Central-Local Government Relations in the Age of Decentralization: Partnership or Agentship Relations in Tanzania?

Mr. Shafii Dini Kanju
Dr. Deodatus Patrick Shayo

In Tanzania, there are varying perceptions on the character of central-local government relations: first, local governments are agents of the central government mandated to simply carrying out national policies and their role is to mobilize people around them; second, local governments are partners of the central government who implement national policies in a harmonious cooperation with central government which allow them some degree of autonomy and, third, central and local governments are, indeed two governments. They are mutually dependent, but their relationship is often uneasy as each one attempts to increase its autonomy over the other. Given the trends of decentralization by devolution approach; this paper analyses central-local government relations from the colonial era to date. The core target is to provide an overview on the dynamics of relations and, thus examine the progress made so far towards achieving the objective of changing central-local relations as stated in the Local Government Reform Program. Using desk-based research and documents review, a critical analysis is made to see whether the expectation of having autonomous local government authorities as enshrined in the Policy Paper on Local Government Reform have been realized or otherwise. Also, this paper provides possible explanations on the reluctance of the central government to give autonomy to local government authorities in terms of finance, budgeting and decision-making. Concluding remarks considers whether local government authorities in Tanzania throughout the history have been agents or partners of the central government in administration by taking into account the implementation of local government reform of decentralization by devolution.