Module one / relations between the municipal executive and legislative

Visits/meetings:

  • Meeting with the Minister of Local Self-Government Mr.Tahir Hani and the Minister’s cabinet
  • Meeting in municipality of Tetova, Ms. Teuta Arifi and assemblyman Mr. Hisen Xhemaili
  • Visit to municipality of Bogovina, meeting with the Mayor Mr. Hazbi Idrizi and municipal staff
  • Visit to municipality of Gostivar, meeting with the municipal executive
  • Visit to municipality of Struga, meeting with the Mayor of Municipality, Mr. Ziadin Sela
  • Visit to State University of Tetova (SUT), meeting with the Rector Mr.Vullnet Ameti
  • Visit to University of Southeast Europe (USEE), meeting with Mr. Andrew Goodspeed, Vice Rector for Academic Issues and Mr. Agron Rustemi, Vice Dean in the Faculty of Public Administration

Lectures:

  • Presentation (Good Governance) Mr. Besnik Tahiri, M.Sc., Local Governance and International Development
  • Organization and Functioning of Local Government (legal aspects), Mr. Agron Maxhuni, Legal Director – MLGA
  • Relations between the municipal assembly and mayor, Mr. Besnik Tahiri, M.Sc., Local Governance and International Development
  • Inter-municipal cooperation, Mr.Agron Maxhuni, Legal Director – MLGA and Mr. Besnik Tahiri, M.SC. Local Governance and International Development


Without governmental support, decentralization is failed

This was a finding at the closure of the first module of the educational programme Local Governance Academy organized by the Kosovo Local Government Institute during the study visit in the Republic of Macedonia.

Besnik Tahiri, Executive Director of the Institute, while analysing the decentralization process in the countries of the region, noted that the local reform process in the Bosnia and Herzegovina, derived from the Dayton Agreement, the Kosovo process deriving from the comprehensive package of the President Ahtisaari and the Macedonia process, emerging as a result of Ohrid agreement, are at risk of failure should the lack of support of central government continue.

Tahiri listed three reasons for decentralization to be successful: the first refers to the high degree of state’s central capacity. As the effective implementation of decentralization requires coordination at various levels, more regulations to guarantee basic transparency and accountability. A weak state cannot successfully implement the decentralization.

The second requirement is a robust civil society. This is important not only from the participatory perspective, but also because it could provide additional sources of information, feedback and constructive criticism to local government.

The third is a political project, whereby an organized political force supports decentralization and assures its implementation. Also, we should bear in mind that local effective governance depends on the existing resources, which should be adequate and sustainable.

“Although there is talk of decentralization, municipalities have no funding to exercise their functions, which makes the job of delivering high quality services to the people very difficult. It is therefore necessary to discuss issues and models of effective local governance,” said Tahiri

As part of the study visit, participants had an opportunity to meet the Minister of Local Self-Government, Mr. Tahir Hani, Mayor of Tetova, Ms. Teuta Arifi, Mayor of Municipality of Bogovina Mr. Hazbi Idrizi, Mayor of Municipality of Struga, Mr. Ziadin Sela and the Executive of the Municipality of Struga.

Through these meetings, programme participants were introduced to relations between municipal executive and municipal assemblies, implementation of decentralization process, functionality of municipality and service delivery by public utility companies, along with many topics related to good governance and inter-municipal cooperation.

The programme involves 40 participants, mayor and deputy mayors, chairpersons of municipal assemblies, while other participants are at the level of directors, caucus leaders, etc. This group of officials comes from municipalities (Prizren, Gjilan, Klinë, Kamenicë, Shtërpcë, Podujevë and Graçanicë), the programme also includes participants coming from governmental institutions, independent mechanisms and civil society organisations.

Meeting with the Minister of local governance of the Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Tahir Hani

Minister Hani, at the outset of our discussion, said: there was always confrontation between the local and central level. The decentralization process in the Republic of Macedonia was carried out through Badenter principle and was at a sustainable stage of transfer of competences.

Minister Hani said that the local government accounts for 6.36% of the entire budget of the Republic of Macedonia, while one percent (1%) of the total budget of the Republic of  Macedonia is dedicated to equal regional development, based on the law on equal regional development. The legislation the area of local government is as follows:

Ohrid Framework Agreement;
Law on Territorial Organization; Law on Local Self-Government;
Law on Equal Regional Development;
Law on State Inspectorate of the Local Self-Government ;
Law on inter-municipal cooperation, and
Law on the City of Skopje

Republic of Macedonia has 84 municipality and Municipality of Skopje, with 2 or 3 new municipalities expected to be established. The pillar of the Ohrid Agreement was decentralization. Municipalities have good fiscal decentralization. In 2002, Republic of Macedonia, under the Ohrid agreement, was divided into 80 municipality and the City of Skopje, which in itself has 9 municipalities.

