|Training for Elected Leadership - The Councillor as Overseer (HABITAT, 1994, 16 p.)|
|Part I. Essay on the councillor as overseer|
Being an overseer of one's own behaviour as a councillor and assessing the staff 's efforts to implement council's directives is probably not your favorite responsibility as an elected official. It is much more interesting to make policy and to initiate programmes and services than tracking them to see if they are being implemented as planned and adopted. In addition to being a less attractive part of your job as councillor, the overseer role is fraught with some problems. These need to be examined in an effort to help you perform this responsibility with efficiency and effectiveness.
First, the overseer role often falls to one or two councillors who either have a background that gives them some expertise (such as an accountant or personnel officer) or someone who wants to get involved in the day-to-day operations of the local government. This responsibility is too important to be left either to a small group of "experts" or to those who want to supervise street level activities. It needs to be embraced by all councillors.
Secondly, there is a tendency on the part of many councillors to view the overseer duty as an opportunity to get involved in the day-to-day operations of the local government staff. Unless your city is so small that it cannot afford competent managers and elected officials are expected to supervise day to day operations, it is better not to get too deeply involved in administration. It can undermine the authority of your management team and de-motivate, if not demoralize, those responsible for implementation.
Thirdly, being an objective "overseer" is difficult, if not impossible, if you don't have benchmarks against which to judge performance. Objectivity also diminishes whenever council members get involved in the implementation process.
Lastly, council must make a commitment to this overseer role and be prepared to spend the time and energy it will take if it is to have any meaning or impact on council's performance or the performance of the organization.