The Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Platform on Decentralization and Governance in Liberia on October 31, 2013 launched its multi-stakeholder dialogue on the draft Local Government Act at the Corina Hotel.
The CSO Platform which is the largest Civil Society Coalition working in partnership with the Governance Commission to promote popular participation, increase awareness on the draft local Government Act and enhance the Democratic Reform Process, brought together more than 60 stakeholders from across the civil society and government in the country.
The dialogue is one in a series of interventions implemented by NAYMOTE, through CSO Platform on Decentralization and Governance with support from Search for Common Ground and funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) to bring critical perspectives to the national decentralization and governance reform process.
The efforts engaged legal experts, academia, government leaders; civil society leaders, members from the traditional council, youth, women, and student organizations to broaden the dialogue on the Local Governance Act.
Panelists for the first session included Mr. Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae (Commission on Decentralization) who presented on political decentralization; Professor Moses P. Roberts (in place of Mr. Julius Caesar, Director of the Legislative Budget Office) who presented on fiscal decentralization; and Cllr. Augustine Toe (Commissioner Anti-Corruption Commission) who presented on the legal framework of the draft LGA. Each of these presentations focused on examining the challenges and opportunities presented by LGA.
Several issues came out of the dialogue relating to the fiscal implementation, legal framework, and policy framework. First, questions were raised about how concession agreements were signed by the central government. It was noted that while the concession is granted at the central level, there has been no clarity about who is responsible for monitoring and managing the concession at the local level.
Major issues coming out of the fiscal decentralization presentation included the nature of taxes that can be levied, how they would be collected, and how the government would redistribute funds to provide to counties with smaller revenues.
Lastly, Mr. Toe highlighted a number of constitutional issues in the draft LGA. The most prominent issue related to the appointment of county superintendents.
In the LGA, this should take place by a popular vote by the residents of the county, whereas in the 1986 constitution this is the responsibility of the President exclusively. Therefore, any change to the way the superintendents are appointed would require a constitutional amendment.
The Governance Commission took note of these issues presented by the stakeholders and pledged to work with the platform to expand the dialogue outreach on the LGA to other counties.
The effort is part of a larger initiative by SFCG and SIDA to strengthen the capacity of the civil society to promote sustainable governance.