Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 January 2019:
Yesterday, Thursday 24 January 2019 was a big day for the more than 2 million people living in Sierra Leone’s capital city – Freetown, with the official launching of a Blueprint and Strategic Programme, aimed at transforming Freetown into a twenty-first century city.
Speaking at the launching of the Freetown City Council (FCC) initiative, president Bio confirmed that the ‘Transform Freetown’ Blueprint and Programme align very closely with his government’s New Direction priorities and vision.
He said that the insistence on purposeful planning, local participation and engagement with the private sector and other stakeholders, public accountability, improving the efficiency and quality of public service delivery, are aimed at providing opportunity and making Freetown a better, more liveable and more resilient city.
The three-year programme for transforming Freetown, deserves and will get the full support of his government, the president said.
“PAOPA, our Freetown will be clean. So, within the last 8 months in governance, my government has supported the Freetown City Council with direct financial disbursements of 18.3 Billion Leones. My government is committed to working for Freetown and in making our Freetown a better city for all of us,” he assured.
President Bio commented on the Council’s proposed plans for managing municipal assets, congestion in the city, disaster management during the rains, leveraging ICT to boost revenue mobilisation, promoting tourism and the many informal settlements that are dotted across the city. These he said, relate to the wider issue of social exclusion and social injustice.
“In the past, we saw how municipal assets were illegally appropriated by the politically powerful and their rogue agents. My question is, does the initiative aim to recover those assets? And is it not possible to plough back proceeds from value-added city assets into the development of the city, especially in new infrastructure for sewage disposal, water supply, and sanitation?” he asked.
The Mayor of Freetown Municipality, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, said that circumstances in Freetown have been challenging over the years, adding that there are a lot of pressure in Freetown on housing, the environment, as well as the growing need to provide basic social facilities for residents.
She congratulated the President for his commitment to decentralisation, and said that his presence at the launching of the Transform Freetown initiative is a testament to that.
“We want to ensure that by working with the central government, Freetown will be restored to its lost glory. The Freetown City Council has sought to align its agenda with that of the national development plan,” the Mayor said, adding that the Council would like to create jobs in Freetown that could deter the youth from embarking on difficult migration journeys to Europe.
Minister of Finance – Jacob Jusu Saffa, commended the Mayor for moving in the right direction and aligning the Council’s programme with the vision of the New Direction, adding that because local council resources are scarce, it is the responsibility of government to provide funding for councils.
Deputy Minister of Local Government – the Honourable Philip Tetema Tondeneh, said that the Freetown City Council has a shared vision for the betterment of Freetown, adding that the vision of the council could not be realised without support from the central government.
He said that key progress is being made by the council, in particular, the introduction of the automated local tax collection system.
Minister Tondeneh commended president Bio for reintroducing the monthly cleaning exercise, which he credited for reducing the high incidence of flooding in the city, adding that developing Freetown is imperative because the city accounts for 30 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Commenting yesterday after the launch, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said: “The journey to Transform Freetown has begun. My campaign commitment “for wi community; for wi progress; for wi Freetong” was a commitment to Transform Freetown. It was a commitment that translated into three workstreams as I assumed office in May 2018.
“Those work streams being: (I) quick wins and urgent activities (e.g. flood mitigation work, drainage rehabilitation, the rehabilitation of the Taylor-Cummings Gardens); (II) process improvements (e.g. mobile money local tax payments and the digitization of the FCC property rate system); and (III) developing the Transform Freetown agenda.
“After several months, with the participation of 399 stakeholders from FCC, the public sector, the private sector and communities and with over 800 man-hours of planning meetings, Transform Freetown was launched today.
“I would like to thank His Excellency the President – Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio for consenting to deliver the keynote address at the event. I would also like to thank all the sector working group members from within and outside of FCC for their support, and our development partners for their financial commitment to the process.
“Werner Erhard wrote ‘You and I possess within ourselves at every moment of our lives, under all circumstances, the power to transform the quality of our lives’. Freetown has faced difficult circumstances in recent decades, but with our combined commitment and dedication as Freetonians, I am convinced that we can, and we will Transform Freetown.”