Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 September 2020:
Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh (Photo above), who is currently acting as President of Sierra Leone in the absence of President Julius Maada Bio whose whereabouts still remain a mystery – after three weeks absence from the country, yesterday Monday, told ministers and local councils to work harder to achieve the performance benchmarks set by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on devolution.
Speaking at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Inter Ministerial Committee (MMC) meeting, held at the Bintumani Conference in Aberdeen, Freetown, Dr Jalloh said that the purpose of the meeting was to review the ongoing decentralization process and adopt the road map elaborated by the ministry of local government and rural development.
The process, he said, started in 2004 with the establishment of democratically elected councils; followed by the need to build both human and financial capacity of the councils which, despite immense efforts has been marred by problems.
In the last two and half years, he said, government has provided funding for the decentralization process and taken bold steps towards devolution.
He called on stakeholders attending the meeting – Ministers, deputy Ministers, professional heads and local council representatives, to continue to work hard to ensure the viability of local councils.
Key decisions were taken at the meeting to move the decentralization process forward.
There are reports the government is making plans to appoint a Resident Minister for Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, which has for several decades been the responsibility of the elected Mayor.
According to report in the Global Times (a leading SLPP newspaper), this plan “is part of the recommendations in the draft National Decentralization Policy elaborated by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.”
Global Times report says that: “The issue of the creation of a new Resident Ministry for the Western Area and additional new districts in the country was raised and discussed yesterday at the Inter-Ministerial Committee Meeting on Decentralization held at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown.
“The idea to create a Resident Ministry in the Western Region and new additional administrative units such as districts, chiefdoms and wards received overwhelming endorsement from the members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee.
“The Hon. Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh who is the Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee re-echoed the importance of creating new administrative units as part of the overall strategy of Governments around the world to accelerate development and the construction of necessary infrastructure in the rural areas.
“VP Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh further underlined the New Direction Government’s commitment to support the decentralization process to ensure the financial viability of councils and build the requisite capacity to undertake devolved functions. Supporting decentralization is one of the key manifesto commitments made by His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio during the 2018 election campaign.”
But critics of the government say that the appointment of a Resident Minister for Freetown is nothing but another job creation scheme for SLPP party patrons waiting for their own share of the loot.
They accuse the government of wasting public funds to line the pockets of party lackies, thus rendering the city council Mayor redundant, while going cap in hand to international donors for handouts.
Unlike other districts or cities across the country, Freetown has got on well without a minister in charge of the capital. So why try to fix what is not broken?
Why add another layer of bureaucracy on top of an already complex political structure that is managing the affairs of the capital Freetown, that can only lead to confusion and chaos?
It is a known fact that the elected Mayor of Freetown – Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr is at loggerheads with the Minister for Local Government, over the Mayor’s plans to introduce a new council rates system that could see higher valued properties paying increased rates in the capital.
Is the appointment of a Resident Minister for Freetown aimed at usurping and effectively sacking the elected Mayor?
The government’s wage bill which accounts for over 40% of its total expenditure is cause for serious concern. Increasing the number of appointed ministers only supports the accusation levied at the government of self-serving, incompetent, and profligate.