Improve Local Governance

IMPROVE LOCAL GOVERNANCE

Decentralization is placing greater demands on local governments in Albania, and all face considerable challenges in doing what they are expected to do. In practice, most local governments are enthusiastic to assume additional responsibilities but face a series of challenges, including staff shortages, inadequate budgets, and weak institutional capacity. These challenges typically result in several problems: poor or no service delivery, an unprepared or unmotivated staff, and a dissatisfied or discouraged public. Perhaps the most difficult challenge to resolve is that of local government capacity to fulfill their functional responsibilities.

Improved local governance is critical to better service delivery, and the PLGP supports local governments with training and technical assistance to raise effectiveness and efficiency. The PLGP also strongly supports accountability and transparency in local governance to help ensure integrity and sustainability. To this end, the PLGP has developed perhaps the most effective citizen engagement process ever in Albania.

The PLGP’s efforts focus on strengthening both the supply and demand sides of local governance.

Strengthening the demand side means enabling citizens to express their needs and desires—their demands—in an informed and structured way.

The PLGP guided the establishment and institutionalization of Citizen Advisory Panels, or CAPs, in each of the original 15 partner municipalities. CAP members are trained in Advanced Participation Methods of group dynamics and decision making. The CAPs monitor public services and serve as consultative bodies to the Mayors and the Municipal Councils. They are active is preparing General Local Territorial Plans, the strategic framework for future growth and development in municipalities. As a result of territorial reform, 373 former municipalities and communes were combined into 61 municipalities, with larger areas and larger populations; the PLGP is working with citizens to reorganize the CAPs to make sure they accurately represent all residents of the new municipalities.

Citizens in four model municipalities, with PLGP training and in partnership with UN Women, issued Community Based Scorecards, which tracked municipal expenditures and assessed the quality of public services. The process provided an opportunity for direct dialogue between the public and public officials, empowering citizens to voice their opinion and demand improved service delivery.

Citizens, local government officials, and other stakeholders in eleven partner municipalities also prepare annual Action Plans, outlining the terms of their partnership with the PLGP and the support from PLGP they expect to need—and the additional resources they expect to leverage—in the coming year. Action Planning workshops are facilitated by the PLGP and include the Mayor, who must officially sign the final Action Plan as a binding agreement between the municipality and the PLGP.

The PLGP has an ongoing collaboration with the Peace Corps, in which the skills and experiences of Peace Corps Volunteers are matched with the needs of PLGP partner municipalities.

While strengthening the demand side of local governance means increasing citizen access to information, enabling inclusion and participation, and increasing the accountability of local governments to citizens, strengthening the supply side means investing in local institutional capacity.

The PLGP provides technical assistance and on-the-job training to staff in all 15 partner municipalities on such issues as: tax collection, own-source revenue asset management, public-private partnerships, proposal writing for EU funds, ICT, public service delivery, and civic engagement.

A special focus of the PLGP has been the development of information and communication technology (ICT) to build e-government solutions. The PLGP assists partner local governments—through the provision of hardware, software, training, and technical assistance—in using ICT to improve tax collection; develop alternative methods to increase own-source revenues; better manage assets under local government jurisdictions; and ensure predictability, accuracy, and transparency in local government budgetary processes. Relatedly, the PLGP assists these local governments in raising citizens’ awareness of local public functions and of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, such as their role as taxpayers.

As a direct result of PLGP support, partner local governments have increased property tax collections by nearly 80%.

Eleven partner municipalities and eight water utilities have ICT infrastructure in place for financial administration and communicating with the public. The use of new computerized tax systems has allowed local governments to increase their property tax collections by as much as six fold. E-government solutions are being expanded from the main city halls of eleven newly-merged municipalities to 38 “satellite city halls”, or Administrative Centers, established to extend municipal services and community connections to the former communes. The PLGP also works to improve the integration of local government online databases and services with those of the national government.

In addition to improving efficiency and effectiveness, e-government reduces opportunities for discretionary decisions, and, therefore, corruption. The PLGP launched an “Open Governance is Good Governance” initiative, in collaboration with the Albanian Institute of Science, to make partner municipalities’ budget and financial processes more transparent.

Decentralization involves the transfer of immovable property from the national to local governments, and a focus of the PLGP is building the capacities of partner local governments to manage assets, including creating public-private partnerships. PLGP helps these local governments leverage their assets by providing guidance in assessing the principal sources of local tax revenues and raising own-source revenues.

The PLGP recognizes representation and leadership as core responsibilities of elected officials. They must represent their constituents, and they must provide leadership in their representation. Both of these roles are complex and demanding. In order to help them fulfill these responsibilities, the PLGP provides training and technical expertise to mayors and municipal councilors in various competencies, including: understanding national legislation; using power wisely; decision-making; policy-making; public participation; public finance; and IT skills—all within the principles of good governance as defined by international standards.

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Designed by Durim Tabaku