The Decentralization Secretariat and ENCISS have held a three-day (Mek di pipul know) public dialogue session with the theme: “devolution in your local councils,” at the Kenema District Council hall for the five local councils in the eastern region.
The chairperson of the occasion, Mrs. Elizabeth Sandi who doubles as the deputy registrar at the Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema, said the decentralization programme in Sierra Leone would never be completed without the devolution of functions from ministries, departments and agencies to local councils.
She stated that, “the aim of decentralization process is the transfer of functions, personnel, assets and funds from government ministries, departments and agencies to local councils.
The third schedule of the Local Government Act of 2004 deals with functions each ministry is to devolve to local councils within a specific period of time.
However, the statutory instrument that followed the Act specified the time frame for the devolution of functions from government ministries, department and agencies to local councils.
In 2005 the three biggest ministries of health and sanitation, education science and technology and the ministry of agriculture and food security were slated for the devolution of functions to local councils.
Giving an update of the decentralization process Floyd Alex Davies, legal expert on local government and decentralization issues, said the essence of the workshop was to ensure that the local people were aware of the progress of the decentralization programme, especially the devolution process.
The first regional “Mek Di Pipul Know” sessions were held in 2005. The sessions were successful and their outcomes were far reaching as people had the opportunity to phone in and asked questions on key issues bordering on local governance.
Since devolution is not an event but a process, a second round of “Mek Di Pipul Know” sessions has been planned for the four regional headquarters of Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Freetown, which is now in progress.
He said, “purpose is to look at the devolution process and how far it has gone and how far it has profited us, and what are the problems with it, and what will be the way forward”.
Mr Davies said there were about 18 ministries, departments and agencies that were to transfer functions to local councils.
He said 23 functions had devolved which included the functions of agriculture and health.
“The local council is not responsible to the central government for the performance of these functions but is responsible to the people who elected them into the office, that what makes our own decentralization process unique when compared to other decentralization systems around the world,” he concluded.
The deputy Mayor of the Kenema City Council, Margaret Siaka, observed that the number of female participants in the workshop was very low.
She noted that there was still discrimination against women in terms of representation, and called on every one to be visiting the councils whenever they were in doubt of certain issues.
Meaningful contributions also came from the chairmen of Kailahun and Kono councils.
The principal of St. Joseph Secondary School in Blama, Michael Samba, also chaired one of the sessions.