engage with local governments to ensure delivery of greater services.

Finally, as I am writing this paper, I came to know that Hargeisa Municipality reinvested part of its revenue in local meat vendors in order to help them grow and prosper. This is indeed a way of paying back to tax payers, and the Hargeisa local government deserves to be applauded for this another commendable move (after a road construction scheme which it pioneered). Above all, it demonstrates greater responsiveness and increasing understanding of the local governance issues.

4.6 National Development Plan

 

Lastly but not the least, the finalization and recent launch of a five-year National Development Plan that envisions creating an enabling environment that is conducive for economic growth and efficient governance constitutes a major landmark, as it clearly articulates national priorities and development needs both at local and national levels. At the district level, availability of a 5-year [14]District Development Framework that is in line with the National Plan is another opportunity.

5. Recommendations

Clearly, the challenges stated above can’t be met successfully with simple shortcut solutions but, instead, they require a multi-faceted approach.  Listed below are some recommendations that, if adopted, will hopefully provide short and long term remedial measures.

5.1  Capacity Development:

Continued capacity development package for all local governments is required. As mentioned, efforts aimed at capacity development were carried out and some positive changes were recorded. However, continued capacity and institutional development will be required, in the short term at the very least. This is meant, in the first place, to upgrade technical, administrative and managerial skills of councilors and administration staff so that they can undertake effective strategic and participatory planning process at the district level.

 

Moreover, as new councilors are expected to be elected, there will be a greater need to launch another cycle of capacity development package to help incoming councilors better adjust to the new settings.  However, the proposed capacity development effort needs to be based on a comprehensive training needs assessment to be carried out right after the election to determine the level, background and qualification of the new councilors. Equally, other technocrats that will stay there regardless of the local government election will need a refresher package so that they will not only sharpen their skills but also keep pace with the new councilors. Nevertheless, the need to have focused and relevant trainings for councilors and local government staff must be noted and conducted accordingly. Specifically, thorough trainings on land management, urban planning and local economic development are the top priorities for the time being.

 

The recently-finalized National Development Plan is crystal clear about the capacity development of both national and local government and other institutions. “The national capacity in terms of the effectiveness of institutions, and the quality of human resources available is low and must be addressed strategically. The strategy must aim at building the capacity of central government institutions, local governments, private sector enterprises and community organizations” (NDP Pg 23)

 

As part of this capacity development package, local councilors should be assisted in undertaking study tours to the countries in the region, preferably to the ones that have undergone similar socio-economic upheavals and successfully emerged. Such exposure visits would serve as an eye-opener experience for local councilors.

 

[15]Local governments on the other hand are required to come up with a sound strategy that would enable them to retain the empowered staff, otherwise the proposed capacity building packages would not have a tangible impact. If local governments can aggressively raise legislated taxes, effectively manage public expenditure, eliminate redundant staff, they can offer competitive pay.

5.2  Civil Service Reform and Development of Human Resource Policy

Civil service reform is critical if Somaliland wants to build a cadre of motivated professionals who can provide the mandated service delivery. The development of a comprehensive human resource policy – to address the key gaps identified related to human resource management issues – could be the first step towards that reform. The current practice is that staff at local governments does not have even terms of references let alone a human resource policy that guides the recruitment process, promotion, staff training, as well as retirement schemes. In the absence of such a policy, it will be difficult to seriously address the said issues. The policy will also guide the different steps of the recruitment process and will eliminate the ever-increasing recruitment without considering the needs on the ground. More importantly, it will advise the best way of undertaking staff right-sizing and the elimination of “ghost employees”, while taking into account local government development priorities and resource constraints. As an immediate intervention, however, terms of references for each staff should be developed by local governments, and close supervision and monitoring mechanism must be put in place.

5.3  Revenue Collection and Budgeting Improved

Local governments need to have adequate and sustained sources of revenue, so that they can be responsive to the needs of their communities. Revenues are not presently collected in an efficient manner, though resistance from tax payers cannot be ruled out. Financial management practices employed at the local governments was, until recently, quite primitive but perhaps, thanks to the UN-HABITAT’s assistance, now an automated system has been introduced and it is making a difference. The advantages of these systems have been widely recorded and debated at the local and central government levels, and an agreement to expand the system has been reached. There is still a need to institutionalize the automated system and then adopt it as the sole accounting system for the country as a whole.

Likewise, the GIS-based property survey exercise, which was carried out in Hargeisa, Borama and Berbera, proved to be extremely useful in the maximization of municipal revenue. This intervention was made through the assistance of UN-HABITAT, and it demonstrated convincing results regarding the maximization of the local government revenue.  For instance, in Hargeisa, where this GIS-based property survey had made the greatest impact, property tax increased more than %250. (UN-HABITAT Local Government Finance Reports, 2011) To this end, there is a great need to expand this initiative to other major towns of Somaliland, in order that the revenue base can be strengthened and enlarged. The current budgeting system of the local governments needs also to be modernized and eventually, principles of participatory budgeting applied. One recent bold step was the introduction of a service-based accounting system, where local governments will have opportunities to link services to both revenues and expenditures and, as a result, determine which section is paying off.

