Government undermining decentralised administration, claims LGA vice chair

Vice Chair of the Local Government Authority (LGA) Shujau Hussain has warned that the government’s alleged non-cooperation and failure to provide funds for local councils could “bring the system of decentralised administration to a halt.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday (April 17), Shujau claimed that the Finance Ministry was withholding funds to atoll and island councils.

“The system coming to a halt will have a big impact on the country’s stability. Politicians should know this. It is not just squabbling among political parties that threatens stability. The day this system comes to a halt is the day this country is plunged into a deep pit,” he said.

Shujau claimed that employees of pre-schools in certain atolls have not been paid salaries for past three months, adding that a solution had not been found after months of meetings with the Finance Ministry and an exchange of official letters.

“The government says they want the system of decentralised administration to function very well. [But] what the finance minister is doing is withholding everything owed to councils,” he claimed.

“This government wants to keep the centralised system in place to govern. So I do not believe that President Waheed’s government is providing any cooperation at all for the system to function.”

Moreover, said Shujau, a number of island council offices have been closed due to lack of funds in the budget to pay utility bills.

Minivan News was awaiting a response from Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad at time of press.

Shujau meanwhile went on to question the government’s “sincerity” in providing support for local government.

The LGA was set up by the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010 as a parent body tasked with overseeing local councils and coordinating with the government.

Last week, Shujau criticised the Attorney General’s Office for failing to approve 2,000 LGA municipal regulations. He suggested that the lack of approvals demonstrated an unwillingness among the government and President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s cabinet to allow local government mechanisms to function.

In January this year, the government asked the LGA to dissolve the Male’ City Council (MCC), which has an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) majority.

The MCC has been involved in a number of disputes with the government during 2012 following February’s controversial transfer of power.

LGA member Ahmed Faisal told local media at the time that the Home Ministry requested the MCC be dissolved following deliberations by the cabinet.

“We have received a letter signed by the Home Minister. But we have not tabled the issue in the agenda yet. And I don’t even believe that the Home Minister could order a council to be dissolved like that. Because there are a lot of things the LGA has to complete before that,” Faisal was quoted as saying.

Faisal accused Home Minister Jameel of requesting the city council be dissolved for “political purposes.”

Faisal also criticised Jameel for allegedly being unaware of the difficulties faced by councils in his role as chair of the LGA. The LGA member stressed that dissolving councils was a long process and that the LGA has not made any decision yet, adding that dissolving the council without addressing difficulties it faced would be “unjust.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a rally last week, former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed that a host of public services has been either disrupted or discontinued following the transfer of presidential power last year.

“Every island that I go to, I see commenced projects unfinished. Harbours have come to stop. Sewerage systems have come to a stop. The change of school sessions to a single session have come to a stop. Aasandha [health insurance] has become a Baisandha [halved]. Transport [networks] have come to halt, everything has stopped. So I think Waheed’s campaign slogan is ‘halted’,” he was quoted as saying.

“President Waheed has neglected the most prosperous one and a half years of this nation. Since my government was changed through a coup, I can only perceive this coup [government] as something that has come to halt.”