THE local authorities in Zambia are the fulcrum of growth from the grassroots upwards and also facilitate participation of communities in national development.
Thus councils countrywide ought to bolster their operations and ensure that they improve service delivery.
Therefore, it will be prudent for the councils to improve their image, starting with the internal publics which should have a positive mind-set.
Firstly, the councils should rid themselves of the corruption tag which has deepened because of illegal land allocation and generally poor customer relationship management.
Employees in city, municipal and town councils are generally perceived to have poor interpersonal skills and have tact for customer relationship management; their interaction with current and potential customers is extremely poor.
It is widely-believed that some council employees only respond promptly to members of the public wishing to get plots when they are promised a ‘cut.’
It is time such employees made a paradigm shift from sailing on selfish interest to serving public interest.
This should be the first step towards improving corporate image and perception in the eyes of the public.
Council employees need to improve relationships with members of the public, specifically focusing on building public trust and ultimately boosting council coffers and not their own pockets.
It is therefore in order that Zambia United Local Authorities Workers Union (ZULAWU) President, Kingsley Zulu, has warned against mismanagement of resources in councils countrywide.
In fact, Mr Zulu has further indicated that his union will not offer representation to any member caught up in financial scandals.
However, ZULAWU needs to do more through an enhanced awareness campaign among employees as opposed to making a one-off warning during an official function.
The union and respective council managements must work together to fight the corruption cancer in all establishments.
Yes, integrity committees have been formed in councils, but very few of them are active.
Currently, many councils are in comatose and require urgent resuscitation so that they are able to offer quality services to the people.
Alas, even in comatose state, some councils are still ‘healthy’ breeding ground for corruption.
The councils should be able to raise sufficient resources so that they are able to operate at full capacity instead of waiting for the Local Government Equalisation Funds from Government.
It is not sustainable for any council to solely rely on such funds.
In fact, Government grants should instead be channelled towards capital projects.
There are a few councils that have used the equalisation funds towards investment such as Kapiri Mposhi Town Council which has put up a modern guest house in the transit town. Some councils have become efficient in public service delivery, including timely and regular collection of garbage, provision of solar street lights and improved market structures
Other councils just sit back and wait for the Government hand-out and if it is not released on time, they resort to illegal work stoppages.
Now that Government has ordered the removal of cadres from bus stations and markets, the councils should maximise revenue collection from these facilities. They should improve market and bus station infrastructure and recoup money from such investments in order to deliver quality services to the public.
Councillors must lay their hands off from responsibilities exclusively meant for full-time employees.
They should not at any one time get involved in plot allocation because their responsibilities are at policy level.