Council elections are fast approaching and it is important that the electorate are familiar with the functions of Municipal and Area Councils.
First it is important to note that councils should function on an autonomous basis. They should function free from government control as stipulated in section 193(1):
“Local government administration in The Government Gambia shall be based on a system of democratically elected councils with a high degree of local autonomy.”
The functions of the councils are spelt out in subsection (3) of the same section:
“An Act of the National Assembly shall make provision for the functions, powers and duties of local government authority including provision for –
(a) the infrastructure and development of the area within the authority’s jurisdiction; (b) the encouragement of commercial enterprises; (c) the participation of the inhabitants in the development and administration of the area; (d) the essential and other services to be provided by the authority; (e) the raising of local revenue; (f) the management, control and oversight of the authority’s finances and the audit of its accounts by the Auditor-General; (g) the making of by-laws; (h) the preservation of the environment;
(i) the promotion of Gambian traditions and culture; and (j) the control of financial and other resources allocated by the central government.”
The Act of the National Assembly which outlines the functions of councils mentioned above is the Local Government Act.
The Constitution further noted that lower level of local authority should be allowed some autonomy. It also calls for cooperation with central government in its pursuit of decentralisation. Subsection (4) of the same section states:
“It shall be an object of the local government system that so far as possible, issues of local policy and administration shall be decided at a local level and that local government authorities shall co-operate with the Central Government in adopting a policy of decentralisation.”