Advancing Local Governance: Zambia’s Fiscal Transition

Jacqueline Muthee is a Democratic Governance Specialist at USAID Zambia, supporting the Zambian government’s efforts to decentralise fiscal management and transfer decision-making power to local governments. As the donor co-chair for the Decentralisation Secretariat, she collaborates with senior officials in sectors like Health, Education, Economic Development, and Democracy to advise on effective decentralisation strategies. Eager to enhance her grasp of fiscal decentralisation and local finance, Jacqueline joined The Hague Academy’s Fiscal Decentralisation and Local Finance training – a decision she now views as pivotal in her ongoing commitment to contributing to improved local governance in Zambia.

Jacqueline Muthee with fellow participants after completing the course and receiving the certificates. Course Fiscal Decentralisation & Local Finance, 2023.

Zambia’s Shift to Decentralisation

In 2023, Zambia made huge strides toward initiating functional devolution, gradually transferring eight functions (including district health and ambulance services, fisheries and livestock services, and community sport, among others) to local authorities. Zambia’s Ministry of Finance and National Planning has developed a new Intergovernmental Fiscal Architecture (IFA) to facilitate this transition. Jacqueline, recognising its potential impact, enrolled in the Fiscal Decentralisation and Local Finance course at the Hague Academy with a clear objective: to contribute during the IFA review process and actively support the rollout of fiscal decentralisation for the newly devolved functions. For Jacqueline, this wasn’t merely bureaucratic reorganisation; it was a strategic move to reallocate resources to enable local authorities to deliver services centred around accountability and sustainability.

“Increasing my knowledge and expertise on fiscal decentralisation and local finance was particularly important given that the Government of Zambia is devolving eight governance functions. I enrolled in this course to gain insights that would benefit the fiscal transition in my country.”

At the Hague Academy

When joining the training, Jacqueline hoped to learn about effective IFAs, challenges in implementing fiscal decentralisation and strategies to navigate them. While she did gain valuable insights into these areas, the sessions that delved into assigning functions and responsibilities were particularly inspiring for her. “I gained insights into distinguishing service dimensions and learned the guiding principles for assigning functions and expenditures to different levels of government,” she shares.

Implementing Change: Back-Home Action Plan

Returning to Zambia, Jacqueline integrated the principles she learned into her back-home action plan. She shares, “By coordinating inputs, I provided valuable feedback to the Ministry of Finance during the IFA review.” Furthermore, Jacqueline played a pivotal role in supporting the collaborative budgeting process between devolving sector ministries and local authorities through the USAID Local Impact Project.

Emphasising the significance of her role, Jacqueline notes how the joint budgeting process is a crucial step toward ensuring that fiscal resources are allocated judiciously, aligning with the needs and priorities of local communities.

Envisioning Zambia’s Future: A Decade in Perspective

Peering into the next decade, Jacqueline envisions an evolved Zambia. “My optimistic outlook revolves around establishing a robust, predictable, and transparent decentralised fiscal framework. This framework becomes the cornerstone for equipping local authorities with the requisite financial resources and fostering responsive, efficient, and accountable service delivery.”

In discussing the transformative potential of such a framework, Jacqueline underscores the significance of inclusivity and community engagement. According to Jacqueline, a decentralised fiscal framework should empower local authorities to address their communities’ unique challenges and aspirations.

Join our course on Fiscal Decentralisation and Local Finance!

Are you interested in the principles of financial accountability and transparency and in exchanging examples of inclusive and participatory budgeting? Keep an eye out for our Fiscal Decentralisation and Local Finance Course.

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