MONROVIA: The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) under the Liberia Decentralization Support Project (LDSP) supported by UNDP and its Partners- embassies of Sweden and Ireland, has conducted a series of orientation workshops for County Councils recently elected across the 15 counties of Liberia.
The exercises held in Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties in June 2023, brought together over one hundred and thirty-five members of the County Councils, County Superintendents, and other local officials with the aim to explain the roles and responsibilities of County Council members as they prepare to administer their duties in close coordination and collaboration with the various local leaderships in the 15 political subdivisions of the country.
Speaking during the training, the Minister of Internal Affairs Varney Sirleaf stressed the need for council members to exercise confidentiality in the discharge of their responsibilities emphasizing the importance of coordination between local authorities and county council members to avoid confrontations which normally undermine development. “It was important that the Superintendents attended the workshop along with the County Councils because both parties are integral in the functioning of local government administration,” said Minister Sirleaf.
He stressed that capacity building was essential in the effective operationalization of the County Councils and assured that the Ministry will work with partners to secure training opportunities for council members. “County Councils have now joined the list of local government administration due to the important and critical roles they must play in the decentralization reform process of bringing services closer to the people,” Minister Sirleaf added.
The Internal Affairs Minister reminded Council members that the establishment of the County Councils was in fulfillment of Chapter 2 of the Local Government Act (LGA) of 2018 which was fully followed by the MIA.
Also making remarks during the workshops, UNDP Liberia Resident Representative a.i. Louis Kuukpen intimated that the effectiveness of the County Council can only be realized with the implementation of the Revenue Sharing Act. He emphasized the need for continuous capacity building for council members which is cardinal in accomplishing their responsibilities as enshrined in the LGA. The UNDP Liberia Resident Representative a.i. mentioned that his agency has allocated resources to support the capacity-building process of County Councils and reaffirmed his institution’s commitment to working with Ministries, Agencies, and Commissions (MACs) to achieve the objectives of the decentralization programme. He reminded Council Members of the fact that they are executing their duties under a tenure that prohibits changes or replacement with non-elected members within the specified period of leadership and urged them to take the training and their responsibilities seriously.
“I am excited to be part of this training because of the important role and key responsibilities the County Councils must play in actualizing the government’s decentralization agenda which is the way to address the core issues of exclusion, social cohesion, and development to include levying local taxes and fines, promulgate County ordinances, budget reviews, and development planning approvals amongst others,” Kuukpen added.
He concluded his statement by encouraging participants to be peaceful during the electoral process stating that “Liberians are one people”. He also emphasized the need for women to be given more space for participation during the elections processes and encouraged all participants to follow instructions from the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the various processes.
At the same time, the Chairman of the Governance Commission Attorney Garrison Yealue, Jr. congratulated County Council members for their preferment and indicated that the concept of establishing that body was deeply rooted around the ideas of promoting inclusive governance, transparency, and accountability at the local level.
Attorney Yealu informed council members that they were placed in a position of trust to promulgate county ordinances, approve county budgets annually, promote peace and reconciliation, and as such, they have a very herculean task that required commitment, honesty, and integrity in the discharge of their duties.
He however emphasized that Council County members are not Legislators because they only represent the interest of their constituents at the county level while legislators represent their respective districts at the national level. The Governance Commission Chairman commended the MIA and UNDP for organizing the programme and stressed the importance of coordination between the County Councils and local government authorities.
The orientation workshops were facilitated by Independent Consultant on democracy, governance, and public policy Dr. Yarsuo Weh-Dorlaie on topics to include historical perspectives of decentralization in Liberia, legal and regulatory framework, structures of county local government, and the relationship between the county council and county administration among others.