Monrovia –The Local Government Act, along with several other bills, has lingered in the corridors of the Legislature for a long while now with hope that one day they will be passed into law by members of the legislature. The Local Government Act is aimed at decentralizing the Liberian government’s operations. The passage of the act is being challenged by the some Senators, who called on Thursday, May 3, for the version sent in by members of the Lower House to be amended. The House of Representatives is calling for superintendents, commissioners and town chiefs to be elected.
According to Senator Gble-Gbo Brown of Maryland County, in keeping with plans, the leadership of the Senate met and agreed to act on the Local Government Act submitted to that body by the Executive Branch. “The government needs to balance what we are doing. Today’s presentation and discussions by the Internal Affairs Committee, was to bring some of the lawmakers, who have not participated in discussions surrounding the Act up to speed with it. “The Local Government Act was submitted in 2016 by the Executive Branch of government. Members of the House of Representatives in September of the same year passed it and forwarded the Bill to the Senate with amendment (removing) the section calling for the elections of superintendents and commissioners,” Sen. Brown said. In keeping with legislative practices, the Senate Plenary forwarded the version from the House of Representatives to the Internal Affairs Committee headed by Senator Brown of Maryland. In 2017 between June and July, the committee, in collaboration with the Internal Affairs Ministry, engaged in regional consultation beginning with Bassa, Nimba and Bomi counties. Speaking with reporters, Sen. Brown said that it is the view of the committee that decentralizing government will strengthen government’s own resolve for peace and give power to the people.
Since 1847, the governance system of Liberia has been heavily centralized where every major decision is handed down from Monrovia to the local officials for implementation. “The Act if passed, will give power to our people to make them participatory at the county level where citizens will decide how they run the county. This will also allowed every county from chief to the clan chief level to feel involved in decision making, breeding ownership which could serve as a guarantee for sustainable peace. “The act will promote economic development where local officials will collect taxes for operations. In a nutshell, one of the things that will happened if this bill is passed is the harmonization, rationalization of our local structures.
“The law as proposed is not perfect but it is a starting point. Some of my colleagues are recommending the elections of local officials (Superintendent, Commissioner and Town Chief). These people control resources, they should be elected to give them that independence and job security. There are fears in some quarters that superintendents if elected will rival lawmakers but the laws determine term of operations for elected officials. “We need to set standards for cities, town, township and once those standards are not set regardless of the county involved those standards must be upheld.