Macedonia is divided into 8 regions. The smallest municipality is the municipality of Veçani, with approximately 3.000 inhabitants, while other major centres are Skopje, with around 300.000 inhabitants, municipality of Kumanova with about 100.000, and Tetova and Manastiri. Albanians in Macedonia constitute more than 25% of the population.

In the end, Minister Hani said that proper management of public goods was very important. If the management is adequate, there will also be political stability, otherwise, the country is headed for destabilization.

Meeting with the Mayor of Tetovo, Ms. Teuta Arifi

Mayor Arifi, in his introductory remarks said: Municipality of Tetovo is the second largest municipality of Macedonia, and home to two universities. There is a full political equality in Macedonia, in terms of use of languages, culture, symbols, etc. Fiscal decentralization, he said, was key to proper functioning of a municipality.

Value added tax in Macedonia is 16%, however, 4% is returned to municipalities. Municipality of Tetovo has decreased utility costs by 4 times compared to previous governance. There has been a collective decrease of salaries, from mayor to lower salaries. Municipalities may function if they spend wisely.

The mindset and mentality of Balkans is general central and patriarchal and the decentralization therefore has encountered considerable difficulties in this region. Some municipalities of Maceodnia have tried to connect to municipalities of Kosovo in order to absorb EU funding through IPA programme. However, some municipalities of Kosovo have entered into double agreements, which are otherwise prohibited and therefore the inter-municipal cooperation is halted.

Tetovo has around 86.000 inhabitants, and the number of inhabitants serves as a basis for determining the number of assembly members. Municipality of Tetovo has 31 assembly members. The budget of the Municipality of Tetovo is 25 million, of which 5-6 are capital investments. Municipalities manage the primary and secondary schools, with programmes decided through municipal council.

Tetovo has 7 sectors, which in Kosovo are known as directorates. A former sector head is now a mayoral candidate. Municipal inspectorates verify the constitutionality of municipal decisions. Decisions in the municipality are reached through a double vote.

As a mayor, I have decided to strengthen the sectorial rather than cabinet team, as sectorial policies are best promoted by placing competent people in places directly affecting service delivery.

Visit to University of Tetovo, meeting with Rector Mr. Vullnet Ameti


University of Tetovo was established in 1994. There are 11 faculties, with 47 study programmes. In 2013, it admitted 4,000 new students, with an additional 5,400 expected to be admitted next year. Social mobility is done through the university. University plays a key role in building a society. University of Tetovo and municipality have developed a project related to preservation of biodiversity in Sharri mountains.

During their visit, participants of the Local Governance Academy had an opportunity to see the importance of higher education in preparing a generation capable to provide better governance at the municipal level, but also broader. Also, universities served to promote awareness on the importance of regional integration among the youth.

Visit to University of Southeast Europe (USEE), meeting with Vice Rector for Academic Issues Mr. Andrew Goodspeed, and Vice Dean of Faculty of Public Administration Mr. Agron Rustemi.

University of Southeast Europe (USEE) was established in year 2001 and has 5 faculties. It is accredited by the Ministry of Education of Macedonia. University is self-supplied with energy, through its solar and wind generation plans. An additional component in this regard is  the impact to improve the profile and the image of municipality of Tetova through education, preparation of youth but also conveying the message that the municipality is interested to invest in the area of education.

The visit to University of Southeast Europe allowed participation to see first-hand about management of University, the importance of curriculum and curriculum content on governance, justice, administration and other areas.

Lecture of Mr. Besnik Tahiri, M.Sc. Local Governance and International Development - “Good Governance”


Tahiri, while talking about the meeting at the Ministry of Local Self-Government in Macedonia stated that the law on equal development of regions is lacking in Kosovo. In Kosovo, Ministry of Local Government Administration has a referee role, but it was clear that municipalities have lost due to double application with EU funds.

Regarding the discourse that a good mayor is not a saving mayor, it is my view that you can’t be a good mayor if you cannot invest in what generates development and welfare.

Tahiri then started his presentation on Good Governance.

Definitions and dimensions of Good Governance:

  • The World Bank defines good governance as safe management towards country’s development.
  • UNDP calls it the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage the affairs of a country.
  • USAID relates it with democratisation efforts. Focus on human rights, accountability in the public sector, rule of law, free markets, civil society, pluralism and peaceful conflict-resolution.


Three dimensions of Good Governance are: country, private sector and civil society.

Unions have a major role in democracy.There are two aspects of governance: technical and representative “Arrogance is politician’s suicide”. Policies are usually decided on what is called “Kitchen Cabinet”.

Principles of Good Governance are:

Participation; Rule of Law; Transparency; Responsiveness; Consensus; Equality and Inclusiveness; Effectiveness and Efficiency and Accountability.

Governance is culture. A good governance is difficult to attain.

