Local Govt Gets Talking To Its People

The mayor of Mazar-e-Sharif fields questions from the press during the public hearing
The mayor of Mazar-e-Sharif fields questions from the press during the public hearing
Public hearings mark a turning point in the relationship between nine Afghan municipalities and the people they serve
When nine municipalities in northern Afghanistan invited members of the public to discuss the budget, it marked a turning point in the relationship between the area’s local governments and the people they serve.
It was the second time the municipalities were holding public hearings on the budget, but the first at their initiative. Last year’s hearings were facilitated by USAID’s Regional Afghan Municipalities Program for Urban Populations (RAMP UP) North.
Many of this year’s hearings focused on development projects and the proper allocation of resources. For example, when Mazar-e-Sharif municipality proposed that it would asphalt 25 km of road, the 300 people at the hearing suggested the work be evenly portioned out among all the city’s districts. The participants, divided into district-wise groups, reviewed other municipal projects and discussed revenue and expenditure for the previous year and projections for this year.
“Such meetings illustrate the value of a citizen's ideas about the annual budget, where it will be spent and the priorities,” said Shamaial Sowaida, who lives in Mazar-e-Sharif’s District 8.
She said the hearing was an important exercise in identifying each district’s priorities “based on what people really need, things like streets, trash bins or culverts.”
Afzal Haddid, head of the Balkh Provincial Council, agreed that the hearings were key to building trust between local government and the communities. “Officials need to share the revenue, budget and expenditure with citizens, it helps democratic governance,” he said.
Each municipality incorporated feedback from the hearings into before the budget it submitted to the Governor’s Office. Mazar-e-Sharif’s budget was the first of the nine to be approved by the Governor and submitted to the General Directorate of Municipal Affairs/ Independent Directorate of Local Governance.  Final approval rests with President Karzai’s office.

Last updated: January 16, 2015

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