The Department of Local Authorities (DLA), recently completed the first of two “Train the trainer” programs as part of the Government’s Decentralization Policy.
DLA Director Edward Kaltamat, who manages Vanuatu’s six provinces and two Municipalities shared with Daily Post, “The Public Service Commission (PSC) recently recruited 17 Area Administrators (AA) through-out Vanuatu.
“In 2017, the Council of Ministers (COM) endorsed a ‘Risk Informed Planning Guide’ for communities to use as a framework for capturing key ideas and priorities, when creating their development plans.
“This five day workshop was to ‘Train the Trainers’ from three pilots sites in each of the Northern Provinces — Torba, Sanma and Penama. These trainers will then return to their Area Council members to train them on how they are to create their Area Council Plans.”
Kaltamat appealed to all community leaders to cooperate together with the Government and support this initiative so that service delivery to them will be improved.
“The government has amended the structure of the Department, recruited all the Area Administrators (AA) and arranged the funds to come directly to Area Councils,” he said.
“The community leaders now need to perform their part by cooperating with the appointed AA to complete their development plans.”
Mr Jacob James, AA for a pilot area called CP1 in Central Pentecost, shared with Daily post, “I’ve learned how to address and work with priority needs that my communities may identify, how to format and create a development plan to help meet those needs. I also know how to identify and contact other aid donors directly to help with the development projects that my communities require”.
Mrs Cindy Liki, AA for East Malo expressed a concern, “As one of two female AAs In this pilot program, I’ve found that some local chiefs have found it difficult to accept female leadership, however many are gradually trying to find ways to overcome cultural barriers so they can access development of their communities.
“It’s been encouraging to note that our women, who have very valid contributions to make to their community’s development, feel more confident to share their ideas with me. If they had a male AA, they probably would have kept their ideas to themselves.
“I would suggest for the PSC to consider gender equality when recruiting future AAs so we can have a more balanced picture of development priorities throughout Vanuatu.”
Finally, Thomas Putunleta, an AA from Torres Province added, “I now feel confident to approach my communities because a budget is attached to this development.
“One request however is that all Area Councils need to fully assist your AAs and Community Liaison Officers so that development addresses the needs of everyone in our communities – especially the vulnerable groups like people living with disabilities, women and children.”
According to documents provided by the Director of the DLA, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) with the DLA have worked hard to ensure that the transfer of power from central government to lower levels of political or administrative authority (decentralization) occurs at a manageable pace.
To guarantee a less problematic transition, training has been conducted at the Government and the Sub-National Government so all levels of governance work together to enable local communities to participate in making decisions on matters concerning them.
Activities that have been carried out to date or currently being implemented include:
• 17 out 18 Area Administrators recruited
• Induction Courses provided by the DLA for the 17 Area Administrators.
• All recruited Area Administrators have started working at their respective posts.
• The Decentralisation Unit (DCU) & Development Planning Unit (DPU) have worked on a unified Work Plan overseeing the overall implementation of the Decentralization Reform Program (DRA).
• A majority of the Area Councils have a working Bank Account and recently funds equivalent to Vt500,000 have been deposited into their various Accounts.
• The first expenditure out from the deposited funds will be used to cover logistical costs for the AA and Area Secretary to work on the Community Profiling of their different communities/villages under their Area Council.
• Completion of recruitment, induction and deployment to their respective posts means that all AAs will now be working closely with the Communities under their Area Council to construct their Community Profiles.
• The Training will see Community Profiles being administered further by the Provincial and Area Planning Officers through Community Plans, Village Priorities Summary and 2 Project Descriptions.
Whether one is a supporter or critic of the Government’s decentralization policy, one must admit that the Government employees on various levels have been arduous and determined in implementing its plans.
If this venture fails, it has not been from a lack of information, planning or effort from the Government’s perspective.
If it is successful, however, ordinary citizens through-out Vanuatu will experience a much better standard of living. Vanuatu will also provide a model of the Decentralization process that other Pacific nations may choose to emulate.