Under the Belgian Municipal International Cooperation Programme (CIC), designed and run by the Union des Villes et Communes de Wallonie (UVCW - Union of Cities and Municipalities of Wallonia) with Belgian resources, the two partner municipalities aim to work together to strengthen the work of local authorities, which is underpinned by three inseparable pillars:
- good political governance;
- effective administration;
- public participation in decision-making.
The programme tackles poverty from the specific angle of strengthening the Beninese local authority system, considering that poor public access to public goods and services, particularly local services, is one factor in the complex issue of poverty.
Reference period: 2009-2016
Total resources (EUR):
- 2009 to 2013: EUR 295 000 (via CIC programme)
- 2014 to 2016: EUR 226 000 (via CIC programme)
Number of beneficiaries: Djidja municipal administration and the inhabitants of the municipality of Djidja, i.e. approximately 100 000 inhabitants.
In line with the general development of the African countries over the last 15 years, Benin has shifted towards greater decentralisation: the municipalities were created in 2002, with a number of responsibilities transferred from the national to the local level. These real changes in the level of decision-making have also created significant challenges for local authorities, as they are often made without the local authorities receiving the human and financial resources needed to deliver basic services to the general public.
To facilitate dialogue and increase the chances of success right from the beginning of the partnership in 2009, the partners established a satellite internet communication system.
The first assessment revealed that Djidja had no land management facility, and so it was decided to create a land register for the 12 districts. To this end, it was first necessary to map the area when creating each register. To date, six registers have been finalised; travel is restricted by the roads which make certain areas inaccessible during the rainy season.
With regard to public records, another area on which it was decided to cooperate, the imperative need to raise awareness among rural communities fast became apparent, as explaining the importance of registering public records data helped to overcome their fear of the unknown. This is also true for village leaders, who are still sometimes reluctant to pass on old public records, for fear of losing power.
The aim of these activities was the progressive empowerment of Benin's municipalities by increasing their financial resources. Here too, a major awareness-raising campaign was needed to get the message across that universal financial participation, regardless of the amount, enabled the municipality to improve public services and, at the same time, provide a better quality of life for its inhabitants.
As land registry and public records initiatives could initially strike people as disconnected from reality, various steps were taken by the partnership:
- mobile film showings were organised on the importance of registering births;
- thanks to additional financial support (from the municipality of Tintigny, Province of Luxembourg, Wallonia-Brussels International, Belgian Federal State), infrastructure work was carried out, including:
o replacing school roofs,
o water storage for women potters,
o rebuilding the youth centre,
o building a library,
o connecting the local radio to the electricity network,
o building toilets,
o fitting out markets,
o building an abattoir,
o supplying water to five villages, serving 13 000 inhabitants.
To raise public awareness in Belgium, the municipality of Tintigny organised collections of bicycles, clothing, school materials and books for the Djidja library, all transported to the sites thanks to support from the Province of Luxembourg. Tintigny also put together a slideshow, usually shown at international solidarity events. Articles on the partnership's progress are also published regularly in the Tintigny newsletter. Lastly, a presentation on the Tintigny-Djidja partnership was given at an international meeting at the Seine-Eure Urban Community in France as part of International Solidarity Week in November 2012.
2. The main thrust of the programme
2009-2012/2013 PROGRAMMING PERIOD
One of the novel features of the CIC programme is that the municipal partners agree in principle, for each country, on one or two specific common goal(s), and therefore in practice on one to two area(s) of action. The aims and results to be achieved jointly are set out in a country-wide programme.
In the case of Benin, the specific goal selected for the period 2009-2012/2013 was to implement effective tools within the Beninese municipalities to increase their own local resources, tax and external revenue and external contributions.
In the case of the Tintigny-Djidja partnership, this mainly took the form of creating a land register, more specifically a property register, leading to a substantial increase in tax revenue. In time the register will cover an area of 2 184 km² divided into 12 districts. Between 2009 and 2013, 6 out of 12 districts were included in the land register, which will be extended to the other districts over the 2014-2016 period.
Secondly, the public records department was modernised, mainly through (i) the acquisition (by means of joint public procurement) of public records management software; (ii) training on this software and public records database management; (iii) basic IT provision for the department. Work on setting up and updating the database, and on incorporating earlier records into it, is also well under way. Thus, nearly 128 000 public records documents have been digitised in six months.
In all the activities carried out, special attention was given across the board to:
- technical and human capacity building;
- lobbying higher levels;
- seeking new donors, and learning how to put together grant application files.
All the activities set out in the partnership's action framework have been carried out. The savings made (nearly EUR 22 000) meant that it has also been possible to renovate the buildings housing the public records department.
2014-2016 PROGRAMMING PERIOD
The conclusions of the monitoring reports, external assessments and review workshops, and consultations with the partners have confirmed the relevance of the area of action selected, namely local administration (public records, land register, local taxation strategies, human resources management) in support of financial policies.
The overall objective of the partnership's action framework for the years 2014 to 2016 is to help build capacity in the area of good governance and tax compliance and to set two specific goals. The first is to master (within the limits of their constitutional remits) the mobilisation of local and external financial resources to improve municipal management capability. The second is to strengthen internal structures by giving fresh impetus to human resources management and by reviewing their organisation, and to consolidate the platform for dialogue between them.
3. Measures, (expected) outcomes and prospects
The 2014-2016 programming period was designed with a view to ownership of achievements by beneficiaries and sustainability of the measures implemented. Five main outcomes are expected. With regard to mobilisation of local resources, this involves:
- pursuing and consolidating efforts by upgrading municipal activity in the area of:
o a land register - updating and extending it and structuring services;
o public records - digitising all existing legal documents, extending the computerised management system to other categories of documents (marriage, death) and structuring services;
- supplementing these efforts by identifying the tax and non-tax potential related to economic activity in the municipality, with a view to taxing operators.
With regard to mobilisation of external resources, the aim is to secure the capacity of Benin's municipalities to set up projects eligible for funding from donors, with a view to increasing local authority revenue in order to deliver stronger basic local public services.
The second specific goal is both to ensure that the first goal is achieved and to address an observation made during the previous programming period: that the human resources of Benin's municipalities are not usually organised in such a way as to ensure that the municipalities operate efficiently. The capacities of the municipality of Djidja and the other Beninese municipalities participating in the programme will thus be reinforced, in order to:
- establish modernised human resources management, with a view to:
o making officers accountable in the performance of their duties;
o bringing the public administration closer to the people by providing a clear description of how the departments are organised;
- structuring work in networks and pooling human resources for effective steering of the collective aspects of the programme.
In the context of these two specific goals, in response to the expectations of Benin's municipalities (and their inhabitants) and the recommendations of the external evaluation respectively, care is taken across the board with regard to each outcome to: (i) ensure that the general public is aware of and supports the initiatives; and ii) secure the servicing and replacement of equipment without recourse to external funding by means of maintenance agreements and budget lines.
4. For further information, please contact:
- Address: Commune de Tintigny, Grand’Rue 76, 6730 TINTIGNY
- Tel. +32 (0)63 44 02 21