Chaff Launch

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Iraqi governance: Using outside experts


Innovation in action here:
In order to help Iraqi local governments move to self-sufficiency, the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division is using expertise from the Austin, Texas, City Manager’s Office to examine concepts of governance from the standpoint of a real, working local government model that may be applied to reconstruction efforts.
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The 1st BCT holds meetings and shares information with officials from the Austin office of City Manager Toby Hammett Futrell, through video teleconferencing and conference calls. According to Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, deputy commanding officer, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div., having a real local government model for advice and a reach back capability is a boon to the Ironhorse Brigade’s efforts in helping locally-elected Iraqi officials with governance issues.

“They’re showing us great models that can be applied in teaching, coaching and mentoring local Iraqi governments,” said Andrysiak. “It’s good to have professionals that do this every day, to advise us.”

“We’re focusing solely on policy-making and administrative aspects,” he added. “Toby’s team is showing us ideas that work, giving examples which they have used and saying ‘here’s something that we’ve used before and it works.’”

Andrysiak explained that coalition forces are not trying to push Austin’s structure of government onto local Iraqi governments.

“They (the Iraqis) have their own system and we are working within that system with Austin leveraging their experience and processes. There are things inherent in government concepts that just work,” he said, explaining that there are models in place within the realm of civics that are essential to the running of any government. “They can take the models and mold and adapt them to their own culture, and it doesn’t have to be modeled after the American government.”
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One of the things that has changed since the partnership with Austin began has been a shift in focus when it comes to approaching local governance in Iraq. In the past, said Andrysiak, coalition forces helped the Iraqi governments in setting up city councils which would find out what the needs of the people were.

“The local councils would develop a list of projects without using a formal process, and we would deliver the project for them” he said, citing a health clinic as an example of the types of projects. But according to Andrysiak, once built, because the construction of the clinic was not properly coordinated through the Ministry of Health, it did not have a trained staff or an operating budget.

“We approached a three-dimensional process in a one-dimensional way,” Andrysiak said. Local government is very dynamic with a large number of players, and we weren’t helping the Iraqis leverage all the aspects of local government to make them self sufficient.”

The missing piece of the puzzle was having the leadership team that could administrate the provision of services and the managing of technical staffs to, for example, run something like a local water or solid waste office/department. In essence, the role that a city manager or strong mayor would play in a similar local government in the United States was nearly nonexistent in local governments in Iraq.

Their structure has the positions and their staff requirements defined, but the positions go largely unfulfilled.

“We (the coalition) were acting in roles of the mayor and technical branch of government by delivering products and services to the people, which wasn’t helping the local government become self-reliant,” said Andrysiak.

Now, a new emphasis has been placed, he said, on establishing a local qa’im makam or city manager/mayor who will work with city councils and oversee a technical branch of the government. The qa’im makam serves as an administrator and executor to manage technical services, bringing in technical experts in the fields of medicine, emergency services, water, electricity, waste management and other fields of expertise to deliver services to the people. The qa’im makam would also be in charge of such things as hiring, paying and firing people who work in these local technical departments.
Very smart.

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