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Liberia: New Reform Sees Counties Impose Tax, Handle Security, Resources

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Implementation of a post war governance reform, which devotes considerable powers of the president and the legislature to local government authorities has started across the country.

County Councils with lawmaking and executive powers are being established in the 15 political sub-divisions of the country, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement Sunday.

The Council is a requirement of Chapter 2.2 of the Local Government Act of 2018.

Under the law, the Councils will promulgate County ordinances, rules and regulations for the promotion of peace, unity, reconciliation, maintenance of public order,
and security, and the delivery of basic public goods and services, the ministry said.

“One of the key responsibilities of the County Council will be to impose local taxes, rates, duties, fees and fines within limits prescribed by the Legislature.

“Chapter 2.2(g) empowers the County Council to authorize the issuance of certain certificates and operating permits designated by the Legislature.”

The nine-member County Council will have the power to approve annual county budgets, development plans and its implementation.

Also the Council will recommend to the President through the Minister of Internal Affairs, the establishment of agencies deemed necessary of the common good for the
good governance of the county.

The law encourages the Council to ensure broad-based citizens’ participation in decision on significant issues of the County such as the annual county budget and the
county development plans.

Council’s structure includes one representative for the Women Association; two representatives from the county youth organization( a male and a female); one
representative from the county organization of people living with disabilities; two representatives from the County organization of the Civil Society associations( a male and a female); two chiefs from the Council of Chiefs of the County and an elder.

The steps taking towards the implementation of the Local Government Act are impressive and will enhance development and elevate ordinary people’s contribution to the decision making process of the country’ analyst says.

With the establishment of local councils, the people will now have a greater say in the implementation of local development and in the governance decisions of their areas. This is good for decentralization and for service delivery, Dr. Ibrahim Nyei, Director of the Ducor Institute of Social and Economic Research – a Monrovia based Think Tank said.

“The implications for governance and democracy are positive in that it will give the citizens greater voice in the allocation of resources and the implementation of policies.

“This has nothing to do with the unity character of the state. Liberia remains a unitary state but decentralized for the purpose of enhancing local development and promoting the political participation at the grassroots level

Nyei said the legislature must help sustain this by making more laws that empower local councils and seek a constitutional referendum that allows for the election of local official like superintendent, mayors and commissioners.

The councils themselves need to be popularly elected – for now they are not; so we need popular election of count members from constituencies rather than interest groups, he told the Oracle News Daily.

Phased one of the program commenced March 28 in River Gee, Maryland, Grand kru, Sinoe, Rivercess and Grand Bassa Counties, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs statement. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through the Liberia Decentralization Support Program is funding the reform.

-Festus Poquie

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