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EU supports decentralization & development in Salone

The European Union continues to support the government of Sierra Leone in strengthening decentralization and local development in the country.

On Friday July 10, 2020, President Julius Maada Bio and the EU Ambassador, Tom Vens officially launched a project titled: “Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities for Local Development in Sierra Leone” at the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) hall.

The programme, which is valued at 23.000.000 EUR (Le 258billion), is aimed at supporting effective decentralization and efficient service delivery to the citizens of Sierra Leone, especially those in remote areas.

Four (4) grants of a value of 2.500.000 EUR (27 billion SLL) each were signed with the District Councils of Bombali, Kambia, Kenema and Pujehun, who were selected to pilot pioneering approaches to local participatory development across the four administrative regions of the country.

The pilot actions foreseen under the grants seek to strengthen service delivery by local authorities notably in the agriculture, water and sanitation sectors, through infrastructural and rural development, financing of priority investments projects, strengthened resources mobilisation, social accountability and local government effectiveness.

Dedicated support is also provided to gender and youth sensitive solutions, improved access to sustainable energy sources and natural resources management and the actions will also complement the Government’s effort in containing the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigating its negative impact in the targeted areas.

The four grants supplement the EU programme component in support to local civil society initiatives, which started end 2019. Following a highly competitive procedure, seven projects valued overall at 7.000.000 EUR were awarded to civil society initiatives promoting local participatory development in the targeted districts.

In his statement, President Bio expressed his gratitude to the EU Ambassador for his support and for the continued partnership between the EU Delegation and the Government and people of Sierra Leone.

He committed to strengthening capacity and revenue mobilisation in the local councils and called on civil society to ensure accountability and more “evidence-based advocacy in the implementation of the project”.

The President was particularly heartened by what he referred to as ‘the insistence that most of the project activities will be managed by women’.

In his statement, EU Ambassador Tom Vens said: “Only if we are close to the people, can we deliver the services that matter. That is what decentralization is about: to do locally what is best done locally. This is not just about relevance and efficiency, but it also allows for greater accountability. Resources should always be to the benefit of the people.”

The Minister of Planning and Economic Development highlighted the critical need for development encapsulated in the National Development Plan and that “the signing ceremony of the grants represented a forward match to the country’s development goals”. He however acknowledged “the challenges of weak capacity, funding, overlapping roles between councils and chiefs, lack of transparency and accountability and weak engagement.” He assured the audience that his Ministry will ensure that these grants contribute to ameliorating these problems.

On his part, Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa, drew attention to the need for legal and policy clarity in decentralization and in particular the need for policy guidance in the area of tax reform in local governance.

He assured the audience of the urgency to come up with a policy direction on property tax in order to enable local councils to mobilize local revenue. He furthered that in demonstrating its commitment to decentralization, the government has been consistent in not only ensuring increase in transfers to local councils, but has started paying salaries and other benefits to chairpersons, mayors and chief administrations.

The Minister for Local Government and Rural Development lauded the EU and the President for their immense support to his Ministry and outlined key programmes and achievements towards effective devolution. He particularly indicated that the Ministry, in collaboration with the National COVID-19 Response Committee, had successfully established functional District COVID-19 Response Committees to fight the pandemic at the local level.

The Local Government Act 2004, the devolution of functions from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to local councils and the clarification of public institutions’ roles and empowerment of local actors in the implementation of the decentralisation process, reflect the intention of the Government of Sierra Leone towards fulfillment of the tenets of decentralization.

Since 2019, the EU project has also been supporting the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in the review of the decentralization policy and Local Government Act 2004. This support included the provision of assistance to the Local Council Association Sierra Leone and the Local Government Committee in Parliament in view of conducting extensive consultations and convening an expert group meeting in order to enhance the quality, depth and consistency of the decentralization and local governance reform proposals.

The EU funded programme represents a major contribution towards strengthening decentralized structures and ensuring that quality services are delivered to the people. As the President has noted, the combined effort of every citizen will be required to ensure that this project succeeds.

Technical Assistance is provided by the European Union to accompany the implementation of the programme, foster partnership development and build human and technical capacity of local authorities, notably in the area of resources mobilization, public finance management, participatory development and budgetary planning.

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