Decentralisation or devolution : an analysis of local government effectiveness

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 11
  • SDG 1
  • Abstract:

    Decentralisation as an analytical concept in local government seems much overused. Yet, the definitional debate tends to defy consensus in academia. The obverse is true. Devolution, a closely-related concept, seems hardly referred to in local government discourse. Yet, it is a definite analytical concept, with specific reference to local government in federal states. This article attempts to enter the devolution terrain and proposes that local government functioning in South Africa is more one of devolution than outright decentralisation. The article contributes to the wealth of knowledge in Public Administration and Management in that the pre-eminence of the two concepts are pitted against each other in an assessment of effectiveness. This allows practitioners to gauge the strengths and limitations of systems and work towards improvement. The settings are twofold: an evaluation of local government decentralisation in Ghana; and an evaluation of local government devolution in South Africa. The methodology is largely a literature review, though scant use of observation is unavoidable. The end results of the diagnosis appear similar in the two settings. Decentralisation tends to rob the citizenry of outright power of policy-making and implementation, thereby creating a democratic deficit; while devolution and its power of autonomy are prone to a potential lack of capacity and much abuse of scarce resources.