Re-thinking Local Government Autonomy: Implications for Fiscal Policies on Water Service Delivery in Tanzania.

Dr. Jesper Katomero

Local government autonomy is a buzz word in Tanzania’s local government reform documents, policy documents as well as official government discourses regarding the improvement of local service delivery. In 1996, when the government introduced a local government ‘agenda’ to reform local governments, ‘local autonomy’ was identified as one of the pinnacles of the reform. Equally, in 1998 when the local government reform ‘policy paper’ was formulated, autonomy featured as one of the key problem area for reform. Among other things, the 1998 policy – which gave birth to decentralisation by devolution reforms – sought to provide fiscal automy to Local Government Authorities (LGAs') to collect own revenues and determine appropriate usage for improved service delivery . It is now two decades since reforms were implemented, and local government autonomy, particularly fiscal autonomy in the water service delivery remains a far-fetched reality. In this paper, I respond to the research question: to what extent are LGAs' autonomous from the central government in collecting and spending their own revenues for improved water service delivery and accountability? The data consists in interviews (conducted in Kiswahili) with several actors in selected LGAs' —bureaucrats, politicians and village leaders and document reviews. I collected data in two phases: between 2012 and 2016 during the execution of a large interdisciplinary research program and in late 2017 and 2018. I used a semi-structured interview guide, organized around the themes of LGAs' autonomy, fiscal issues, water service delivery and accountability. Twenty actors were purposively identified using the snowballing sampling technique. The sample was representative enough to cover all groups at all organizational levels. Informed consent was obtained from each respondent who participated in the interviews. The development objective of the paper is to advance and disseminate knowledge on the status of LGAs' reforms in Tanzania for lesson drawing and learning.
Key words: Local government, autonomy, fiscal policies, water service delivery.