Control of Local Government

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Control Of Local Government | How Local Governments are Controlled

Two Major issues are relevant to the control of local government, namely, first, how local governments are controlled and second, the reason for their control. The control of local government may take the following forms.

Control Of Local Government
Control Of Local Government

Local Governments are controlled by

  1. Legislative control
  2. Financial control
  3. Political control
  4. Judicial control

1 – Legislative control

The legislature may control the local government in the following ways:

  • The legislature may make a law creating a new local government from an existing one or it may adjust its borders.
  • It may abolish or modify the law creating local governments.
  • A bye-law made by a local council that is inconsistent with a legislative enactment is null and void.

2 – Financial Control

Financial control is perhaps the most effective control of local governments. It may take any of the following forms.

  • The draft estimates of the local councils are subject to approval by the State Commissioner for Local Government.
  • The state government may set uniform guidelines and standards for the preparation of accounts and of reporting activities by local governments.
  • The state government may inspect and audit their accounts.
  • The auditor appointed to audit local government accounts has a power of surcharge.
  • The state government may limit the taxing and borrowing powers of councils.
  • If the purpose for which a grant has been given to a local government is not being achieved, the Commissioner may, after warnings, reduce or withhold the grant. The state government may control the award of contracts.

3 – Political Control

There are several methods of political control. They are:

  • The Commissioner for Local Government in Nigeria is required to approve any bye-law made by a local authority.
  • The central and state government has the power of inspection and ma send inspectors to local councils to ensure that they are fulfllling their responsibilities. The objective is to ensure that the services which the legislature has given to the local governments to administer and which also have a national implication and, for which the government gives grants, are being maintained at minimum level of efficiency.
  • The central government also exercises default powers over local governments. That is, if the Governor is not satisfied with the way a local government is performing a given service, he may direct that it should be done in a certain way within a given period and if the council fails to heed the advice, he may take the power away from it and exercise it himself either directly or by delegating a new body to perform it.
  • The government has to give prior approval for certain policies and programmes of the local government e.g. in building schools, health centers etc. This is to ensure that national standards are followed.
  • Local governments submit their development plans and other long-term programmes for ministerial approval.
  • The Commissioner may make delegated legislation or statutory in strument, which guides the operation of local governments.
  • The state government may suspend or dismiss a local government or its officials or order an enquiry into their affairs.
  • The conditions of service of local government staff are subject to approval by the state government.

4 – Judicial Control

Under the principle of ultra vires, the court may declare as void any acts of the local government, which are contrary to the law or exercised in excess of the powers granted to it.

Reasons For Control Of Local Governments

The central government may exercise control over local governments for the following reasons.

  1. To ensure that councils periorm their statutory functions.
  2. To ensure that the purposes for which grants are given are realized.
  3. To prevent and check fraud, corruption and other misapplication of funds.
  4. To ensure the growth of local democracy.
  5. To promde for nation-wide uniformity and stability in the implementation of public policies.
  6. To ensure that local governments are efficient and effective in the discharge of their functions.
  7. To insulate councils from excessive politicking and unnecessary interference in their activities by state civil servants.
  8. To ensure that its acts are consistent with the provisions of the constitution and the law setting it up.
  9. To strengthen the relationship between the government and councils.
  10. To attract and retain qualitied and experienced staff.
  11. To ensure a genuine decentralization.
  12. To ensure that the needs of the local people are satisfied.
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