Navajo Nation Local Governance Support Centers not helping Chapters move forward.

After the Navajo Council Resources & Development Committee adjourned, Delegate Jonathan Nez did an interview with me about his LEGISLATION 0139-14, which the RDC approved today, June 26, with no debate with a vote of 3 in favor, 0 opposed. A related report to Legislation 0139-14, which is about the “new policies relating to degrees and elimination of equivalency clause for positions,” is on the agenda of the Naabik’iyati Committee href=””>MEETING tomorrow, June 27. Naabi is scheduled to begin its meeting at 10 a.m. in the Council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz. The Report on the Equivalency Clause will be made by Bernadette Bernally, Human Resources Director, Navajo Nation Department of Personnel Management.

By the way, the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee is having a SPECIAL MEETING before Naabi at 8 a.m. at their meeting room, which is on the north side of the Council chamber and behind the Office of the Speaker.

Delegate Jonathan Nez’s Legislation 0139-14 replaces the current five Local Governance Support Centers with 16 Administrative Service Centers and it does not go before the Naabik’iyati Committee and Council because the Resources and Development Committee held final approval or disapproval over it.

Nez recalled that when the Navajo Nation government operating 2014 Budget was approved by Council in August 2013, the Budget and Finance Committee recommended that $3 million be put aside for Decentralization, and the $3 million set aside was approved when the Council approved the 2014 budget.

And he said there was also a condition of appropriation in the 2014 budget for the Navajo Division of Community Development to develop a Decentralization plan for this “transition” of Local Governance Centers to Administrative Service Centers.

Nez explained that the “reasoning” behind the new 16 Administrative Service Centers is to build local community capacity with technical assistance and to be more pro-active in assisting chapters.

Some chapters are local governance certified and when that happens they need to begin addressing post governance certification activities but there was the thinking that when a chapter is certified, that that’s it, he said.

But Nez said there is still much work to do.

There are five Local Governance Support Centers/LGSCs and they were for each of the five agencies so they could assist chapter but many elected officials, local and at the Council level, felt that these LGSCs were not helping to move chapters forward, he said.

Nez, who is the Budget & Finance vice chairperson, said that lot of chapters were getting sanctioned because of audits due to finance issues and problems.

And the way that the LGSCs handled chapter audit problems was for the LGSC staff to move to that chapter and deal with that situation which resulted in the rest of chapters getting ignored, he said.

Nez said, “Leaders noticed that.”

He said leadership came up with Legislation 0139-14 because for chapters to excel economically and socially, we felt that staff needed to get closer to the 110 chapters, which is reason for 16 Service Centers.

Nez said that the $3 million is budgeted for a planner, administrative assistant, and accountant at each of the 16 ASCs.

The tribal Justice Department is planning on taking tribal attorneys to the Administrative Service Centers, he added.

So this is part of decentralizing Navajo government and giving more authority to local government, Nez said. For example, for chapters to issue checks, they have to come to central government, which is here in Window Rock, Ariz.

So he said the hope is for local government officials to eventually be financially accountable to issue their own checks.

“But this is a start,” Nez said.

One of issues out there regarding Legislation 0139-14 is what happens to current LGSC staff because there was heavy lobbying by the LGSC staff against Legislation 0139-14 that was coming from their job security, he recalled.

But Nez said at the start of this initiative, we said that the LGSC staff should be able to transition as staff for the 16 centers because they have organizational knowledge.

But one concern that came up regarding the transition of LGSC staff into ASC staff is the new Personnel Policies and Procedures Equivalency Clause that Delegate Dwight Witherspoon sponsored and the report on the equivalency clause will be heard by the Naabik’iyati Committee tomorrow (June 27), he said.

Nez explained that since the staff positions for 16 centers are new positions that under the new Equivalency Clause that some of the LGSC staff will not qualify for the new ASC positions.

“But my wish is to transition LGSC staff into 16 Administrative Services Centers and to continue their personnel tenure and benefits,” he emphasized. “We’re also hoping to recruit some good people. We just had graduations and we hope to build capacity. Overall, it’s to provide better services and to have an efficient government. That’s the bottom line. We have to start somewhere otherwise we’re doing the same old, same old.”

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