President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has promised her administration will ensure activities of the government are decentralized throughout the country before the end of her term in 2018.
She said this is doable and that is why the government has embarked on such a worthy initiative.
The President noted that upon assuming power in 2006, the government recognized the overconcentration of decision making in Monrovia and decided to embark on the process of decentralization, and will do all in its might to ensure that essential services are brought closer to the people by localizing the activities of the central government.
Speaking in Kakata, Margibi County yesterday during the official dedication of the Margibi County Service Center, she promised that many more County Service Centers would be dedicated.
“All that we heard during the processes of formulating the Vision 2030 national goal and the Agenda for Transformation are those that the government is pursuing. The citizens said during those consultative meetings that they want to be able to have a say in those decisions that affect our lives,” she said.
The President praised the Governance Commission and its leader, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, for serving as a driving force for the government’s decentralization activities.
“Decentralization largely took off under Dr. Sawyer,” she said, “and so we want to recognize the driving force that he and his colleagues have brought to this effort,” President Sirleaf said.
“We have 18 months to go and we will do it before that time. When you set a goal, your objective is to get close to that goal, and we want to reach it and we will get there.
“Dr. Sawyer said we may not reach there but we will be close, but we don’t accept close to a goal but we want to reach it. And I can tell you that we will get there,” President Sirleaf said.
She noted that the government has made many strides in regards to economic decentralization with the introduction of county and social development funds throughout the country.
She noted further that economic decentralization will be further boosted by a draft act that is currently at the National Legislature, which when passed, would give citizens the right to participate in the negotiation of concessions in their communities.
The government is already making gains in its administrative decentralization when the decision to use funds allocated for the counties are made by the locals, President Sirleaf said.
“The people at the community level come out with their priorities and take ownership of whatever they have agreed to do,” she said, adding that more government development programs would be achieved when the program is felt throughout the country.
“This will ensure that all of the services that need to be accessed by the people are brought to them for their betterment,” she said.
The President said the political decentralization component, which would be driven by the local Governance Act when passed, will give considerable level of power to local authorities.
The local Governance Act, which according to the President, is already at an advanced stage, would take the powers of local authorities beyond the point where they would be institutionalized. “So that when they exercise that power it is done in the framework of the law and principles,” she said.
“So we will be working with the Legislature to achieve that element of political decentralization,” President Sirleaf indicated.
She noted that the presence of the Margibi County Legislative Caucus, bilateral partners and traditional leaders as well as the citizenry at the program, are clear indications of their strong commitment to the programs of de-concentration.
The President recognized the USD156 million, support that the Government of Sweden continues to give Liberia in its decentralization drive.
Dr. Sawyer, in his remarks, said decentralization is bringing the government closer to the people and giving them responsibility to take charge of their lives, but noted that there is a need to take some action that would consolidate the gains that have been achieved and this could be through enactment of laws.
European Union Chargé d’Affaires, Emma Sundblad said decentralization is a good form of governance that any nation can pursue and noted that decentralization has two major objectives, obtaining essential services at the local level, which quest is very clear in Liberia and also the building of relationship between the government and its people. She also spoke about service delivery and accountability.
Superintendent John Z. Buway said that the county authorities and well meaning citizens will do everything in their power to keep the center functional.
Meanwhile 21 services will be provided at the Service Center and these will increase over time, some of which include obtaining drivers’ licenses, marriage certificates and land deeds.