On 20 September 2017 the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Libya, Dr. Ghassan Salamé, announced an Action Plan for Libya at a High-Level Event on Libya on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
3.4 Municipalities as Service Management Institutions:
The majority of participants in the National Conference Process believe that municipalities are the most appropriate entities to distribute resources. This is because municipalities cover the entire Libyan territory and are the institutions closest to the citizens, with direct relations on a daily basis.
Municipalities are seen as closely tied to local communities, often reflecting these communities’ particularities. Some participants raised the issue of corruption in central and sectorial administration. Municipal councils could also be vulnerable to corruption, it was noted, given the weakness of regulatory, judicial and security institutions.
Yet such fears are exaggerated according to other participants, since local communities can subject municipalities to public oversight, and follow up on how budgets and public funds are disbursed and how projects implemented.
The participants agreed on a number of procedures to support the role of municipalities, both in general and in the distribution of resources. These include the following proposals:
Strengthen the legal framework of municipal work
a. All participants insisted on the necessity of fully implementing the provisions of Law No. 59 on local governance from 2012.
b. Some participants suggested overcoming the ambiguity in the current legal framework encouraging the initiatives of municipal councils without waiting for the government or the legislature to act;
c. A permanent joint legal committee should be formed of representatives from the government and municipalities. (The committee would comprise representatives from the Supreme Council of Local Administration when activated in accordance with the text of the Skhirat Agreement.) This joint committee would have the following powers:
– To review and consolidate the decisions and regulations issued by different governments;
– To clarify any discrepancies or inconsistencies in the application of laws related to local governance. The opinions of this committee should be binding on the government. Municipal councils may challenge these opinions in court;
– To prepare a procedural guide to regulate relations between the members of municipal councils and municipal councils, service ministries, and national institutions;
– To monitor and review the transfer of competencies from central to local level (provinces and municipal councils);
– To propose amendments to conflicting legislation based on current realities and the necessary practices of many municipalities.
Relationship between the municipalities and the government
a) All participants agree that municipalities can only achieve their objectives if they have a strong and solid relationship with the central government. A number of proposals were submitted to avoid confusion in this relationship:
– The role of the Ministry of Local Governance should be reviewed with the aim of making it more effective. A Supreme Council for Local Administration should be established and granted powers previously vested in the Ministry.
– Coordination between the municipalities and the government should be entrusted to a government undersecretary directly subordinate to the prime minister.
b) Provinces should serve as intermediary bodies between the central government and the municipalities. A possible interim measure could be to have mayors run the governing councils of provinces. A federation of municipalities could also be established to conduct projects that require coordination between different bodies.
Keeping municipalities away from political conflicts
a. Municipalities should not participate in party-political activities or issue statements that express party-political positions.
b. The post of mayor should not be subject to dismissal except by a final judicial order with proof of wrongdoing or exceptional circumstances.
Preserving the integrity of municipalities
a. Some participants called for the establishment of new municipalities on in accordance with the law and objective criteria, rather than on the whims of different governments.
b. Some called for a revision of the administrative boundaries of municipalities and provinces in accordance with the principles of economic integration, social harmony, and national solidarity.
c. Participants agreed that any revision of administrative boundaries should be preceded by preparatory work. This preparatory work should be performed by technical committees that will consult a wide range of local actors throughout the country.
d. The Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections should be independent from the government. Some participants proposed that the Committee be annexed to the High National Election Commission (HNEC).
e. A significant number of participants proposed that municipal elections be held as soon as possible, since the electoral term for all municipalities ceases at the end of 2018. Such acceleration of municipal elections might require work on the articles of the current draft constitution that relate to decentralization (Articles 144 to 154). If this is not possible, the constitutional declaration and existing laws can be applied instead.
Financial administration of municipalities
a. The government should consult the municipalities or the Supreme Council of Local Administration when preparing national annual budgets and strategic plans.
b. The distribution of budgets to municipalities should be subject to transparent, clear, and consensual criteria in consultation with the representatives of municipalities or the Supreme Council of Local Administration.
c. Delay in the disbursement of administrative budgets should be resolved by disbursing municipal steering budgets directly at the beginning of each year. This should be done without delay according to the last budget approved and automatically paid along with the first section of the national budget concerning salaries and privileges.
d. Some participants insist that the budget for municipalities should be independent of the state budget. They propose that the Central Bank of Libya should disburse the budgets of the municipalities directly at the beginning of each year. This does not mean that municipalities should be exempt from presenting their budget proposals to the government authority. Nor does it mean that they should be exempt from subsequent control by the competent bodies.
e. Municipalities should collect local revenues on behalf of the state without delay to avoid any loss of income to the state.
f. Some participants, especially those from the southern parts of Libya, noted that subsidies for basic commodities such as gas often do not reach the people for whom they are intended. This leads to multiple manifestations of corruption. For this reason a system of direct support to individuals and families is proposed. This support would be supervised by the municipalities in partnership and cooperation with the Budget Balance Fund. This
will require the activation of the National Institution for Supply Commodities and Consumer Associations.
g. Standards of transparency need to be established for municipalities in order to ensure public access to information and facilitate improved communications with local authorities.
Decentralizing some institutions and projects outside the capital
a. Many participants proposed that certain institutions, bodies and directorates should be located outside of the capital. The rationale for this proposal is that some institutions should be geographically close to the subject of their work and specialization. For example, a proposal was submitted to move the Illegal Immigration Directorate to the south of the country (in Sabha, for example).
b. Some proposed that large strategic projects should be located in municipalities that lack resources.
