Posted by Camille Karamaga
Recent studies by IMF staff indicate that sub-national governments are a significant source of fiscal risk in European countries, especially since the global financial crisis. One reason is that local governments are responsible for many similar functions and financial transactions as central governments. Depending on the depth of devolution, local governments may borrow, manage off-budget enterprises and engage in opaque transactions with the central government and other sectors. In many cases, unfortunately, their accounting and reporting systems are weaker than those of central government, as are the arrangements for external oversight.
In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), as decentralization gains momentum, similar issues are arising. Although the overall size of the local government sector is still relatively small—on average around 5-10 percent of the national budget—in some countries the figures are much higher, and are growing from year to year. In Kenya, for example, the new Constitution provides for a minimum allocation of 15 percent of the most recently audited domestic revenues to county governments, and the allocation for the current financial year is around 26 percent. In Tanzania budgetary allocations to local government authorities in FY 2010/11 and FY 2011/12 were 21.2 percent and 25.3 percent of the national budget, respectively. Across the region, the trend in local government spending is on the rise as more governments decide, for largely political reasons, that decentralization promotes both better service delivery and enhanced local accountability.