António Tavares, author of the study "Quality of Local Government in Portugal", argues that local governments are today more than just a hierarchical organization responsible for providing services to citizens. In the days of local power, which took place in Portalegre on Tuesday, the researcher said that, although they are "308 distinct realities", none of the municipalities is a leader in good governance practices and they all deal with a lack of financial resources.
"Good governance is one that can balance governance (stability at the governmental level) with representativeness," António Tavares explained. "In the municipalities must be assured the satisfaction of the citizens. Power must be exercised according to rules and procedures stipulated by law and known to all, through an effective system of checks and balances. "
The member of the Center for Research in Political Science at the School of Economics and Management of the University of Minho also stressed that in municipalities with good governance practices, citizens are called to participate in the public management of the municipality and the asymmetries of information between the executive , opposition and citizens are "faded by practices of information sharing and empowerment." Decisions should then be evaluated and sanctioned either through the supervisory bodies or at the polls, through voting.
In the overall results of the study, no municipality scored sufficiently high enough to be considered a leader. "This is due to the fact that no municipality appears prominently in all dimensions and even the leaders of each of the dimensions have a less satisfactory performance in at least one of the other dimensions," António Tavares explained.
The study concluded that only 42 municipalities fully meet the requirements of financial transparency and accountability and more than 15% of municipalities have debt rates 100% higher than revenues. In addition, citizen participation rates in municipal elections have remained consistently low over the last decade, around 50%, which has made electoral legitimacy difficult.
The researcher underlined that the transfer of a set of competencies from the central government to the local governments forced municipalities to seek partnerships with the private and associative sector to respond to the needs of citizens, since they lack the financial resources to make them front. For this reason, António Tavares underlined that the study does not aim to "evaluate the quality of local government, because a large part of the municipal decisions today suffer the influence of other national and supranational political entities, as well as associations and lobby groups."
António Tavares also recalled that Portugal is one of the most centralized countries in the European Union, with only 10% of national funds to be managed by local authorities. "This shows the important role of local governments, which with limited resources can advance projects. In many cases, municipalities do not have decent budgets to meet the needs of citizens, "he said.