Local February 24, 2024 | 9:55 am

Garata for power quotas with no possibility of providing better service to communities

Santo Domingo— Capacity cuts through legal artifices have prevented municipalities from fully exercising their roles and obtaining sufficient resources through genuine budgetary autonomy to raise revenues corresponding to their institutional obligations. They are subjected to the discretions of an overpowering presidency that acts according to its centralizing conveniences, selectively and periodically launching lifelines full of ballots into the turbulent waters of the municipalities in permanent financial weaknesses. Putting people to vote should serve for more than that.

Long before Dominicans, reduced in their motivations, went to the polls last Sunday to select municipal administrations, there was a financial bleeding that permanently diminished the capacity of mayors, councilors, and directors of municipal districts to act for the benefit of their communities.

A law “defunct in fact” (Law 166-03), which should apply a percentage (10%) of the resources captured by the treasury to the municipal communities, intended that in the last 20 years, more than RD$494 billion would reach them, which never left the vaults of the Executive Power through which only people with compassionate words have passed with the townspeople and metropolitans, but which in any case have been bad for them.

Economist Nelson Suarez expressly highlighted this with a high index in an enumeration of vicissitudes that deny effectiveness to decentralizing power in favor of dispersed Dominican geographies. “During five periods of government and the exercise of three different presidents, the mandate of Law 166-03 has never been fulfilled”. A progression in its application would have made available to municipal authorities revenues collected that would have ranged from 8% to 10% of the taxes levied. The cuts with which different administrations appropriated by trickery what legally corresponded to municipalities are detailed as acts of an insatiable Dracula in examining the execution of expenditures and investments of the State published in HOY on the 6th of this month.

The withholding that with unilateral criteria strips liquidity to entities of the state system that should give quality answers to the demands of urban and primary services occurs with disregard to social criticism due to evidence that the solvency of the councils has not been a priority of hierarchical supremacy; an imbalance for which sometimes it is appealed to generalize the assumption of “improper handling of resources” at the level of localities.

The snake bites its tail when the head of the State suspects, based on verifiable indications, and does not act, transgressions to laws and regulations established to preserve the correct use of public finances. Supervising investments and expenditures is almost a monopoly of bodies led by the Central Government, such as the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic and the General Directorate of the Budget. The separation of powers should result in counterbalancing actions between the Executive and the Legislature to keep the administrative actions of the entire public sector clean, aside from an imperceptible Chamber of Accounts, which is hindered by internal conflicts and operational incapacities.


Regarding the legal “disobedience” that year after year has generated budget approvals that severely curtail the autonomy of the municipalities, this newspaper recently opined: “It is the old game of Dominican politicians to approve laws in order not to comply with them. The result of this type of “institutional abuse” is bad or absent basic services to the municipalities.” This newspaper understands that it is time for the representatives of the Executive Power and the municipalities to delimit the spheres of action of one and the other.

And as if there were not enough strong objections to the needy condition of many city councils far from metropolises, the sharpness of Ramón Colombo pointed out from his section Fogaraté of the newspaper El Caribe towards the decrease or nullity of the protagonism favorable to the communities that characterize the municipal functions when he proclaimed that “nobody should be surprised by the high abstention of the voters.” After expressing with a crudeness, “Mayors’ offices, in general, are simple political ornaments that do not administer anything in rural or urban areas. Some collect garbage precariously; others take care of the parks.” To suppose (we add) that by voting in February, fundamental things would change would be asking too much.


The institutionality of the town councils has been eroded from the legislative action, as the outstanding municipalist Waldis Taveras stated for the newspaper HOY: “The organic laws approved by the National Congress leave the town councils practically without competencies in vital matters for the territories.

Hence, the current candidates for mayors, directors, councilors, and councilors present misleading offers to the electorate regarding the municipal elections of next Sunday, the 18th of this month.”

He maintained that most of the commitments that the candidates for mayoral office promise to make to the citizens are not of the exclusive competence of the city councils in light of the provisions of the Organic Municipal Law 176-07 and “because it is impossible to carry them out due to the financial incapacity of the local governments.”

“The town councils have lost their competencies and reason for their existence, since their most peremptory obligations have been submitted to the tutelage of the Executive Branch in a presidentialist State and an extremely conservative Congress divorced from the Duarte vision.”

In the context of his declarations, it is discarded that no matter how new the municipal authorities may be after the voting, they will be able to guarantee (as promised) better pluvial drainage, citizen security, put the traffic in order, recycle solid waste, support micro, and small businesses, etc. All this “salvation” for the municipal populations has appeared in the campaign speeches.


How, in a more or less generalized manner, the resources that the Executive Power is handing over to the municipalities in a meager manner has been defended by the Dominican Federation of Municipalities (FEDOMU) by maintaining that mere administrative errors committed by municipal administrations “are being presented as if they were malicious acts, when they are, in most cases, purely managerial deficiencies.”

Amid a recent controversy, the entity declared itself, alleging a “lack of precision and other errors in the methods of carrying out audits that have made these audits serve to generate headlines about alleged wastes that denigrate mayors and officials of other agencies, but in reality what they present is non-compliance with procedures and forms that, although they must be improved and overcome, do not mean embezzlement.”

However, in a forum on municipal governments in Latin America sponsored by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the nature of the region’s municipal bodies was questioned years ago, as they were seen as “dual governments” made up of unipersonal bodies called mayors’ offices, mayors’ offices, etc., which apply recipes imported from other countries with greater institutional strength and which clash with the regional reality.

The debate was dominated by the demand that municipal governments be based on a distribution of functions between Executive and legislative bodies, which at the municipal level are manifested through the collegiate formation of councils of aldermen or councilmen, which often facilitate the placement in trenches of adversaries of the mayors; scenarios for confrontations typical of party sectarianism. The Eclaline conclave consolidated the thesis that municipal institutions in Latin America present an acute development deficit.

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