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Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA)

Local government reform in Tanzania 2002 - 2005:
Summary of research findings on governance, finance and service delivery

REPOA Brief 6

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad, Einar Braathen, Amon Chaligha

Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA)

October 2006

SARPN acknowledges REPOA as a source of this document:
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What impact has Tanzania’s Local Government Reform Programme had on local governance, finances and service delivery? Have there been any changes over time in the provision of basic services to the public? What factors may explain distinct improvements in service delivery? These are some of the questions addressed by the Formative Process Research Programme on local government reform in Tanzania. This brief summarises some of the key findings of phase 1 (2002-2005) of the research programme. It focuses on lessons from three broad dimensions of the reform: governance, finances, and service delivery.

The Local Government Reform Programme (LGRP) aims to transfer duties and financial resources from central to local government levels. Local government authorities are thought to be in a better position to identify people’s needs by encouraging citizens’ participation in democratic governance, and thus supply the appropriate form and level of public services. The in-depth Formative Process Research Programme (FPRP) follows the implementation of the reform over time, and is being conducted in six councils: Bagamoyo District Council (DC), Ilala Municipal Council (MC), Iringa DC, Kilosa DC, Moshi DC, and Mwanza City Council (CC). These councils were selected on the basis of variations in resource bases, rural-urban variations, their degree of inclusion in the LGRP, the degree of donor presence or support, and the composition of political parties. (see page 3 for further details).

Governance - Lessons for Local Autonomy and Citizen Participation

Local governance covers issues related to citizens’ participation in formulating and implementing plans for local development, local government autonomy in staffing, working relations between council staff and elected councillors, etc.

There has been substantial development in the processes of decision making, especially through attempts to include citizens in the planning process. Urban councils are generally better resourced and seem to be able to implement more plans from below (kitongoji/mtaa, village and ward levels) than their rural counterparts. In rural councils, however, there is an urgent need to simplify and streamline the existing planning and budgeting systems. The multiple planning, budgeting and reporting systems have placed a lot of pressure on the already limited capacity of the councils. The councils’ management teams, especially the treasurers and planning officers, allocated a substantial share of their time to planning, budgeting and reporting, while the actual implementation of (realistic) plans and priorities suffered. This also applied to officials at the ward and village levels. Village plans for many rural councils were ‘shopping lists’, which could not be implemented because of financial and other constraints. The research found that in some districts bottom-up planning was in practice an ad hoc exercise, with the actual planning carried out by the council management team.

Many citizens interviewed said that they did not have ways to hold their representatives accountable for their actions, and councillors held limited powers to remove non-performing or corrupt council officers. There are no effective instruments and procedures in place for ordinary people to use when they want to hold council officials accountable. These observations are consistent with the 2005 Afrobarometer Survey (, which found that Tanzanians had a low level of awareness of their political leaders. Nevertheless, there are examples from our case councils where people have forced leaders to resign due to misconduct, though via a very cumbersome process which included many compromises with the district leadership.

Corruption was perceived to be a problem for all six case councils. In Kilosa DC, for instance, 40% of the respondents in the Citizens’ Survey (conducted in November 2003 as part of this research programme) viewed corruption as a serious problem, compared to 72% from Moshi DC. Moreover, while almost 40% of the respondents in Kilosa DC had seen a decline in the level of corruption over the past two years, 53% in Moshi DC said they had observed an increase. There were some complaints from the general public and some local politicians that council employees were not fired because of corruption, they were often simply transferred to another council without making public the reasons for the transfer.

The LGRP provides a potentially good avenue for combating corruption, for example by improving the working conditions for the staff in local authorities, including better salary and pension schemes, and by providing training and other incentives. Clearer demarcations of duties and responsibilities for council staff and councillors are also required.

Still, many people interviewed said that they had confidence in their council officials. As many as 55% of the respondents in the Citizens’ Survey perceived that the council staff “do as best as they can”.` More than 60% of the respondents held the same view on the performance of the elected councillors. The Afrobarometer 2005 survey also found that the majority of Tanzanians were of the opinion that there was widespread corruption. In spite of this, they held a high level of trust in public institutions.

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