3.5 Preserving the National Sovereign Institutions
The participants agreed on the importance of preventing interference in the work of sovereign institutions and public utilities in charge of services such as electricity and water. Such interference threatens to undermine the work of these institutions in performing their vital functions.
This requires that institutions be protected from extortion or control by political, armed, tribal, or regional actors. Institutions and companies must also therefore refrain from intervening in political conflicts.
In the course of the discussions, many participants praised the work of certain national institutions and public companies in maintaining the services of the facilities they supervise in spite of armed conflict and pressure from armed formations.
In particular, the personnel of the General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL), the Water System of the Great Man-Made River Authority, and the National Oil Corporation were praised for their sacrifices in ensuring the provision of services to all Libyan regions.
Some participants complained about the lack of control currently exercised by the legislature and collective boards of directors over the work of managers and officials of national institutions.
Instead, decisions are made without institutional or legal supervision and with no regard to economic integrity or public responsibility. In the course of discussions about the state’s strategic role in the economy, participants highlighted the crucial role of two institutions: the National Oil Corporation and the Central Bank of Libya.
The management of these institutions must be subject to the highest standards of efficiency, neutrality and transparency. This requires that the boards of directors be selected in such a way as to avoid personalization of these institutions and their exploitation for personal or political sectoral ambitions.
Despite the technical and detailed nature of the management and administration of sovereign institutions, several participants who specialized in the fields of law and economic and administrative reform submitted a number of proposals. These proposed reforms are summarized below:
a. To develop a practical guide to serve as a constitution for the work of the administrative boards of national institutions and public companies. This guide would apply until the end of the transition period and the issuance of a new legislative framework.
In order to issue this guide and publish it in the Official Gazette as soon as possible, a joint legal and technical committee could be formed. The committee would comprise representatives from the Ministry of Justice, other relevant technical ministries, the Supreme Court, the Law Directorate, the Case Directorate, the Audit Bureau, and the Administrative Control Authority (ACA).
Such a committee will give the guide the legal and interpretative value necessary for the acts and decisions of sovereign institutions and national companies.
b. To establish boards of directors in these institutions to enhance the transparency and democracy of decision-making and capacity to implement decisions. In this context, the following detailed proposals were submitted:
– Some participants suggested that the boards of directors of sovereign institutions should be appointed in accordance with a predefined mandate and without the possibility of dismissing them. This would protect them from political interference and factional conflicts.
– Executive directors in national sovereign institutions are first accountable to the boards of directors of such institutions and their decisions should therefore be subject to the directives of the boards. This is necessary to ensure that executive directors do not treat
institutions as if they were their personal domain. The boards of directors should meet periodically in accordance with laws and regulations.
– Appointments to these sovereign institutions should be made according to standards of scientific competence, integrity and practical experience at the national level. Tribal, regional, and partisan quotas should be avoided.
– The demographic diversity of Libya should be taken into consideration to ensure equitable geographical representation in appointments to these institutions. Such representation must be implemented without prejudice to other aforementioned conditions.
c. Sovereign national institutions should be protected from political tensions, since their primary task is to manage the wealth of all Libyans as an economic trust. The work of these institutions should be subject to the most stringent ethical standards, thus enhancing 50transparency and supporting the legitimacy of the supervising bodies. Several detailed proposals were submitted to achieve this aim, including:
– Appoint a temporary higher administrative body whose task is to unify sovereign institutions, to consider all the imbalances arising from their division, and to find solutions to fulfil their previous commitments.
– This administrative body would consider all future appointments to the boards of directors of sovereign institutions and public companies. Such consideration would include reviewing their compliance with the legal and technical criteria of appointments to senior positions.
– The administrative body should be formed by a consensus among the bodies established through the Libyan political agreement or from the technical legal committee mentioned above.
d. Sovereign institutions, public companies, and government bodies (except for security or national security sectors) are obliged to be transparent in their conduct. This requires the following measures:
– All decisions that impose financial burdens on the state or relate to appointments must be published, including all decisions on the development of new structures or changes in existing institutions. Unpublished decisions should be considered null and void.
– Support should be provided to the judicial and administrative authorities concerned with the supervision of financial cases. These authorities are primarily the Audit Bureau, the Administrative Control Authority (ACA), the Attorney General’s Office and the competent technical units of the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Libya.
Such support will enable these authorities to combat money laundering and ensure they carry out their monitoring role independently without any pressures. These bodies and authorities should cooperate and work with the maximum extent of coordination to achieve optimum efficiency in their work.
e. The work of the government and the conduct of public institutions should be subject to monitoring by civil society organizations and the public. This monitoring can be achieved through the mandatory publication of administrative information and through persistent reporting of cases of corruption.
f. Various security and military apparatuses need to be developed to better protect land and sea borders, ports and oil fields. These bodies must be provided with support to ensure they have the necessary capacities to carry out their tasks.
g. International cooperation is needed to protect the wealth and institutions of the Libyan people:
– Despite objections voiced by some participants that conflicts between Libyans have been exacerbated by international actors, many agreed on the contribution made by international actors in preventing the collapse of Libya’s national institutions. Some participants called for the international community to assist sovereign institutions and national companies in carrying out their duties.
This demand is based on the need to avoid interference, including blackmail, from forces that want to impose their will on these institutions. These calls for international intervention reflect a loss of confidence in the capacity of the legislature and executive authority to protect these institutions.
to be continued