Decentralization in Sierra Leone is working, although challenges remain and much more needs to be done,” this was the general consensus of key stakeholders who attended a high-level governance roundtable discussion hosted by ENCISS at Barmoi Hotel.
As it was observed by Awoko, the roundtable event was believed to be the first such forum for officials representing government bodies, local councils, international institutions and civil society. Nearly 20 people attended, coming together to reflect on the gains, opportunities, challenges and next steps in the country’s governance landscape, particularly in the area of decentralization.
The event was hosted by the ENCISS programme, which is funded by UK aid from the UK Government, and by the European Union, and is managed by Christian Aid. It was the first in a series of events to mark the end of the third phase of ENCISS, which concludes in September.
During the roundtable discussion, participants shared their views on how to sustain collaboration between national and local government, civil society and citizens in Sierra Leone. They also explored ways to strengthen the capacity of local councils in the country.
Commenting on its significance, ENCISS Programme Director Alpha Sankoh said: “We believe this event was one-of-a-kind. It created a forum for learning and sharing around the decentralization process, and also helped to bridge the knowledge gap between the various actors present. We were pleased to note that among participants, there was an overall consensus that the decentralization process in Sierra Leone is working. Despite the challenges faced by local councils and government ministries, it is clear that there have been gains and successes.”
Participants included representatives from Christian Aid, DFID, the European Union, UNDP, the Strategy and Policy Unit in the Office of the President, and four Government ministries among which were: Local Government and Rural Development; Agriculture, Forestry Food Security; Finance and Economic Development; and Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs
Other individuals present were representatives of the Bonthe District Council, the Kailahun District Council, Freetown City Council, and the Institute for Governance Reform, ActionAid and the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Local Government and Rural Development.
At the roundtable event, Acting Director of the Local Government Finance Department in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED), Alpha Umaru Jalloh, said that Sierra Leone was making “huge gains” in the decentralization process.
This sentiment was supported by the Head of Governance at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Edward Kamara, who reported that a recent continent-study had revealed that Sierra Leone “almost the model country in Africa, even way above Ghana”.
During the process, ENCISS identified four key areas of concern where further action is needed to bring about change. These include: increasing the participation of women in governance, supporting local councils to generate their own revenues; building citizens’ participation in council development plans; and strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs), which ENCISS has said they will be addressed in the coming weeks.
By Poindexter Sama
Monday July 07, 2014