A high powered technical team form the EU, including the EU First Counsellor and Head of Cooperation, Gerald Hattler, has held their first successful meeting with District council authorities from 4 local councils, Bombali District Council in the North, Kambia District Council in the North-West, Kenema District Council in the East and Pujehun District Council in the South on the EU supported project, “Support to Civil Society and Local Authorities to promote local development in Sierra Leone”. The meeting which was held at the Country Lodge Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Friday 20th November 2020, was facilitated by members of the Project Management Unit (PMU), which is tasked with the implementation of the project.

EU First Counsellor and Head of Cooperation, Gerald Hetler, said he was impressed by the seriousness that is being given to the utilisation of the funds provided by the EU to support and improve sustainable local economic development through decentralisation by strengthening the capacity of selected civil society and local councils to respond to the COVID 19 pandemic, mobilise local revenue and deliver services that will contribute to improved well-being of local citizens.

“From what I have seen today, I am of the strongest conviction that what is happening here is a clear manifestation of the synergy we want the PMU to build between the local councils and civil society organisations the EU is supporting with this grant. It is best to know what is known locally and to bring all the actions together to improve the situation. We expect to see great results that will make great impact and leave good legacies for the future” he said.

Team leader for the PMU, Dr. Julius Muthali, said that the 23 Million Euro EU support to local authorities and CSOs project cannot be done without engagements such as the Technical Committee meeting where all the experts in the PMU and the beneficiaries from the Districts would share unique experiences and have open and frank discussions on what can and will be done to ensure results with maximum impact are achieved throughout the lifespan of the project and beyond it.

“We think we have the utmost responsibility to ensure that we all agree that we do what is best for the local councils and CSOs who are benefiting from this project. We believe that by working together, we will be able to provide them all the support and guidance they need to succeed in their aspirations for meaningful and sustainable development” Dr. Munthali said.

The PMU Human Development and Capacity Building Experts, Mr Sulley Felix Mintiegmah and Dr. Henry Mbawa, respectively, spoke about the proposed programme approaches from the PMU perspective in their presentations.

Several other speakers, including the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager from the Decentralisation Secretariat, Colina Macauley, and the Director of Fiscal Decantralisation Division, Ministry of Finance, Adams Bangura, also spoke about their own specific roles in the implementation of the project. Colina Macualey emphasised her Secretariat’s firm commitment to the Project, while Adams Bangura outlined the framework of engagement they have designed for the implementation of the project and how they plan to commission a study on Chiefdom Finance to look at all the funding issues on a case by case basis.

Presentations on achievements against plans by different Chief Administrators of District councils present, showed that the problems they had with issues such as weak capacity, entrenched interests, political will, conflicting policy and legal environment, weak enforcement and lack of trust that used to be obstacles for development at the District council level are now being addressed and the District Councils are now able to identify and articulate the impact of their projects at the community level.

Chief Administrator, Kambia District Council, Edward Alpha, said that the opportunity provided by the project for them to work with Civil Society Organisation in furtherance of their development aspirations has opened a new chapter in the development environment at the District level. The same sentiment was expressed by all his other counterparts in the meeting.

‘We are of the conviction that such working relationships would not only minimise overlaps and white elephant projects, but would engender a meaningful relationship between all the development actors and ensure sustainable development at the local level” Chief Administrator, Ahmed Koroma, from the Kenema District council emphasised.

According to the EU representatives and members of the PMU, the next step will now be to organise a Project Steering Committee Meeting, which will bring together all the major players, including Government Ministers and Local Council Chairmen.

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