Makeni, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, 22nd December, 2012; His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has reiterated his commitment to continue to strengthen local councils all across the nation, irrespective of which political party controls them. He made this statement during his inauguration of the Mayors, Chairpersons and Councilors of the 19 local councils nationwide. The ceremony took place first, in Freetown on the 20th, Kenema and Bo on the 21st and Makeni on the 22nd December, over a span of three days.
Whilst congratulating the newly elected Mayors, Chairpersons and Councillors, President Koroma reminded them of the very high expectations of the people who had elected them to serve and represent them in the various councils to reconcile with the developmental aspirations of their localities. "The people have reposed their trust in you; they want you to work together, they want you to effectively represent them, and they demand that you honour and uphold that confidence throughout your tenure of four years. You have entered into a social contract; you are part of government; and you must be effective and disciplined partners in the transformation of the country", he urged.
"In the last five years, my government ensured the biggest ever financial transfers to local councils in the history of our nation", the newly resoundingly re-elected Commander-in-Chief said, and further confidently maintained, "We gave local councils, irrespective of which political party controlled them, billions to implement development programmes in their localities. This has enabled your Councils to scale up the provision of social services including primary and secondary health, primary and junior-secondary, agriculture extension services, rural water supply and solid waste management."
President Koroma reiterated the same message right across the four regions where he promised to continue to do more for local councils. "We will continue to give billions to local councils; we will continue to build capacities of local councils; we will continue to ensure that local councils are fully functional and effectively delivering services in their localities. My Government will continue to facilitate timely, predictable and increased performance-based transfers to local councils", he assured amidst rapturous applause everywhere he made these assurances.
It would be recalled that local governance had been identified as a panacea for socio-economic development especially in emerging economies like Sierra Leone. Sound revenue collection being one of the means to achieve sustainable development was not left untouched by the Chief Executive; "We will introduce legislation on local government finance and property taxation that clearly establish procedures for revenue collection and sharing between local and chiefdom councils and the administration of property rates, respectively. Local councils will be empowered through legislation and policy frameworks to create conducive environments to maximize local economic development."
The President also reaffirmed his commitment to focus on skills training, acquisition and employment of youths as well as the restoration of discipline, law and order in society. "We have vowed to attract more investment, diversify the economy, and continue with the free health care, small-holder commercialization and infrastructural development. You are our partners in ensuring the delivery of those programmes in your localities; you are our partners in monitoring the effective implementation of these programmes; you are our partners in suggesting modifications of these programmes to suit local development needs and aspirations", President Koroma pointed out.
The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Alhaji Dauda Sulaiman Kamara fondly and popularly known as Ambassador, informed the newly elected Mayors, Chairpersons and Councillors in all four regions of the country to be party colour-blind in the discharge of their duties. "...I observe that you have all been elected under political party banners or as Independent candidates. However", he urged, "in your work in your respective City and Districts, you must be political party colour-blind in the implementation of our service delivery programmes to the extent that all persons shall be served irrespective of party affiliation or other considerations."
Ambassador Dauda Kamara also enjoined the newly elected Mayors, Chairpersons and Councillors to effectively engage the women, youths, the aged and the physically challenged with equal resolve, "remembering that you are elected to serve all the people. I admonish you to respect and engage them positively", he advised.