In Grand Bassa County, citizens cite clauses in the law that frustrate decentralization
Scores of Bassaians, especially those from the Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA), the Women in Peace Building Network (WIPNET) and the Bassa Community College, have described the Local Government Law (LGA) of 2018 as having some ‘bad practices’ and therefore want them deleted or removed.
The LGA aims to decentralize administration, democratically controlled by local communities. Local governance refers to the processes through which public choice is determined, policies formulated and decisions made and executed at the local level.
Among other ‘bad practices,’ the Bassaians frowned on the LGA for reaffirming the power of the President to appoint county administrators, including the superintendent, county administrative officer, county finance officer, county development officer, mayors and commissioners.
Madam Martha F. Karnga, BAWODA President, and other participants, said the county administration should either be elected or appointed in consultation with the city council which, according to the law, should comprise at least seven persons, including two chiefs, a woman, two youths, two persons living with disabilities and two persons from civil society organizations (CSOs.)
The Bassaians advanced the proposals on Friday, July 5, 2019, in the BAWODA Hall on Fairground, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, during a Policy Dialogue over “good or bad” practices in local government, promote “good practice” in national government, and encourage increasing participation in decision-making and inclusive service delivery, organized and implemented by the Center for Democratic Governance (CDG) with funding from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA.)
Madam Evon Daliett of New Buchanan and Jallah T. Sekpeh from Tubman Street community, also frowned on the dual mechanism over the election and appointment of chiefs, as well as the establishment of nine administrative departments based on the capabilities of the counties; but their functions are not defined by law.
Madam Rebecca Zonoe of WIPNET and Nancy Bryant of Rise and Shine Organization, also argued that though the law lays out a clear framework to promote gender mainstreaming, participation and representation of women and marginalized groups in structures and decision-making of local governance, it does not provide quantifiable indicators by which representation of women and marginalized groups can be measured. This is to ensure that women and those who are physically challenged are not under-represented.
Further, the participants also scowled at the inconsistency in the reporting mechanism of mayors, arguing that unlike the Mayor of Monrovia (Jefferson T. Koijee), who reports to the President and the City Council, mayors of other cities report to their respective superintendents and councils.
“The councils have no oversight responsibility of mayors, because they play no role in the appointment of mayors. So why should mayors report to them?” said Harris Zondo from Central Buchanan.
The executive director of the Center for Democratic Governance Oscar Bloh, who facilitated the Dialogue, said: “The law, particularly what it intends to achieve, does not explicitly mention inclusive and effective service delivery, one of the cardinal principles, rationale and objective of investing in decentralization.”
Bloh recommended that regulations should be developed for the implementation of the Act and should include measurable objectives around effective, efficient and inclusive public service delivery.
He said that the Policy Dialogue on the implementation of the LGA will be done in two additional districts, besides District #3, Grand Bassa County, including three electoral districts in Bong County.
A Technical Focal Person to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, D. Emmanuel Whenyue, who served as one of the facilitators, said the LGA has good practice and has recognized three structures — cities, townships, and boroughs — and that existing cities, townships, and boroughs will continue to enjoy their legal status until after seven years when the minister responsible for local government can report to the legislature on their new status.
“According to the law, criteria for a city is 10,000 persons and that each should, among others, have guest houses (motels), restaurants, health centers; the criteria for township and boroughs are 5,000,” Mr. Whenyue said.
“The ministry is drawing up the implementation plan of the LGA, as well as taking the law to the people in 15 counties through awareness and sensitization, and the development of a revenue sharing formula is consistent with the law,” he said.
In the opening program, Olayee Collins, Internal Affairs Deputy Minister for Planning and Research, informed participants that the implementation of the LGA is on good footing, while Steve Tequah, a proxy for Buchanan City Mayor Moses Hynes and Development Superintendent D.S. Flee Glay, welcomed Bloh and team.
It can be recalled that An Act to Repeal the LGA, Title 20, Liberian Codes of Law Revised and to Establish in its stead, a New Title 20 to be known as the Local Government Act of 2018, was signed by President George Weah on September 20, 2018.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has over the years significantly invested resources into these programs, alongside other partners, with a political push by the former UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and funding from donors including the European Union (EU), Sweden, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as Assessed Funding Contributions.
President Weah said the Local Government and the Liberia Land Rights Acts are key components of his administration’s development agenda.