Country representative of the World Bank in Sierra Leone has expressed concerns over what he considered to be the poor quality of ward councillors as a constraint that could hinder the implementation of the development agenda at local level.
Vijay Pillai made this observation yesterday at a policy dialogue forum held between the local government ministry and development partners to brief them on the progress made so far in achieving some of the set goals of the ministry.
"The quality of local councillors is somehow posing a strain on effecting development agendas at the local level," he said. "The ministry needs to look into the issue and make some recommendations in terms of choosing and electing people to hold such positions."
Owing to the fact that most of them are illiterate, the World Bank country representative observed, it is difficult for councillors to properly coordinate development issues with partners.
Reacting to the concern, Local Government Minister, Dauda S. Kamara, said his ministry believes in the rule of law and that all the activities of the ministry are tied to the provisions of the Local Government Act of 2004 which provides for no academic qualification for the position of a ward councillor.
The Act, he said, only provides for an individual to be qualified as a councillor if he or she is a resident of a particular ward but no educational qualification is attached.
He promised to address correspondences to all political parties recommending to them what qualities to be considered before awarding party symbols to people who show interest in vying for certain positions.
"It would be better for councillors to have basic education that would guide them in taking up development challenges," Kamara said. "I will address correspondences to all political parties on the issue."
He reiterated the need for aspirants for key posts, especially Mayors and District Officers, to attain a certain level of academic pursuit to enable them deliver effectively.
Kamara informed development partners that his ministry is on track in its effort to achieve the overall vision of implementing its decentralization policy, the preparation of policies and revision of legislation, improvement of working relationship between local councillors and chiefdom administration, promotion of local economic development, capacity building to generate more revenue at local level and the improvement of basic services.