The EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone, His Excellency, Tom Vens has told participants at the first Project Steering Committee meeting of the Project titled “Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities for Local Development in Sierra Leone”, held on Thursday 3rd December 2020, that dedicated grants of 1 Million Euro each for Falaba and Karene Districts will be signed early next year (2021) with the District Councils to strengthen effective service delivery and decentralised response to the COVID- 19 crisis. The Steering Committee Meeting, which took place in the Conference Room of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MOPED), was co-chaired by the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kaikai and the EU Ambassador, Tom Vens.
“The Rider signed today, comes as a unique opportunity for the Councils to prove their efficiency as local Government and development actors, to benefit the residents of their districts. It also extends the number of Councils and Civil Society grantees to include those in Falaba and Karene,” Ambassador Tom Vens said, adding that it’s the EU’s hope that this grant will go a long way in mitigating the socio-economic impact of the COVID19 crisis.
“It will support the delivery of public services entrusted to the councils, the implementation of critical priorities identified under the District Development Plan as well as the District Council’s effort to strengthen resources mobilization, good governance and accountability,” he continued.
The Project is funded through an initial 23 million euro grant that has now been increased to 25 Million Euros from the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone. The five-year project aims to support the Government of Sierra Leone’s effort to deepen decentralization and promote local governance and economic development in Sierra Leone.
In his address, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kaikai said the significance of the project cannot be overemphasized, adding that it has heightened expectations at the local level.
“As we sit here, the expectations are extremely high and we are very excited that the EU has now become a key partner in our national development efforts. These efforts would not go in vain and I would like to assure the Ambassador and his delegation that nothing will be lost and much will be gained,” Dr. Kaikai emphasized.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Tamba Lamina, commended the leadership of the EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone, saying that his Ministry understands the objective and purpose for the grants from the EU and that they are very grateful for the addition of the two new districts of Falaba and Karene to what he referred to as ‘the most unique project that his Ministry is tasked to oversee’.
He also commended the leadership of the Project Management Unit (PMU), saying that it has been an inspiration for them to work with the experts in the PMU and grateful for the invaluable support they have received from them.
The Project Steering Committee, which was established by the Financing Agreement signed in 2018 between the Government of Sierra Leone and the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone has a membership that includes the Director of Fiscal Decentralization Division (for the Minister of Finance), the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, the Governance Lead of the EU Delegation, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, the Director of National Authorizing Office, and the Director of Decentralization Secretariat.
It also incorporates the Team Lead of the Project Management Unit, the Governance Programme Manager EUD, the Governance and Social Development Team Lead, DFID, the Chairpersons and Chief Administrators of the Karene, Pujehun, Bombali, Kambia, Falaba, and Kenema District Councils and the Chairman of LoCASL. It is the highest decision-making structure, which is tasked with reviewing progress made, discuss opportunities identified and address the challenges encountered in the implementation of the project. This includes broader issues arising from the individual grant contracts of Civil Society Organizations and District Council administrations in the four districts of Bombali, Kambia, Kenema and Pujehun, currently funded under the programme.
In the meeting, the decisions of the Project Steering Committee centered around strengthening implementation, improving coordination and synergy with other government priority programmes and facilitating improved understanding, and promoting dialogue among the various stakeholders.
The PSC also addressed the following issues:
• Reaffirmed the Government of Sierra Leone and the European Union Delegation’s commitment to strengthening decentralization and local governance and promoting local development.
• Approved the Terms of Reference of the Project Steering Committee (with the recommendation to include a representative from among Civil Society Organization grantees).
• Provided strategic guidance to addressing the following issues:
• Clarity on the local revenue generation and the roles and need for cooperation between local councils and chiefdom councils;
• Tax exemptions for imports under the project in line with the Cotonou Agreement;
• The need for greater convergence in policy and in particular harmonization between central Government and Local Councils’ human resources management policy;
• Improving fiscal decentralization and accountability in the local councils
The PSC was adjourned with recommendations to the Project Management Unit to continue to energize debate on some of the substantive issues for the consideration in the next PSC meeting.
Further details: The EUD Project Management Unit established under this project provides support to the Councils in the implementation and management of the grants. It will continue to work with key stakeholders including Councils, MDAs, Parliament, Civil Society and the media to ensure transparent and accountable delivery of the activities outlined in each of the grants.
(C) The Calabash Newspaper