Committee questions department’s role, powers

DURING the Ministry of Local Government’s submissions yesterday to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the audit of the Monitoring of Municipal Councils by the Department of Local Government (DLG), a lot of questions were raised on the role of the DLG.

Questions were also raised on what legal powers did the DLG and the director of local government have in the monitoring of municipal councils.

“On the basis of monitoring, the OAG (auditor-general) highlighted the absence of power vested in the director local government, and we have come across certain instances of delays in submission of accounts by councils, so how is the ministry addressing the issue of monitoring as the act only allows the minister to do all that; no mention of the director of local government?” Opposition PAC member Aseri Radrodro asked.

Permanent secretary for the Ministry of Local Government Joshua Wycliffe said: “That’s one of the areas that’s being reviewed in terms of the various delegations; the powers and how that can be monitored.”

He said in the interim, while not all councils had equal capacities to provide the reporting in terms of finance, the OAG, while highlighting all the gaps, would be the best people to help fill the gaps.

“They are now running workshops for financial managers in the councils to be able to bring these councils up to the required reporting standards,” he said.

Mr Radrodro then asked: “Will the review of the act also empower the director to have a more hands-on monitoring approach which is missing from the current Act now?”

Mr Wycliffe said one of the terms of reference of the review of the act was that the director local government is also empowered.

Mr Radrodro then said the issue here was the director was spearheading the monitoring role.

“Is there any legality in this process?” Mr Radrodro asked.

Mr Wycliffe said: “Yes, the review would give adequate powers of monitoring to the director to be able to spearhead.”

He said in the past, with or without the delegation, the director was still able to monitor the councils and in his capacity as director of local government he had to drive performance.

The PAC was chaired by Government MP Ashneel Sudhakar, with Government members Mohammed Dean and Alex O’Connor and Opposition members Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and Mr Radrodro present.

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