Salone News

EU-Sierra Leone Steering Committee meeting in Freetown

4 December 2020 at 23:38 | 1161 views

By PV Staff

Local governance and development at the local have always been a huge challenge in Sierra Leone.

Since independence in 1961, the country’s had been largely governed from Freetown, the capital, where the central government is located. There have been efforts to empower operators at the local level like Paramount Chiefs and other traditional leaders but such efforts had been largely weak due to party politics and the politicisation of traditional governance structures.

However, there are indications that the current administration of President Julius Maada Bio is very serious about decentralisation and the empowerment of local administrative councils under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development thanks to friends of Sierra Leone like, for example, the EU Delegation to Sierra Leone headed by the well known Tom Vens.

On Thursday December 3, 2020, the Project Steering Committee of the project titled: "Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities for Local Development in Sierra Leone" held its first meeting. The Project is funded through an initial 23 million euro grant that has now been increased to 25 Million Euros from the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone.

According to an EU press release, the five-year project aims to "support the Government of Sierra Leone’s efforts to deepen decentralization and promote local governance and economic development in Sierra Leone."

There is a lot of under-development in the rural areas of Sierra Leone. Some areas lack all the basic necessities including potable water, electricity, good roads and houses to live. This has been largely due to massive corruption by past central governments who were copied and imitated by local government officials.

Aware of this problem, the current government is planning to institute a careful screening process of future local government officials including making sure all local government officials have at least a school-leaving certificate while all mayors should have at least a university degree. This will reduce mediocrity and semi-literacy which are widespread among local councils in the country but will not necessarily eliminate corruption. That needs special training and special deterrents.

Here is Tom Vens (photo) further throwing more light on the project:

Address by Tom Vens, EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone on the occasion of the 1st Steering Committee (PSC) and signing ceremony of the addendum to increase the EU contribution to the “Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities for local development in Sierra Leone.”

Venue: National Authorising Officer (NAO) Conference Room

Date: Thursday 3rd December 2020

Hon. Ministers,
Head of the Civil Service,
Chairman of Local Government Service Commission,
Chairman of Local Councils Association of Sierra Leone,
Members of the Project Management Unit,
Permanent Secretaries, Directors and other Gov. Officials present,
Esteemed colleagues,
Members of the media,

I am very pleased to join you today for the signatory ceremony of an additional 2 Million euro contribution by the European Union to the Government of Sierra Leone to support the decentralised response to emerging needs and threats engendered by the COVID-19 global crisis to the lives and livelihoods of Sierra Leoneans, notably the most vulnerable ones residing in remote areas.

This occasion also marks the 1st Steering Committee of the Programme “Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities for local development in Sierra Leone”.

This programme is funded by the European Union with the aim to support effective decentralization and efficient service delivery to the citizens of this Country, especially in remote areas.

Inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities create threats to social stability, cohesion and economic growth. To address these development challenges and contribute meaningfully to the effort of partner Countries, the European Commission committed in 2013 to promote globally what we call “a territorial approach to local development”. In its Communication “Empowering Local Authorities for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes” the EU recognised Local Authorities’ central role in development and committed to strengthening their human, technical and financial capacity worldwide. This because, as EU, we believe in the principle of subsidiarity and in results and people-centered development.

We believe that, in order to bring results to the people, one has to govern close to the people.

We believe that, if we want to bring real prosperity and well-being to the ordinary citizens, then one has to empower the governance structures that are closest to them.

This is why, within and outside its borders, the European Union promotes subsidiarity and decentralisation, supports the empowerment of Local Authorities and Civil Society, fosters partnership of local governmental and non-governmental actors to help realize the potential of local development.

Honourable Ministers, esteemed colleagues,
The Government of Sierra Leone has proven strategic and long-term vision in placing Decentralisation at the core of the “New Direction” reform agenda.
H.E. Excellency the President has indicated since its first address to the Nation his personal highest commitment to support effective decentralisation, indicating as key priorities support to further devolution of function, fiscal decentralisation and resolute action to address what he referred to as “the huge disconnect” between the Local Government Service/ Civil Service and other public servants.

The Medium Term National Development Plan 2019-2023 recognizes that “the cornerstone for ensuring inclusivity in the governance system at all levels is empowering local governments and implementing a decentralized approach to efficient service delivery”.

It is in this framework that the European Union has committed in 2018 23 Million Euro to support effective decentralisation in Sierra Leone through this programme.
It is our hope the Programme will enable to help addressing the most critical constraints and support effective and sustainable devolution of State functions to Local Authorities.

Honourable Tamba Lamina, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development

Hon. Minister Lamina,
Let me express my appreciation for your leadership and your Ministry’s important contribution towards devolution, being responsible for policy formulation, coordination and monitoring of programmes implemented by LCs. Let me congratulate you for the adoption last week of the reviewed Decentralisation Policy.
The policy and legal review process driven by your Ministry, under the competent technical leadership of the Decentralisation Secretariat, has proven able to embrace the widest constituency of stakeholders, and wisely allowed the time for the definition of a revised policy that can stand the test of time.