Lecture by Mr. Besnik Tahiri, M.Sc. Local Governance and International Development – mayor of municipality, representative or dominator


Tahiri stated that in essence, presentation aims to clarify the position of the mayor as the key institution in the triangle mayor (executive) – municipal assembly (legislative) – citizen (civil society). The key finding emerged as a result of KLGI’s work is that the role of the mayor’s institution in the local governance system of the Republic of Kosovo requires more checks and balances and above all, internal institutional accountability as well as towards the public.

During workings of the municipality, it became clear that the very strong role of the mayor’s institution on one side and the passive role of the Municipal Assembly on the other, combined with the civic apathy, results in a democratic deficiency, which is of concern to local governance development now and in future.” 

This situation may be explained with the lack of useful practices and clearly defined arrangements that would ensure accountability of the mayor towards the people. In addition, a generic democratic culture, which will hold the mayor continuously accountable is inexistent after the end of electoral cycle and mayors are free to govern by disregarding people’s preferences.

Electoral participation and knowledge of people about the accountability mechanisms are general low and there is little interest for decision-making processes. This is also the result of mayors’ continuous failure to encourage broader participation in consultative committees and by obtaining very limited results from public debates. Most of municipalities have established informal systems of consultation of other actors, including civil society. Developing the control mechanisms at public level has not been stimulated enough by mayors who control the budget for funding support to civil society. 

Last, but not the least, this publication explains the domination of the mayor as a result of a culture of passivity that permeates most of municipal assemblies throughout. The lack of horizontal accountability raises yet another question about the institutional design (arrangements). This is attributed to the lack of separate budget line for the municipal assembly, and in some cases, lack of basic resources, including offices, other equipment necessary for efficient work and exercise of their responsibilities. Their passivity is deteriorated by a political party system, that place the loyalty to the party above the needs of the people.

Meeting with the mayor of municipality of Bogovina, Mr. Hazbi Idrizi

Mayor Mr. Idrizi said that it was his fourth term as the mayor. He said that Bogovina was located at an altitude of 480 m and has about 30,000 inhabitants. In 1996, a territorial split occurred involving Kamjan and Bogovina, while in 2004 there was a new occurrence, merging of Kamjan with Bogovina. “There is a positive trend with the new division of municipality”. We have now managed to issue building permits electronically.

We have cooperation partnerships with Elbasan under an EU funded project. In terms of VAT, 4.5% of it is returned to municipality, while other revenues collected by municipality are property tax, urbanism, sales tax, etc. Mayor Idrizi also briefed participation on developments in municipality, processes unfolded since the decentralization and challenges of the municipality.

Also, Mr. Idrizi explained that for improving the municipal budget or increasing the revenues more taxes and fees need to be paid, in order to increase the welfare of municipality. All obligations paid to municipality are returned through various projects that improve the school infrastructure, roads with the ultimate goal of improve the people’s satisfaction with service delivery.
Meeting with the executive of Gostivar

Representatives of executive noted that Gostivar was one of the 5 largest municipalities of Macedonia. There are around 80,000 inhabitants. It represents a model of civic coexistence, of how various ethnicities should live alongside, of which 65% are Albanian, 19% Macedonian, while the rest are Roma, Turkish and Bosniaks.

Municipal Council of Gostivar has 31 councillors: 21 Albanian, 6 Macedonian, 2 Roma and 2 Turkish. The council proposes the plans while the mayor and his/her administration executive them. In order to adopt a plan, at least 16 of municipal councillors have to vote in favour. Municipality has 6 sectors, four of which have been retained from before. There are also two public enterprises.

With changes to Law on regional organization in 2005, Municipality of Gostivar was joined by 4 other municipalities. Under decentralization, these municipalities were given authority over urbanism (e.g. issuance of building permits). Education, specifically primary and secondary, were also transferred to local government. However, school infrastructure is still under the authority of central government. Gostivar has a budget of around 16 million euro, 3 of which are for capital investment, with 122 employees.

Meeting with the Mayor of Struga Mr. Ziadin  Sela

The delegation was welcomed by the mayor, Ziadin Sela, who at the meeting, informed the participations of decentralization process and other features. Mr. Besnik Tahiri also wanted to hear more from the Mayor of Struga about the achievements and problems in the area of decentralization.

Mayor of Struga, Ziadin Sela, in response to this question, said:

‘’Along with assumed competences, we also inherited obligations, including debts. Specifically, a debt of public enterprise “Proaqva” dating since 1998, for which to date we paid 1.4 million EUR, while municipality of Ohrid failed to pay a single dime. However, the investment ratio was 90 to 10 in favour of Ohird. There are no asbestos pipes in Ohrid, but Struga still has some. We also have other problems as a community, which have been referred to in the Ohrid Agreement, but have not been addressed to date.

