LOCAL GOV’T MINISTRY ORGANISES HISTORIC CAPACITY BUILDING RETREAT FOR LOCAL COUNCILS
Galiness Hotel, Bo, 12 March 2021-The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) with financial support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has organized a four-day Capacity Building Retreat for Local Council Staff across Sierra Leone on the theme: “Deepening Decentralization and Enhancing Service Delivery in Local Government”.
Minister Lamina introducing Mayors and Chairpersons to the Vice President (Dr. Juldeh Jalloh)
The conference, which took place at the Galiness Hotel in Bo from 9-12 March, 2021 targeted six staff in each of the twenty-two (22) Local Councils across the country, including the Mayor or Chairperson, Chief Administrator, Finance Officer, Human Resource Officer, Internal Auditor and DPO.
Deputy Minister, Melrose Karminty, addressing Mayors and Chairpersons
In his keynote address, the Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr Juldeh Jalloh, said the New Direction Government focuses its development on three main strategies, including effective and efficient Decentralization, Human Capital Development and Private Sector Development Growth. He said Government would only succeed in the implementation of the said strategies if there is effective and vibrant Local Governance and Decentralization in place
Members of the high table invoking the presence of God into the retreat
“My role as the Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Council is to oversee and make sure that all line Ministries work with the Local Government Ministry towards achieving progressive and business pattern devolution,” he said.
He said they have decided as a Government to have a paradigm shift in the development of the country from a city-based to provincial-based by encouraging private investments to focus more on the provinces through drastic tax reduction and others business friendly agreements with investors who are willing to do business in the provinces in order to increase revenue mobilization of the local councils.
In his opening statement, the Minister of MLGRD, Tamba John Sylvanus Lamina, noted that it was the first time in many years that staff from all Local Councils across the country had come together to chart a way forward for Local Government in Sierra Leone.
“We are here as a family to share experiences, assess our achievements and challenges with a focus of identifying policies and interventions needed to strengthen local democratic accountability and to also complete the process of decentralization,” he said.
Minister Lamina pointed out that the recent misunderstanding within the Local Government Family was a testament that more needed to be done, but added that the adoption of the Revised National Decentralization Policy showed the Government commitment to Local Governance. He noted that although a section of the said Policy that prevents local councils elections from being partisan was received with mixed reactions amongst some politicians, he noted that it was widely accepted by 70% of the electorates who served as the consultees in the process.
Minister Lamina responding to questions, comments and concerns of participants
“The Decentralization Policy does not only strengthen the roles and power of both local Councils and Chieftaincies in the country, but it also increases the representation of women and other marginalized groups in decision making processes,” he said.
He further maintained that his Ministry’s proposal is not about increasing the central Government control in the local councils, but giving the ordinary citizens’ control of the democratic state. He added that in achieving that, there should be a close partnership with other friends like the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) who had always been there to answer to the calls of the Ministry in its mission to achieving capacity building for councils. He thanked the Government through the Vice President for its commitment to Local Governance and Decentralization.
The Chairman Oversight Committee on Local Government, Hon. Aron Aruna Koroma, said the retreat was his first experience of seeing the Chairman of the Inter- Ministerial Councils of Sierra Leone ( Vice President), Ministers, Heads and Staff of Local Councils sit together to discuss issues relating to Local Governance and Decentralization, adding that the move served as a show of commitment of deepening decentralization and capacity building.
“I want to thank the Government through the MLGRD for the increments in the salaries for Mayors and Chairpersons together with other strides taken to empower local governance,” he said. He appealed for the closing of gaps in salaries of the Deputy Mayors or Chairpersons, Chief Administrators and Financial Officers in order to bring efficiency and satisfaction in their jobs.
Staring the Minister and Deputy of MLGRD together with the participants
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Jacob Jusu Saffa, disclosed that he has ordered the procurement of vehicles and motor bikes for Councils to be able to access far-to-reach areas within their communities. He also stated that Government is ready to show more commitment to decentralization by giving financial autonomy to the Councils, which would help to boost their home source revenue mobilizations.
He disclosed that the Government has plans to be allocating certain amount to Councils, which will be used for developmental projects in their Chiefdoms.
In his closing speech, Minister Lamina thanked all the facilitators, participants and development partners for making what he referred to as “historic retreat” a success.
He urged all participants to implement what they have learnt at the retreat and to also be trainers’ trainer in their respective councils.
The four-day Retreat was well chaired by the Deputy Minister of MLGRD, Melrose Karminty, and all presentations by other Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs) and Councils during the four-day retreat were geared towards capacity building and deepening decentralization.
Frederick V. Kanneh