Director of the Decentralization Secretariat, Emmanuel Gaima, in an interview with Awoko yesterday disclosed that the process of decentralization and devolution of functions to councils was getting the political support from the central government, and particularly paid tribute to the minister of Local Government and Internal Affairs Dauda S Kamara for his support to the process.
Speaking to Awoko at his Wellington Street office, Mr Gaima explained that the political will from the central government was being demonstrated by the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee, headed by the Vice President, which normally discusses issues affecting the decentralization process.
One particular aspect, he said, was the intervention of the committee in ensuring that most government ministries devolving their functions to the local councils. “The Local Government minister is very supportive of the process since he has been a strong advocate for the reintroduction of the process whilst he was a parliamentarian,” the director said.
Explaining some successes scored by the decentralization process, he revealed that when they started they worked upon getting a designed operational framework which was meant to look at policy and legal area and another on capacity building. “We also had an orientation induction for councilors primarily to help them get basic principles on governance as councilors came from different backgrounds. Another induction was done for administrators and professionals to give them an insight into council operations”, he said.
He further explained that, “councils are now preparing their development plans, which is one big success for the process as compared to countries like Ghana and Nigeria”.
At the policy level, Mr Gaima said there was now the devolution of functions from ministries and government parastatals to the local councils and that since the process had to be done in stages. “There is the capacity building strategy for greater efficiency of councilors. We have provided councils with equipment and physical infrastructure that is still on-going,” he noted.
Asked to comment on the status of ward committee members at the ward level, the director said they had benefited from a number of trainings conducted by the secretariat on how to undertake monitoring, and on how to keep accounts. “We are reviewing the local government act and we shall come up with regulations to ensure ward committees are strictly involved in the development of their wards”, Emmanuel Gaima said.
Despite all of these successes, the director revealed that there were faced with problems among them: the area of building the capacities of councilors as there was no provision in the act on the educational qualification of councilors and that the process of decentralization was also faced with human resource problems.
“There is the problem of getting all the technical staff for councils,” he said and adding that financial transfers from government were not regular.
Following allegations that he got the job based on his political connection, Mr Gaima said he got the job based on qualification and that he normally gave operational reports to government and the technical reports to the World Bank.
By John Baimba Sesay