ICMA and The Asia foundation (TAF) collaborated with local partners from India and Sri Lanka to implement a program supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to promote Transparent and Accountable Local Governance in Sri Lanka. The program consortium partner UMC supported the formation and operationalization of Good Governance Resource Centres (GGRCs) across local authorities in Sri Lanka. GGRCs are district-level technical cells within the district urban governance set-up designed to serve as information hubs and provide opportunities for training to city managers to improve local governance.
The GGRC advisory board members comprise urban sector officials from districts, include ministers, commissioners and assistant commissioners of local governments as well as city managers and elected officials. GGRCs are think tanks with highly competent resource groups with focus on issues ranging from improved service delivery to citizens, citizen’s involvement in urban governance, public-private partnerships to local economic development, leadership management and local government policy reforms and legislations.
The ICMA-TAF teams coordinated with respective CLG and ACLG offices to set up 12 GGRCs at Kandy, Batticaloa, Galle, Ampara, Hambantota, Trincomalee, Nuwara Eliya and Matara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and a mother GGRC at the Sri Lanka Institute of Local Self Government (SLILG). UMC’s documentation of leading practices from the South Asian region provided reference material for Sri Lankan local authorities.
As part of the technical assistance to form and operationalize GGRCs, the program coordinators visited Ahmedabad in Gujarat state and Madhya Pradesh to study formation of City Managers Associations in India. Following this, a formation workshop of all 12 GGRCS was organized in Polonnaruwa town of Sri Lanka. There were presentations on issues of starting a GGRCs and technical programs that the centers could initiate for their membership. Coordinators and advisory council members made presentations on the status of their GGRC. There was also an intensive best practice documentation exercise in towns of Wilgamuwa and Lankapura where teams documented the practices from these cities and made presentations.
Later, a select group of GGRC members and staff visited Bangalore, India for a five-day workshop-cum-study tour to gain insight into good governance practices and visit the successful operation of City Managers’ Association, Karnataka (CMAK). The tour was organized with the support of CMAK, coordinators from the City Managers’ Association, Orissa and Hyderabad-based Centre for Good Governance (CGG) who made presentations about their programs and organization structures. The exercise highlighted the importance of proper and correct delegation of authority at the local level.
Hands-on training to GGRCs was provided on how to identify innovative practices and know what information is needed for documentation. The delegation also gained insights into technical areas of solid waste management, local economic development, financial management, improved public service delivery, taxation, gender equality, involving women in administration and carrying out operations, betterment of infrastructure and resource mobilization. The team also learnt the importance of self-help groups, SWM and women empowerment. The trip to Ramanagaram gave the delegates an insight into e-governance. Ramanagaram has been declared the best urban local body in implementing GIS-based property tax. At the end of the five-day tour, the delegates had imbibed the practices and structures and compared it to the Sri Lankan structure. The tour further strengthened the role and determination of GGRCs in spreading good governance in Sri Lanka. The initiative has been successful and the results are already visible.