Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 July 2020:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio yesterday launched a 10 Million Euro programme in Makeni – northern Sierra Leone, aimed at supporting development projects across the district councils of Bombali, Kenema, Pujehun and Kambia.
Supported by European Union Funding, and in partnership with the government of Sierra Leone, each of the councils will receive 2.5 million Euros.
In particular, the ‘Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities for Local Development’ funding will be spent on boosting agriculture; develop infrastructure; improve access to electricity, healthcare, education; and promote gender and social protection.
The funding will expand the resource base and institutional capacities of District Councils and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Pujehun, Kenema, Bombali and Kambia, to help deliver and account for services, bolster linkages and relationships with rural civil societies, and improve the environment for effective decentralisation and local governance.
Responding to this development, the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas said: “This is one step forward towards real devolution of powers which must be realised if Sierra Leone is to develop.”
Launching the project, which is part of a 23 million Euro funding contract signed with the EU in 2018, president Bio said: “The Minister has highlighted my Government’s core achievements over the last two years. From over ten years of dwindling funding, my Government has provided more funds and increased salaries and compensation for local government officials. At the same time, we are working on restructuring and expanding the resource base and institutional capacities of local councils so that they can deliver and account for services in a sustainable way.
“I am particularly pleased about the participation of civil society organisations in formulating, planning, and assessing local development initiatives. Beyond the fact that this fosters a unique and strategic partnership, it also enhances proper accountability for development funds.
“So my expectation is that CSOs should insist on being involved in identifying development priorities and be fully involved in the budget formulation, approval, execution, and monitoring process,” he said, adding that the five-year EU and government programme aligned both with his manifesto commitments and the national development priorities.
“Let me also publicly thank the European Union for its collaborative work with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists on the TRUEtok bot Corona series. It is regularly broadcast over several media and engages young persons and the public on topics around Corona.
“For all the good work you continue to do, thank you, Ambassador Vens. You are helping save lives. Our high recovery rates and the comparatively low death rates from COVID-19 is cause for optimism. It is also testament to the great spirit of collaboration that is engendered in our relationship with the European Union,” he said.
Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said that the New Direction Government has manifested more commitment in decentralisation than any other government had done, noting that the Bio-led government has significantly increased expenditure on local councils.
Saffa also said that the government has started paying salaries to local council leaders, increased sitting fees to all local councils in the country, and finalising arrangements for the payment of salaries for paramount chiefs and their key staff.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Tamba Lamina, spoke about the increased level of support the government has given to local councils, saying that it’s a manifestation of President Bio’s commitment to the decentralisation process in the country.
Lamina also stated that the government has commenced the process of developing a strategic plan that would engage local stakeholders and development partners, as he commended the EU for their support to the process.
Head of European Union Delegation in Sierra Leone – Ambassador Tom Vens (Photo above), said that the aim of the ‘Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities for Local Development’ is to support effective decentralisation and efficient service delivery to the citizens, especially in remote areas.
Vens said that the project will contribute to economic growth and social cohesion for the benefit of Sierra Leone. He also acknowledged the President’s strategy and long-term vision in placing decentralisation at the core of the government’s New Direction.
Whiles the project and funding will no doubt move the decentralisation and devolution of powers agenda forward, there is serious need now for a concerted effort to revive the 1991 Constitution Review process which must make provision for devolution of power to local communities across the districts.
Sierra Leone’s economic and social development will continue to stall, as long as resources and powers are controlled by central government.