The weakness of city councils


Al-Madina newspaper

THE Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Abdullatif Bin Abdul Malik Al-Asheikh, has approved a center for communications between the municipal councils and his office.

The center was aimed at creating direct contact between the minister and the members of the municipal councils all over the Kingdom.

Through this center, the members of the councils will forward their proposals, complaints and inquires concerning the municipal work to the minister.

On his part, the minister will constitute a task force to study these proposals and come up with viable ideas that will satisfy the members.

The call center started working last week.

In my opinion, priority should have been given before considering the establishment of the call center to a project that will present the minister with accurate and transparent statistics about the activities and the achievements of the municipal councils and the outcome of their protracted meetings.

The government is annually spending about SR170 million on 285 municipal councils with 3,156 members across the country. This is in addition to other related expenses.

A legitimate question here: Is the experiment of the municipal councils, which came to life in 2005, convincing to society? Have they contributed to the process of nation building and achieved their legislative and supervisory goals?

I leave the answer to the citizens who are more concerned with these councils and for whose benefits they were established.

However, a workshop that was held by the municipal council in Al-Ahsa in April confirmed that there were obstacles facing the councils and impeding their work.

The workshop found that the obstacles included the limited powers of the councils and their confused and illusionary relationships with the executive organs in the municipalities.

The workshop said some of the municipalities would refuse to supply the councils with the periodic reports to study them so as to know where the shortcomings lie and to suggest suitable solutions.

The administrative apparatus of the councils is weak and they do not maintain fruitful partnerships with the experienced bodies such as the universities, it said.

The workshop also said the number of the members in each council was too high and that some of them were not qualified for the job.

It also said the members were not devoting their entire time to the work of the councils and that their relationship with society was weak.

It proposed the establishment of a center for communications between the citizens and the councils through which the citizens could convey their complaints against the civic services to them and also to the minister.

In the light of the National Transformation Plan 2020 and the Vision 2030, I think the ministry has two options: either to revitalize the municipal councils so that life can go through their veins or revoke them altogether and announce their death.

The reviving of the councils will mean activating their roles as legislative and supervisory bodies over to carry out civic work.

In order for the councils to do their job properly, they have to be autonomous and given enough powers. The councils should be supported administratively and financially and they should also have competent members.

In case the minister decides to announce the death of the councils, he will be able to save the funds being spent on them and direct them toward projects that will benefit the country and its citizens.