By Ishmael Dumbuya
The Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs (MLGCA) has on December 6,held a National Forum for Local Councils’ Development Operational Guidelines at the New Brookfield Hotel,Kingharman Road in Freetown.
In her keynote statement, the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Community Affairs, Melrose Karminty stated that the ministry has been making efforts to improve the performance of Local Councils, based on the belief that decentralized central government system is a principle of effective local service delivery.
She went on to state that since 2009, her ministry has partnered with the people of Japan through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and since then MLGCA has played a key role for developing capacity of staff of Local Councils.
The deputy minister added that in 2017 the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development now Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, set Local Councils Development Operational Guidelines as a hands-on reference book for Local Council staff in order to implement development projects in line with Local Government Act.
“As one of the key targets, the Mid-term National Development Plan 2019-2023 clearly mentions to operationalize Local Councils Development Operational Guidelines among all Local Councils by 2023 to improve decentralization,” Mrs. Karminty narrated.
She further stated that with the support of Enhancement Local Service Delivery (ELSD) project, MLGCA was now extending to the target.
The deputy minister climaxed by noting that they had drafted broad guidelines to direct national development planning, including formulation of plans, at sector, regional, district and community\village level consistent with the Wan Fambul Framework.
“This forum engagement is crucially important to discuss lessons learnt from the implementation of these Development Operational Guidelines in the 11 Local Councils in the South and Eastern Regions to inform the revision of the Guidelines,” she said.
A representative from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, JICA, Endo Kama, who is the Project Formulation Advisor, stated that the accomplishment of model projects as planned was the result of passion and hard work of the project members including MLGCA, Local Councils and project staff.
She concluded by indicating that JICA was looking forward to hearing the lessons learnt and expressed hope that they would consider the revision and make the guidelines better through yesterday’s presentation for sustainable development.
“In the future, I expect Sierra Leoneans could make it better by themselves and use the guidelines with the best condition without any Japanese expert or JICA,” Ms. Kama emphasized.
The Chairman of the Bo District Council, who also doubles as the president Local Council Association of Sierra Leone, Joseph Munda Bindi stated that the engagement was timely and very important and also commended JICA for their unending supports in their communities.
He noted that yesterday’s meeting was geared towards sharing experience as well as the success stories of the various Local Councils in the country.
He went on to state that the methodology instituted by JICA and the Ministry of Local Government should be adopted as they are very much significant to the successes of the various Local Councils, especially the most recent councils, i.e. the South and East.
He concluded that the Guidelines would help sharp the activities of Local Council staff as well as assess the performance of the Local Councils.
Dr. Sheka Bangura, Director Planning, Policy and research in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development said that the Guidelines should be used to drive development agendas in the various local councils and their communities.
He applauded the MLGCA for coordinating the support of JICA, noting that JICA is the ministry’s most trusted donor partner and they have done a lot to ensuring that MLGCA transforms from one level to another.
He went on to state the development of the Guidelines is a step in the rigt direction as it will help curb and assess the functions of the various Local Councils across the country.
The meeting climaxed with presentations, discussions, lesson learnt, question and answer session as well as presentation of certificates to GAT members.
In attendance were representatives from key development partners such as JICA, EU, World Bank, UNDP, USAID, UNICEF, UNWomen, Fambul Tok as well as members of the Fourth Estate.