By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
Sierra Leone News Agency [SLENA]
It is a plausible thinking for the Central Government to relinquish issues of development from Members of Parliament to Ward Councillors in a bid to level down Governance at Grassroots. The idea is conceived laudable especially after it was authenticated by the Local Government Act. Quite a good number of Sectors including Education, Health and Agriculture have long been devolved to the Local Councils as a show of commitment by the Central Government. This shift of mandate is largely viewed as an obvious relief on Members of Parliament who used to shoulder every aspect of development in their respective Constituencies.
However, this novelty has turned out to be a thorny and critical responsibility for the Local Councils and their Councillors. Both Councils and Councillors were quick to realise that the wants of People in the various Localities are enormous while the means to have them addressed are embarrassingly limited. The embarrassment is exacerbated by the meagre funds allocated as well as the unbearable delay in the disbursement of those funds. Such Allocations are supposed to be done on Quarterly Bases. But as often substantiated by Heads of the Devolved Sectors, only one or two out of the Quarterly Grants are sent by the Central Government on yearly bases. Thus it makes it pretty difficult for both the Devolved Sectors and Local Councils to deliver the expected Services due to the gaping gaps between the widening wants of People for services to be delivered and the Limited Resources available.
It is in a bid to bridge those gaps that the European Union Funded Program titled – ‘Local Authorities Program in Sierra Leone’ opted to provide a Training for Local Authorities including the Political and Administrative Wings of the Port Loko City and District Councils. It focused on Leadership, Policy Development and Formulation, Corporate Governance, Conflict Resolution and Management. Franklyn Alex Belmond is the National Project Manager for the European Union Funded Program in Sierra Leone. He said the Training was organised with the ultimate aim to capacitate the aforementioned categories of Stakeholders with the requisite knowledge that would enable them identify Communality Concerns or Problems for effective implementation. He said it was a 3-year Project mapped out for 5 Local Councils and was now on its final year. He explained how special consideration was given to the newly elected Councillors and those who did not benefit from the previous set of Trainings. ‘We know for a fact that the Councillors are in direct link with the People and are relied on for support than the Members of Parliament. That was the more reason they needed to be armed with the requisite Knowledge to enable them put things together for proper service delivery. At the end of it all, Councillors should be able to develop a simple Policy Plan that can lure the unreserved support of Council’ – Franklyn Alex Belmond reiterated in his overview of the Project.
The Version of the National European Union Project Manager was strengthened by the Acting Project Officer – Mohamed Kamara. He said the Project was slated for a Consortium of a total of 5 Local Councils adding that it is depressing to even state that the Public is unaware of the fact that Grants to Local Councils are not only too small to address the numerous concerns of the Locals, but that the Funds are being haphazardly factored to Councils. He wondered how Councils can be expected to deliver well when Grants are sent too late. He cited the inputs for Agriculture and other time – bound projects either in Health or Education. Mohamed Kamara explained why the Training covered strategic Topics that ranged from Policy Development and Formulation to Conflict Resolution and Management through Leadership and Corporate Governance.
The Acting Project Officer said, the training basically aimed at building the Capacity of Council Staff for effective service delivery and to as well empower Councillors on how to manage their Wards and Councils. ‘Therefore we have trained Councils on Grant, Procurement and Financial Management. Besides our support to the formulation of a District Development Plan, this Project has also helped in the aspect of Assessing Properties through the Cadastral System. We have even provided Vehicles and Motorbikes to all those Councils’ – Mohamed Kamara catalogued.
The Acting Project Officer went further to explain how Local Communities were also immensely supported in the construction of Culverts, Bridges and Sanitation facilities so as to improve the standards of living in Communities. Support has also been provided to Small Medium Enterprises –SME’s. The Acting Project Officer said his Management has even provided logistical assistance such as Office Equipment. He therefore expressed the hope that the knowledge gained will not only be used by Participants on how to run their homes, but would also be cascaded to those who had not been unfortunate enough to attend the Training.
The Facilitators for the Training were senior Lecturers and Heads of Departments from the University of Makeni. Abu Bakarr Tony Kamara was the lead Facilitator. He said Participants were encouraged to understand and manage Public Policy and Laws, the Local Government Act of 2022, the Local Council Standing Orders, the Bye Laws, the Participation of Citizens in Local Policy Development and Conflict Resolution in the Workplace. The Regent Chief of Maforki Chiefdom – Santigie Foday Kanu, the Deputy Mayor at the Port Loko City Council – Madam Aminata N’Jah and Councillor Hassan Yansaneh in their separate contributions, expressed delight for being selected to participate in such an educative program. They opined that the training could not have come at a better time than now, when Councils have just commenced Sittings. The Management of the Local Authority Program in Sierra Leone and by extension the European Union were commended for their foresightedness.