The point here is that prior to the amendment of the Act in 2000, Treasury was not burdened with this fruitless expenditure. And, as we say in economics, the N$50 million spend, additional to the expenses of the regional administration, is the opportunity cost of so many schools, health facilities, improved police service, drought relief, etc. Given the extent of the powers of the regional councils, the modus operandi of procuring post-2000 governors clearly needs revisiting.
Their role in the firmament is simply to sit there and look pretty, attend funerals and birthday parties and make the occasional call to the minister and president for chit-chat. It is when they attempt to govern that all hell breaks loose for, practically, they have no powers, staff or budgets. The projects which they oversee, in competition with the regional councils, are those of the central government. In some instances, governors even compete with local authorities for a piece of the local pie. This cannot be a worthwhile pursuit, nor can we justify the money spent on it. And these are the frustrations the late Governor Maurus Nekaro shared with us, in an interview with The Villager ( 14-19 March 2013) , a week before he left us to meet his Maker. He referred to them as “our unspoken truth”.
To be sure, our republican Constitution provides for executive governance at three levels – namely, central, regional and local. The Constitution further goes, in great detail, to set out the powers of each of these levels. The source and authority of regional government is Chapter 12 of the Constitution, specifically Article 102(3) thereof, which reads: “every organ of regional [and local authority] shall have a council as the principal governing body, freely elected in accordance with this Constitution… with an executive and administration which shall carry out all lawful resolutions and policies of such council, subject to this Constitution and any other relevant laws.’’
The point is crystal clear that none should seek to circumvent the Constitution through theatrics such as the Special Advisors and Regional Governors Appointment Act, 2010 and attempt to create a parallel administration at regional level. In so doing, we are marching away from the democratic ethos of the Constitution and the president may even run the risk of over-reaching his powers and falling foul of the Constitution by imposing officials to lord it over the freely elected representatives of the people. And these, indeed, are the seeds of confusion, frustration and duplication at the level of regional administration.
The powers of the regional councils are set out, explicitly and exhaustively, in part VI of the Regional Councils Act, 1992, as amended. These, inter alia, include proffering advice to the president, the line minister as well as to the minister of finance, for the latter to consider the needs of the regions during the annual budget consideration.
So, the purported functions of the governors do not only leave us with a N$50 million headache but duplicate the functions of the freely and democratically elected regional councillors, creating chaos in the regions. The Act further seeks to install the dictates of one appointed official over the collective of elected councillors. This surely does not sit pretty with the ethos of our Constitution.
It is thus not only the late Governor Nekaro who was troubled by this needless legal, if discomfiting, conundrum. But the time may be now to have a sober relook at this amendment and ask whether, and in which manner, it buttresses good governance? What was deficient in the previous governance regime?
Our regional administration largely functions as field offices of Windhoek staffed by civil servants and overseen by elected councillors with an appointed governor in the mix. We need to sort these out.