 

A comprehensive revenue study, which should explore potential sources of income, should be carried out. Such an exercise will prove extremely helpful if it highlights sustainable and viable sources of income that local governments should focus on, so as to sustain and maximize revenues. Besides, the current inter-governmental fiscal transfer needs to be revisited and streamlined. The revised resource transfer should be based on key factors such as population figures, human development requirements on the ground, and basic social indicators. In addition, its disbursement procedures should be carefully designed and systemized.

5.4  Improved Service Delivery

Councillors and local government staff should realize that, by law, they are mandated to provide services to the communities in their localities. Hence, greater service delivery must be planned and budgeted. Specifically, the systematic collection and proper disposal of garbage should be given utmost attention, as it grossly affects the health and well-being of the society. It is, therefore, imperative that premier consideration should be given to better ways of waste management. This includes the availability of adequate sanitary infrastructure.

Councillors, on their part, should pass by-laws imposing fines on those who are behaving unscrupulously and throwing garbage in every place they can find.  This should be embedded in an aggressive and sustained civic education programme, educating citizens on their rights and responsibilities. Citizens should also contribute to the betterment of their environments and, in this regard, properly dispose of garbage.

Local governments should also capitalize on the willingness of the local communities and systematically plan and finance quick impact projects that are sustainable and beneficial to all. The recent practice of local governments in enhancing service delivery capacity should therefore be sustained and strengthened.

 

 

5.5  Improved Oversight Role of the Central Government

Though local governments are autonomous, the law also gives the Ministry of Interior the oversight role related to the performance of local governments. Presently, the Ministry of Interior is over-loaded, since it is responsible for national security, coastal guard, immigration issues, as well as local governments. One would not expect a close oversight role from such an over-burdened national institution.

 

In order to enhance institutional development of local governments as well as service provision capacity, Ministry of Local Governments should be established. Since the Ministry of Interior is over-burdened, and often pre-occupied with issues other than the enrichment of local governance, the creation of a separate entity that sets the required legal framework and formulates relevant policies is much needed. The proposed ministry can take care of additional national tasks, when and as required, but its primary focus should remain on local government development.

 

Moreover, this ministry would act as a watchdog over the performance of local councils and ensure the proper usage of tax payers’ money, central government grants as well as funds received from development partners concerned with development purposes.

5.6  Legal Framework Harmonized

As effective regulatory framework is key to successful governance; harmonisations of the existing laws that govern local governments is paramount, in order to streamline local government functions. The demarcation of districts will lead to taxation demarcation and, as such, there will not be confusion about who collects what. The amendment of local government law and the setting up of reasonable service delivery functions for municipalities or developing subsidiary regulations, will clarify service delivery mandates of local governments. Furthermore, the development of effective policies and a sustained legal framework should be aimed at, so that local governments will be held accountable and an environment conducive for equitable service delivery will be created. The on-going review of acts and policies of the sector ministries should be carried out in a coherent and well coordinated manner. In short, an effective institutional legal framework will foster and facilitate the quest of turning local governments into credible and accountable sub-national structures that are responsive to the needs of the local people whom they serve.

5.7  Careful Selection of Executive Secretaries

In an effort to make local governments effective national sub-structures, the Ministry of Interior should be careful in its appointment of executive secretaries. Even in the complex situations where balanced representations seem inevitable, key qualities of competency, proven leadership and relevant experience must not be compromised. It should also be understood by all that the position of executive secretary is meant to be purely technical, not a political nomination; thus candidates should be equipped with the necessary qualification and expertise. Only then can our local governments make serious efforts towards institutionalization.

5.8  Strengthened Local Government Association

Presently, there is an Association of Local Governments in Somaliland, aka ALGASL, though it is at an infant stage. This association needs to be supported and encouraged to grow further so that it can fully unite the voices of the local governments and thus advocate local governance issues, facilitate experience sharing and peer exchange programmes, not only within its members but also with similar associations in the region and beyond. The association must also be linked to the similar institutions in the region for the benefit of experience sharing. An effective local government association can provide the much-needed capacity and institutional development packages that all its members can benefit from it.

5.9  Creation of a Local Government Award

The introduction of a Local Government Award will create healthy competition among the local governments in the country.  Once formed and pertinent information adequately disseminated, the concerned parties will surely compete in relation to greater service delivery, better management of waste, installation of street lightings, and the invention of better strategies for poverty reduction. The introduction of a meaningful and valuable award with transparent eligibility criteria will hopefully serve as a watershed between two eras: the end of the era of internal power struggle and greediness and the beginning of the era of delivery of greater services, and the implementation of more development projects with greater public participation. The proposed award can have a yearly changing theme such as waste management, roads improvement, flood protection, local economic development, etc.

