Governance Team Lead Kadi Jumu-Peters handing over signed LOA to Chairman Kailahun District Sahr A.K Lamin. Photo: UNDP.

By-Laws & COVID-19; Local Government Ministry and 22 Local Councils Consolidate Commitments on National Response

On the 3rd and 21st July 2020, all 22 local/city councils and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) respectively signed a Letter of Agreement (LOA) at the UNDP office committing themselves to coalesced efforts around their local/district COVID-19 Action Plan to support national efforts to contain the COVID-19 disease and prevent further spread whilst using byelaws to enforce compliance.

The MLGRD received $ 18,000 for coordination and monitoring of activities fashioned out in the Local Councils COVID-19 Response Action Plan. Each of the 22 local councils also received $ 9,000 to heighten efforts at local level that benefit from a more gender- and youth-perspective.    

This support to the MLGRD and the councils squarely appreciates the rationale to facilitate and complement local actions initiated by local authorities for the fight against COVID-19 in Sierra Leone, an effort to bringing onboard all stakeholders and this time, at both upstream and downstream level using a two-prong approach that is also area-based. In a time like this, the emerging consensus among all the local councils together with the MLGRD will support the District COVID-19 Response Plan and comprehensively, from both the national and local governance levels.

"The current state of local councils in Sierra Leone is not where we want them...but, with support from UNDP and signing of the LOAs with the ministry and with all local councils, we should be able to strengthen local strategies in the fight against COVID-19" says Tamba Lamina, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development at a signing ceremony held @UNDP Office in Freetown. 

At the national governance level, Provincial Coordination Committees (PCC) chaired by the resident ministers will be reactivated and the Inter-ministerial Committee chaired by the Vice President- Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh for oversight of the implementation of the District COVID-19 Response Plan, will collaborate with devolved MDAs. At the local councils’ level, support for quarantine homes, contact tracing and dissemination and popularization of the district COVID byelaws designed to influence positive behavioral and or social change are prioritized. Similarly, the Sierra Leone Local Government Act of 2004 provides local councils and localities with silver linings that provide a springboard for the decentralization and devolution of functions, powers and services to local councils and for other matters such as the fight against COVID-19.

Given the fact that every sector of the country have shared its own effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MLGRD and the local councils have resolved to rejuvenate efforts to contain the outbreak and consequently, leading to a thriving national economy once again, and to continue with unhindered developmental initiatives that would move faster in the absence of an outbreak.

The MLGRD, local councils and 1 UNDP Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officer assigned with the UNDP Governance Cluster would coordinate for carrying out, with due diligence and efficiency, monitoring and supervision of the implementation of the district COVID-19 Response Action Plan with Local Councils, Provincial Administration and Chiefdom Administration.

“The local council is a very strategic local governance structure to coordinate with chiefdom authorities to lead a robust response engagement and work with community stakeholders” says President of Local Councils Association of Sierra Leone LOCASL Joseph Munda Bindi

Thanks to the Minister of Local Governance and Rural Development-Tamba Lamina, who facilitated discussions and coordination between UNDP and the ministry to develop a COVID-19 Response Action Plan in line with the National Response plan and the WHO framework with the aim to validate the Local Government bye-laws consistent with the National and WHO COVID-19 prevention and control guidelines.

This new support and commitment by all 22 local/city councils was born out of a UNDP supported nationwide consultation (14th & 15th April 2020) with the Local Governance structures to develop their COVID-19 response plan and validate the district COVID-19 byelaws.

Today, new commitments are venerated, and sleeves are being folded to reinforce national commitments at local level and avail resources for key response players empowered to reach the most vulnerable communities with a general desire of breaking the COVID-19 chain of transmission. Like the Ebola outbreak in 2015, local governance structures community/local byelaws have proved to be effective to enforce compliance during emergencies and especially when local councils’ experts and expertise are appreciated.  

With funds from UNDP core budget, this support is consistent with commitments found in the UNDP’s Country Program Document (2020-2023) for the achievement and realization of the country’s national development plan and to accompany the people of Sierra Leone in this last decade of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), Tamba Lamina signing LOA with UNDP. Photo: UNDP.
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