On Friday 12th June 2015, the visiting World Bank supervision Mission for the Decentralized Service Delivery Programme (DSDP), met with representatives of Local councils and the devolved sector of health at the Hill Valley hotel in Freetown.
The decision of calling up such a meeting was arrived at during the early stages of the ten-day visit of the World Bank Mission, and the consensus followed discussions between the team and member of the Institutions implementing DSDP, mainly the Decentralization Secretariat and the Local government Finance Department. All parties agreed that there was need to address challenges encountered in the implementation of DSDP, and that such challenges should be collectively determined in a meting of such nature.
Local councils were represented by their Mayors/Chairmen; Chief Administrators; Finance Officers and Resident Technical Facilitators, and representatives from the Health sector. On the side of DSDP Managers were staff members from the decentralization Secretariat; LGFD; IPAU; WB, MoFED and MLGRD.
|Having a tet-a-tet: (right) TTL Randa El-Rashidi (center) Adams kargbo Ag. Coordinator IPAU, (left) Director of Dec-Sec Alhassan Kanu
The World Bank Supervision Mission is making its first visit to Sierra Leone since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus disease a year ago. As intimated through several platforms earlier, the Mission is following up on implementation progress of DSDP and is also discussing the implementation arrangements for the Japan Social Development Fund Grant (JSDFG) Strengthening Capacity of Local Councils for the Delivery of Basic services in the Post-Ebola Context.
DSDP is a World Bank funded progrramme which was designed to support the decentralized delivery of basic services in Sierra Leone. The primary motive of government and donor partners for instituting the programme was the felt need to address the issue of inadequate financing of devolved services. It was designed to improve on the availability and predictability of funds transferred to Local Councils, and the focus of phase one which ran from 2010 to 2012 was on strengthening the institutional and organizational capacities of Local Councils to implement the developed services. Through Phase two of the programme which is currently being implemented technical assistance and funds are provided directly to Local Councils to strengthen their capacities for the effective delivery of devolved services.
The meting at Hill Valley was called up to establish a platform where recipients of devolved sector funds, that is the Local councils on the one hand, and the donor partners and the in-country DSDP team on the other, could engage in frank discussions on the challenges and the way forward for the programme.
Task Team Leader (TTL), Randa El-Rashidi, the Director of the Decentralisation Secretariat, Alhassan Kanu and other members of the DSDP team admonished the Local council representatives to use the opportunity to make their views known. Alhassan Kanu assured them that an action plan would be developed based on the suggestions and opinions expressed by participants, and that agreed actions would be subsequently implemented.
The TTL said that their suggestions could trigger further support, and spoke of the importance of community engagement at Ward level through community monitoring interventions and the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) concept.
The keynote speaker was the Deputy Minister of Local government and Rural Development, Hadiru Kalorkoh who also acknowledged that despite much has been done in the decentralization agenda, there are still challenges which must be addressed. He expressed the hope that after the deliberations, Local councils would be better placed and ready to meet the post-Ebola challenge.
As it was expected a lot of issues were raised which require urgent attention if the Decentralization programme was to continue making the kind of success for which it has been acclaimed by donors and nationals alike.
One major issue that came up for discussion was the frequent transfer of core staff from one council to another, which it was claimed, has a very negative effect on the work of local councils. It was suggested that this anomaly leads to lack of continuity in some aspects of councils’ work causing them to score low grades in assessment exercises.
Bonthe Municipal Council representatives suggest that it would be appropriate to pay remote area allowances to their core staff considering the distant location of the council.
There were complaints about inadequacy of Resident Technical Facilitators (RTFs) in advancing the work of Local Councils. RTFs are staff of Dec- Sec assigned to Local councils to provide technical backstopping. Their responsibilities include the following: to educate the local Councils and other institutions on the new decentralization policy and monitor its implementation at local level, and to support the preparation of sector development plans and budgets and their integration into the Local Development Plans and Budgets.
Addressing the meeting, the Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Abubakar Fofanah, said that local government system in Sierra Leone ‘has suffered various setbacks in the past to the extent of becoming vulnerable to the challenges associated with its service delivery mandate. He said that there should be smooth flow of resources for Local councils to improve their services to the people.
Decisions arrived at during the meeting will be made available after the finalization of the report.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.