 

Studies have suggested, for instance in Rwanda when a Local Governments Innovation Competition was introduced, that such an award scheme can completely rejuvenate the sub-national structures and promote a healthier competitive spirit, replacing the struggle over the meagre available resources.  In Rwanda it also proved to be a great way to build the capacity of local governments. Somaliland could also do the same!

 

 

 

 

 

6. Concluding Remarks

Local governments in Somaliland have made tremendous progress in their efforts to achieve institutional development, creating a better understanding of local governance issues and, above all, building trust between them and the local people. However, given the strategic importance of local governments in addressing local needs, local governments in Somaliland need to be assisted in standing their feet firmly on the ground.

Such crucial assistance could take in the form of technical and financial assistance in the areas of resource mobilization, planning and budgeting processes, as well as capacitating councilors and administration staff. Capacitated local governments with clear-cut policies, sufficient resources, or at least reasonable subsidiary plans, will be in a better position for delivering the mandated services and, hence, will contribute to fostering local economic development.

 

 

 

 

  

7. References:

JPLG: “Report on Institutional Assessment for Service Delivery in Somaliland” 2009.

 

UN-HABITAT: “Report on Local Government Finance Report” 2008

 

Ibrahim Hashi Jama: “Somaliland Local Government Re-organization through Presidential   Decree in an Election Year”

 

Academy for Peace and Development: “Pillars of Peace” Sept, 2010.

 

Interview: “Mayor of Hargeisa” Feb, 2012

 

Interview: “Mayor of Berbera” Feb, 2012

 

Ministry of Interior: “Ministerial Decree on Accounting and Budgeting Format” 2011

 

UNDP/JPLG: “Organizational/Institutional Review of the Structure of Sub-National     Levels” 2010

 

UN-HABITAT/JPLG: “Proposed Roadmap on Municipal Finance Policy” 2010

 

Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud: “Prospects of Decentralization in Somaliland” 2011

 

Local Government Election Law, 2011

 

Regions and Districts Law, 2007

 

Intermedia NCG: “Report on Outcome Evaluation System”, April 2011

 

GeoPolicity: “Study on Sector Functional Assignments on Health, Water and Education in

Somaliland” January, 2012

 

National Development Plan 2011-2016

 

Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud

Hargeisa

abdirahman.adan@gmail.com


[1] The six political parties that registered in the last local government election in 2002 were UDUB, KULMIYE, UCID, SAHAN, ASAD, HORMOOD

[2] The issue of districts is complicated in Somaliland, as the nomination of new districts proliferated particularly during the last presidential election in 2010. According to the Ministry of Interior, currently, there are 13 regions and 81 districts in Somaliland. However, the vast majority are not approved by the concerned houses.

[3] Actually, the female councilor in Gabiley is the only one that was elected, and the female councilor in Berbera came through substitution.

[4] Grade A districts include, Hargeisa, Borama, Berbera, Buroa, Las-Anod, Erigavo and Gabiley

[5] The active six sources are hawkers and traders, property tax, business license, livestock market and central government transfers

[6] The service delivery ability of the districts is different one from another. Grade A districts often enjoy better own-source revenue, receive greater share of the inter-governmental fiscal transfer, and are in a position to raise funds from local communities. Thus, service delivery is greater and more visible in these districts.

[7] Hargeisa and Buroa receive almost half of the fiscal transfer; while the other half is distributed among the rest of the districts of the country.

[8] As stipulated in Regions and Districts Law No. 23 of 2002 as amended in 2007, in article 36

[9] Waste management is a very complex issue and municipalities alone cannot tackle it unless an holistic approach that involves all stakeholders is put in place and attitudinal change occurs.

[10] Hargeisa local council has now terminated the contract of one of the two private companies, mainly for poor performance. As a result, they have now opened up space for competition, and interested companies have been invited to participate in the competition.

[11] Ministries of Health, education and Water are presently in the process of reviewing sector policies and guidelines.

[12] New political organizations (15 in total) plus the three existing political parties will participate in the forthcoming local government elections. Preparations are currently underway, though at a lower pace.

[13] Due to the improved trust between councilors and local people, neighborhoods now in Hargeisa organize themselves, identify priority needs in their neighborhood, mobilize almost 40% of the cost of the project, and approach local government for the rest, which often co-funds such projects and mainly for the road sector.

 

[14] District Development Framework is finalized in Hargeisa, Borama, Berbera, Buroa, Sheikh and Odweine

[15] Currently the situation is that any capacitated municipal employees are likely to be lured by the private sector since working conditions and pay of the civil servants is generally very low.