An Examination of the Impact of Administrative Decentralisation on Participatory Local Government and Service Delivery in Tanzania
Mhina, Charles Ernest
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Over the course of the past three decades bi-lateral and multi-lateral donor agencies, academics and practitioners have expressed the conviction that decentralisation of administrative and political authority to the local level is of central importance to public sector reform programmes in developing states both as a means to improve service delivery and to deepen democracy. However, many states in Africa have had disappointing experiences with decentralisation which have variously been attributed to the underfunding of local governments, a lack of administrative capacity and corruption. In the light of this, a number of scholars have argued that decentralisation in Africa has achieved little in the delivery of basic services and in the deepening democracy at the local level. This has raised concerns that decentralisation, whilst necessary, is not a sufficient condition for ensuring local socio-economic development and participatory governance. This thesis sets out to examine the process of administrative and political decentralisation in Tanzania since it attained independence in 1961, paying particular attention to the current local government reform programme which consists of a parallel system of devolved and de-concentrated government authority implemented through the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF). This hybrid model of decentralisation, which is heavily reliant on donor aid, has been in place for over a decade and a half. The thesis considers the extent to which the combination of decentralised and de-concentrated forms of administration represents an accommodation between the neo-liberal agenda of donors (concerned with the diminution of central state power) and the policy interests of the Tanzanian government (concerned about a lack of local capacity and domestic politics). Based on a case study of three municipalities (Tanga city, and the Lindi and Morogoro district councils) the thesis examines the extent to which the hybrid model is meeting its stated objectives of strengthening local government, improving service delivery, and promoting effective citizen participation. In so doing it examines the particular role of TASAF and the extent to which its activities are supporting the development of effective local government. Empirical evidence, which was generated through a mixed methods approach based on both quantitative and qualitative research, suggests that, notwithstanding the concerns of some local politicians that the model has undermined the authority of local councils, the v combination of local administrative coordination and the technical and financial support of TASAF, has led to significant improvements in the delivery of social services since the reform programme was launched. The thesis also found that the majority of respondents believed that the hybrid model had served to deepen local democracy to a far greater extent than decentralisation reforms of the past. It also concluded that, in spite its evident potential, the future of the hybrid model in Tanzania is highly uncertain, given that it remains heavily reliant on donor funding and is subject to the aid conditionalities imposed upon it. Unless the government is able to increase its own funding of TASAF, the hybrid model is likely to collapse due to the changed funding priorities of bi-lateral and multilateral donor agencies.