As European Union we are proud to have been able to partner with your services to ensure a sound and widely consultative process which included representatives of Local Authorities, MDAs, Parliament, Civil Society.

May the reviewed policy bring the needed clarity and direction, notably in respect to scope of devolution, roles and responsibilities in respect of fiscal policy and resources mobilisation and local governance.

Honourable members,
Decentralisation is complex and cannot be achieved overnight. Experiences from other countries indicate an inevitably long path of sequenced and much debated reforms.

Many constraints hinder Local Authorities’ capacity to effectively deliver on their mandate. These include a level of decentralisation that can be further completed and fine-tuned; ongoing capacity challenges in the administrations; and, insufficient, discontinued resources to deliver adequate services, and lack of transparency and accountability.

While this programme will seek to support technical capacity, transparency and accountability in line with the national ambitions and best international practices, I appeal to you to capitalise on the recent progressive developments to ensure a sound legal and regulatory framework and sufficient human and financial resources are in place to enable Local Authorities to effectively discharge their functions.
I am very pleased to note that Budgetary Speech by the Ministry of Finance has indicated increased allocation of statutory financial transfers to Local Councils for the Financial Year 2021.

As European Union, as we commit to support Sierra Leone also through Budgetary Aid, we firmly advocate for increased public financial management at all levels and strengthened budgetary deconcentration.

As we support Local Councils’ planning and reporting capacity, development of sound medium term budgetary and expenditure frameworks, integrated with central government expenditure frameworks, we hope the budgetary allocation to Local Authorities will progressively increase to enable effective delivering of devolved basic social services.

Cognisant that fiscal space cannot be funded solely by external aid and budgetary allocations by the central government, the programme will seek to contribute to enhanced resources mobilisation at local level. Decentralised fiscal policy is key to sustainable local development.

Honorable members
Strengthening peace and democracy has never been an easy task, and today’s Covid-19 global crisis context poses further challenges. The prospect of a global economic recession and social instability have driven the EU to widen and intensify its efforts.

During the past months we have frontloaded € 10 million in budgetary aid; promptly engaged all uncommitted funds and repurposed a high number of programmes to respond rapidly and flexibly to the urgent emerging needs triggered by the global crisis.

In the framework of this programme, much has been done thanks to the leadership and relentless efforts of our partner Districts Councils. In collaboration with the DICOVERCs and Civil Society Organisations they have effectively responded to the new threats and challenges brought to their communities by the COVID19 pandemic.
Honourable Chairmen of Bombali, Kambia, Kenema and Pujehun

Dr. Francis Kaikai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development

Let me recognise and express our appreciation for your leadership and for the hard work undertaken by your respective District teams.
Honorable Minister Kaikai, esteemed PSC members,

Today we stand by our promise to commit an additional 2 Million EUR to the programme to extend our support to two the recently established districts of Kerene and Falaba.

Chairmen of Karene and Falaba,
The rider we are signing today, comes as a unique opportunity for the councils you represent, to prove your efficiency as local government and development actors, to the benefit of the residents of your districts.

Dedicated grants of 1 Million Euro will be signed early next year with the District Councils you represent to strengthen effective service delivery and decentralised response to the COVID 19 crisis in your districts

You might want to consider it as a donation by the citizens of Europe to the citizens of your districts.

It is our hope is that this donation will go a long way in mitigating the socio-economic impact of the COVID19 crisis; supporting the delivery of public services entrusted to your Council, the implementation of critical priorities identified under the District Development Plan as well as the District Council’s efforts to strengthen resources mobilisation, good governance, and accountability.

This donation shall support your institutional capacity and resource mobilisation, to better serve the citizens of the communities you serve and contribute to the effort of the national Government in the fight against poverty and toward the full enjoyment of basic human rights.

It is our hope citizens of Bombali, Falaba, Kambia, Kenema, Kerene and Pujehun will receive improved and sustainable services notably in the sectors of agriculture, water and sanitation, energy and social services.

I trust your District Council will engage collaboratively with all parties, and NGOs in particular, to jointly foster a culture of people-centered and gender-sensitive development, transparency and accountability, notably in respect on local development planning and budgetary oversight.

I reaffirm the EU’s strong commitment to strengthening good governance in Sierra Leone. We all agree that this requires an efficient public sector, accountable and empowered local authorities and a vibrant civil society, who should actively promote national cohesion and help build credible and accountable institutions.

In closing, on behalf of the EU, I personally wish the project every success.

Editor’s Note: Here are some of the residents of a village in Falaba district, one of the places the government of Sierra Leone and the EU are trying to lift people out of poverty by empowering local government officials:

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