By:Kebba AF. Touray
The National Assembly Select Committee on Health, Women and Children has tasked the new Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to expedite the process towards enacting the draft Disability Bill into law before the end of the year 2019.
Hon. Ousman Sillah, the Chairperson of this parliamentary oversight body, said the Select Committee, in its oversight report presented to and adopted by the plenary in September 2018, had tasked the Ministry of Health which was hitherto responsible for the draft Disability Bill to re-submit its cabinet for approval and subsequent presentation to the National Assembly for enactment. He added that the Committee wanted this process to be concluded by the first quarter of 2019 when the Disability Act would have been in place.
“The enactment of this draft Disability Bill is long overdue and there is no reason for this to be delayed anymore,” said Hon. Sillah.
Appearing before the parliamentary oversight body was Hon. Fatou Kinteh, Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare, who was accompanied by her Permanent Secretary, Mr. Bully Mustapha Dibba, and a high-level delegation comprising the Director and Deputy Director of Women’s Bureau, Director and Deputy Director of Social Welfare and the head of the Orthopaedic Department at Social Welfare.
The Chairperson said earlier that the purpose of this statutory oversight session was for the minister and her team to provide the Committee with updates on the draft Disability Bill and current status and plans of the new ministry as well as share information on its basic budgetary needs. This, he said, is necessary to enable the members to be au fait with the issues and needs of the ministry for the purposes of providing more support and advocacy.
“I want to assure you, on behalf of the Committee, that we will continue giving the new ministry all the support it needs from us in terms of legislation, allocation of resources, oversight and advocacy in order to enable you to become more effective and efficient in the discharge of your mandate,” said Hon. Sillah.
The Chair added that the Committee is very much interested in seeing the new ministry succeed in its work as it has always been in the forefront in calling for its creation and as such would be giving it all the support it needs.
Presenting an update on the current status and plans of her new ministry, Hon. Kinteh said they have started “engaging the development partners such as the UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF and have agreed to come up with terms of references to hire consultants who they are going to work with to put up structures for the ministry.”
Minister Kinteh elaborated in detail on the current status and future plans of her ministry and solicited for the full support of the Committee in their work.
“I want to inform the Committee that we share their concern regarding the Disability Bill and are equally interested in seeing this law come into being as soon as possible,” concluded the minister.
For his part, Mr. Dibba, the Permanent Secretary, who was asked by his minister to further provide an update on status of the draft Disability Bill, said it is presently with the Social Welfare Department for some fine-tuning before it is re-submitted to Cabinet for approval. He assured the Committee that this will be done next week.
Hon. Ndey Yassin Secka, a Member of the Select Committee, said a lot has to be done in the area of disability and urges the ministry to really increase its efforts towards addressing the welfare of persons with disability.
“I want to draw the particular attention of the ministry to the critical situation of the person who is a child, a female and disabled which makes her vulnerable in all these three conditions,” said Hon. Secka.
Honourables Saikou Marong, Bakary Camara and Kaddy Camara also urged the ministry to be proactive in discharging its mandate and assured the full support of the Committee in advancing the cause of women, children and persons with disability.
The Subject Matter Specialists (SMSs) of the Select Committee, namely Mr. Saikou Omar Dibba and Mrs Aminatta Ngum, both elaborated on the way forward for the new ministry.