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CRR communities want constitution to empower local councils

Dec 10, 2019, 2:55 PM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Inhabitants of the Central River Region North have urged members of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to ensure that the final draft constitution empowers area councils to enable them effectively partake in the development of their communities.

In a consultation meeting held in Kaur last week, on 4 December, 2019, communities of the area have urged the CRC members to ensure that the final constitution empowers the local councils by allocating a subvention for them from the central government.

Mamat Mbaye, former chairman of the Kuntaur Area Council who was speaking to The Point on the sidelines of the consultation said: “The Local Government should be empowered to enact laws at regional levels. The entire regional laws shouldn’t be entirely left in the hands of the lawmakers.”

The Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) of the National Assembly, he explained, shouldn’t be responsible for holding the councils accountable, arguing that it should be entirely left in the hands of the Public Accounts Committee of area councils.

“The 1997 Constitution clearly indicates that 25% of the total budget of the area councils should be sub-vented by the central government. However, I have been a chairman of the Kuntaur Area Council for the past ten years but I have never seen that money coming from central government. Therefore, the new constitution should empower the councils to get this subvention.”

The government, he continued, is supposed to provide general grants to councils. However, the councils have never been receiving such grants, hence there’s need for the new constitution to regularise the issues.

Musa Jerreh Touray, resident of Balangarr Kerr Macjar said: “The final draft constitution should empower the Local Government so that the central government can support the councils financially in order to enable them participate in the development of their communities.”

The revenue that councils are generating, he said, is too small considering the work that is expected of them. It’s paramount for the central government to support them financially”, he added.

According to him, for the government to empower the councils, CRC has to provide laws that empower the Local Government.

“The central government is paying chiefs through the area councils but the staffs of chiefs are not paid salaries because the councils lack the financial strength to pay the people working under the chiefs.”

“The new constitution should empower the councils to work independently without the interference of the executive. The councils’ political leadership should entirely control their LGA, so that revenue generated by councils should be ploughed back to the communities as development projects,” Yahya Sama added.

Maimuna Barry, a lady councilor of Niani District, said there should be provisions in the final draft that empower lady councilors, saying that councils are unfair to the women leaders as they are being neglected. She added that lady councilors should also be paid monthly salaries.

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