On the Way of Implementing a Local Development Grant in Lesotho

The Deepening Decentralization Programme (DDP) in Lesotho, supported by the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), is set up to promote decentralized service delivery for social and economic growth through the development of a transparent funding mechanism and by improving the accountability of local authorities.

The provision of a Local Development Grant (LDG) under the DDP as a discretionary pilot resource is part of the efforts to build a sustainable process for funding service delivery at the local level. This offers an opportunity to the Local Authorities to involve communities in prioritising development needs, facilitating local development planning and implementing projects.

During the first two quarters of 2014, an assessment of 10 Districts and the Maseru City Council on the Minimum Conditions to access the Local Development Grant (LDG) was carried out. The Minimum Conditions (MC) have been put in place to safeguard the use of public resources and to ensure that Local Governments who have access to the LDG are capable of correctly using and managing this resource.

The MCs also serve as a mechanism for Local Governments to demonstrate that they can manage funds which are provided by the central government and other sources in a manner that is transparent and accountable.

The districts were assessed on three indicators namely; a district annual work plan approved by the council, completed final accounts for the previous financial year submitted to the Ministry of Local Governance, and full time staffing for 5 key positions. Even though, none of the districts met the three conditions upfront, 4 districts and the Maseru City Council qualified with a waiver on final accounts approved by the Programme Steering Committee. There were other 3 districts that met the two first conditions, but failed on staffing. Since it falls under the mandate of the Ministry of Local Government to recruit and post staff to the districts, the Programme Steering Committee allowed the Ministry a period of one month (May 2014) to fill the 6 vacant positions to allow the three districts to qualify. The Ministry was able to fill 5 positions out of 6 in the period of one month. This was indeed an example of a successful coordination and collaboration between the different levels of governance in the run-up to the disbursement of the LDG to the districts. In total 6 districts and the Maseru City Council qualified to receive the first cycle of the LDG in 2014.

Following the completion of the assessment on the minimum conditions, a number of preparatory workshops have been held for the districts to operationalize and manage the Local Development Grant as well as the capacity building grant. Both the technical staff from the districts and the ministries and the politicians involved have been sensitized. Two categories of participants have been trained i.e. 280 civil servants and 650 councillors at the sub-national level. The content of the trainings ranged from the LDG allocation formulae and its utilization, the eligibility criteria and potential beneficiaries of the capacity building grant (CBG), and the minimum conditions and performance measures for the next assessment, to procurement, financial management and accountability standards, monitoring and evaluation requirements, environment and social impact assessment and institutional arrangements.

Furthermore, a LDG operational manual has been prepared by the MoLG in order to guide Local Governments (LGs) in the implementation, management and utilization of the Local Development Grant. The manual is complementing existing laws and regulations to ensure the successful implementation of LDG to the satisfaction of the people/beneficiaries, Government and the Development Partners.