By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
A consortium of five civil society organisations led by the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), has received a support of three million five hundred grant from USAID, to respond to the needs of six districts working directly with the local councils.
The grant agreement was signed on Thursday, 26th October 2023, followed by the launch the “Building Accountability System through Empowered Communities Project” shortly called “BASE Project” at the New Brookfields Hotel in Freetown.
In his opening remarks, while chairing the ceremony, Executive Director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tomy said Sierra Leone reconstituted a local government in 2004, after a hiatus of 32 years.
Local government, he said, enhances citizens participation in governance, promotes transparency and accountability, generally for the locals to benefits from it.
The BASE Project is a $3million project funded by the USAID to be implemented within three years, in order to enhance development in Karene, Kono, Western Area Rural, Moyamba, Falaba and Tonkolili Districts.
Ibrahim Tommy said they will be working together with the local councils to strengthen existing mechanisms, increase citizen’s participation and help increase revenue generation at the local council level.
While giving the expected outcome and result in 36 months of the project, the Executive Director of IGR, Andrew Lavalie, said “To increase community stability as reflected in the increase of citizens who feel safe in communities”.
The BASE Project also hopes to increase local councils revenue, increase citizens trust in local authorities and reduce in maternal mortality by district and also increase in farm yield.
The Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE),Conrad Sankey said Sierra Leone is committed to decentralization, based on its education Acts being put in place.
He added that local councils have major roles to play in delivering services to the communities, but faced with challenges such as lack of capacity and awareness from community members, which he said the Base Project was set to address.
The Chairman for Local Councils, Augustine Sheku underscored that the project will improve the fiscal space for the councils to operate.
According to the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Bryan Hunt,citizens participation in democratic governance is key component of governance.
“Citizens participation in the country’s governance is not just a privilege, it is the right and responsibility of Sierra Leoneans to live up to these responsibilities,” he stated.
He said enhancing the potentials of youth and women in ensuring their full participation in decision making and transparency, improves accountability and public resources management and brings about good policy outcome, development and social well-being of citizens.
“The United States will continue to work in partnership with Sierra Leone to foster democracy and good governance in citizenship participation.”
Local Council is playing very important role in supporting the central government to ensure we have devolution,” he said.
Launching the Project, the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said over the years, there had been challenges to support local councils to perform their functions
Those challenges he outlined were created as a resulted of factors beyond their reach.
As the central government, he said, they will support local councils to be proactive to continue to deliver services.
The attitude of central government to reclaim certain devolution functions that had been in existence is one of the challenges; he said they will be looking at.
As the Vice President, said his office will support the Base Project, not only to capacitate the councils but also to help community people to participate in the process.
The other consortium members of the project are the 50/50 Group, Independent Radio Network and Budget Advocacy Network.