An issue covered by the Ohrid agreement is decision-making, which sanctions Bandenter principle, which after 10 years, clearly indicates failure to meet the needs of this population to curb majorism. Quite the contrary, the principle is used to restrict municipalities, even with Albanian majorities. The principle is applied to block them.

Decentralization of power is also another issue specified under the Ohrid Agreement, wrought with considerable difficulties. Realistically, there is no decentralization of power in all respects. In urbanism, for example, while we may issue building licences and such, the Ministry of Transport and Connection still retains the ultimate authority.

We may initiate a public debate with the public to adopt a general plan, which may then be submitted to the council, properly reviewed, and voted on at the proposal of municipality. This is carried out by a private company, which will develop the plan technically. We may spend one year worth of effort and money for the company, however, the responsible minister may still refused its adoption. It is a very difficult position, focused around interests and retention of power.

There are also issues in education; we inherited schools with blocked budgets, and we continue to have problems with funding allocation. The allocation is disproportionate to the prevalent situation. We have classrooms with 5 students. This way, 90% of funding is dedicated to salaries, because it is difficult to carry out consolidation of classes without creating social problems.
In terms of budget, 3.5 of VAT returns would resolve many issues, however, this is not being done. This, combined with the law on regional equality of 2009, not only  do not promote regional equality, but rather widen the inequalities by applying double standards.’’

Mr. Besnik Tahiri, summarizing the presentation, said “the tendency of continuous degradation and failure to provide for capital investments from central to local level, continues to impoverish the society. This indicates an absence of political decentralization, underdeveloped municipalities, regions, lack of support and failure to implement legislation by central government, with references to debt issue.”

With respect to VAT, Mr. Tahiri said that municipalities of Bogovina, Tetove, Gostivar, spoke proudly of the 3.5% that belongs to the municipalities, of the total of 18%. However, what in reality happens resembles the Kosovo formula. As the VAT is collected at the centre, but is distributed under a different criteria, i.e. collected based on contributions, but distributed proportionally. Fiscal decentralization is meaningless if the contribution is not returned to the people, said Mr. Tahiri”.

The other question related to e-licences for urbanism.

“E-licences made things difficult for a while. However, we managed to overcome the situation. The idea behind it was to grant increased access to the people, enhance transparency, etc. Only, we have much more realistic problems. You cannot apply a system presently used by only two countries in the world.

Although the next phase has not yet been deployed, however, cadastral records were also digitalized, which created problems with issuance of certificates as the system has not yet been adapted. This situation took about 6 months. Immediately upon assuming office, in the course of two weeks a law was adopted that required permits to be issued electronically, however, employees had not been trained, computers were obsolete, etc. We had to purchase new computers, training the staff, spend also for electronic signatures, because in addition to the mayor, signatures of other urbanism staff was also required.

However,  we managed to overcome the situation and we issue licences by the day. We are ranked first relative to other municipalities in terms of number of licences issued. As a concept, e-licences are alright, however, practically the process needs to unfold carefully as many problems may occur along the way.‘’ Explained the Mayor of Struga, Ziadin Sela.

Agron Maxhuni, Director of Legal Department – MLGA

“The system of organization and functioning of municipalities”- “Inter-municipal cooperation”

Kosovo has about 38 municipalities. Administrative borders are assigned based on cadastral zones. The self-government system of Kosovo is single-tiered. Municipalities have the status of legal person. Principles of local self-government: principle of legality, good governance, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness and subsidiarity.

Municipal Assemblies adopt the Statute of Municipality and Municipal Regulations. They also adopt budgets, investment plans, work plans, annual report and may establish support structures for municipal assemblies.

Mr. Agron Maxhuni also spoke of adopted international standards as part of national legislation, stating that these standards directly impact the life of people in Kosovo municipalities. He proceeded saying that implementation of legislation and principles of good governance are the responsibility of municipal bodies arising from local elections.

Partnership between central and local level and specialized institutions working on local governance also affects the delivery of sustainable and good quality public services for citizens of municipality. Mr. Maxhuni concluded by saying that the partnership affects building local capacities of political and administrative structures in delivering services required by the people. 

In his presentation, Mr. Agron Maxhuni, Legal Director in the Ministry of Local Government Administration said that “current legislation provides broad opportunities for IMC, at both local and international level (...) Basic principle for IMC is effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, while objectives of IMC are based on free will and interest in the areas such as social-economic development, development and use of land, environment protection, planning, etc.”

The following entities are entitled to enter into inter-municipal cooperation: mayor, municipal assemblies, citizens (at least 5% with the right to vote), and government. “Mayor has to be creative”.  In the end, while introducing the legal framework governing inter-municipal cooperation, Mr. Maxhuni said that municipalities have been making very limited use of the opportunities granted under the law to enhance their service delivery.