Parliament discusses Local Government Bill 2022

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By Jariatu S. Bangura

Members of Parliament yesterday discussed in a pre-legislative hearing the amendment of the Local Government Bill 2022, which seeks to repeal the 2004 Local Government Act.

The bill is expected to be introduced in the next plenary sittings for first and second reading and then pass into law.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Legislative Committee, Hon. Abdul Marray Conteh, stated that Local Government is very important in the overall governance  of the country and that whenever there is an opportunity for discussion of any reforms and reviews of the country’s Local Government Act, it is but important that all come together to do the needful.

He said his colleague MPs will have the opportunity to listen to presentation and ask questions that will help them to make good laws that will stand the test of time.

Also, Chairman of the Local Government Committee, Hon. Aaron A. Koroma, said in 2004, the then government saw the need to increase participation of citizens in the running of the state as that was why the Local Government Act of 2004 came into effect.

 He said since then, the Act has increased the participation of local citizens and has also promoted service delivery at the doorsteps of the people.

He said since then, 18 years down the line, the Act has been in operation and within those years, there have been a lot of challenges and successes as well, but noted that no law can be perfect in any way.

He said the Local Government Act has stood the test of time for the past 18 years but needed to be reviewed so as to reflect the modern trends.

He commended the Minister of Local Government for being so progressive to see that local governance moves in the modern trends and also commended stakeholders that participated in the achievement of having the draft bill before Parliament for enactment.

Leader of the Coalition for Change (C4C), Hon. Sahr Emerson Lamina said they were looking at a law that has been in operation for the past 18 years, which, according to him, was obsolete and that there have been several lacunas and grey areas that needed to be amended.

He said they were hoping to see a law that will be tripartite in nature wherein central government will have a hand, the local government will have a hand and the chiefdom governance will also have a hand once the bill is reviewed and repealed by Parliament.

He stated that after all the historical lessons that have been learnt for the past 18 years, they hoped that they will make a law that will reflect and push forward the socio-economic status of the people.

He described the proposed bill as a fine one that addresses the grey areas that have been affecting local councils and their various staff.

Leader of the All People’s Congress Party, Hon. Chernoh R. M. Bah said there was never a perfect law hence  they were changed and reviewed whenever there were circumstances, but assured that even after the passage of the proposed bill, there will be gaps that need to be addressed in near future.

Leader of Government Business, Hon. Matthew Nyuma applauded officials of the ministry of local government for using the parent law to conduct past elections peacefully.

He urged colleagues to make inputs and make laws that will be stronger and in the end they will not be questioned for making laws that would not stand the test of time. 

He said there was need for inclusion in making good laws for the state and commended the effort made so far to include various stakeholders across the country.

According to the Minister of Local government, Amb. Tamba Lamina, 18 years ago, a bill entitled the Local Government Bill 2004 that was aimed at reintroducing Local government and decentralization was passed in parliament. 

He said the idea was borne out of the inquiry launched into the eleven- year rebel war in the country. He said the Act was meant to show commitment to peace, started the process of decentralization and to initiate the idea of citizen’s engagement in the developments of their communities.

He stated that the provisions in the bill will show the values of citizens’ participation in decision making and management of activities, which contribute to the improvement of citizens’ own life and it will ensure that appropriate space for citizens to participate in decisions, related to their lives in local level and in the management of basic services.

He said it is a very important component of democracy as it will point out that community participation makes local government more transparent to the citizens, so that they count more on government to create real opportunities for a more sustainable involvement for the improvement of their living conditions. 

“This Bill will effectively improve the quality and quantity of the services, offered by the government. It will usher in a new mentality, where government and citizens cooperate to help the improvement of local conditions. It is a system where communities do not wait passively for governmental initiatives,” he said. 

 Minister Lamina reiterated that community driven development is an important engine in the context of the decentralization process, which primarily aims at the involvement of communities in governance. 

He said through the decentralization reform, they were working for the strengthening of the local government bodies to ensure that public services are as closer as possible to the citizens.

He further states that the bill will address the much needed deepening of decentralization below the Ward level, down to the village levels.

“It is an intended part of this Bill to make the communities integral parts of this process,” he said.

Head of delegation, European Union, Ambassador Manuel Muller, commended the effort made so far for the amendment of the Local Government Act which the EU is supporting as they do believe that service delivery to the citizen is at the heart of any resilient democracy, especially at the local level when residents feel far and alone from the government centre.

He said the deliberation on the local government bill will help the achievement of local community reform goals. He said it was anticipated that the new law would equip and empower local councils and community leaders to carry out their responsibilities in a more effective and coordinated manner.

He commended the efforts made by Parliament to make an open space discussion to citizens and other members of the public, which, according to him was a demonstration of practical inter-governmental agency engagement, highlighting a true commitment to collaboration and cooperation by the arms of government.

He said the pre-legislative hearing involvement of civil society organizations was particularly an enriching practice that must be commended and celebrated and also it is enabling for Parliamentary democracy that citizens can have information on bills that are before Parliament through such an open engagement.