By Yankuba Jallow
Councilors in Foni and other parts of the West Coast Region, have unanimously called on the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), to make provision for Local Government Authorities to be salaried workers, instead of being paid allowances.
The Councilors also demanded autonomy from the Central Government (CG).
Councilors in this Region, stated in several meetings with the CRC, that they are not independent from the CG. They said the CG has a hand in every activity of the Local Government (LG), including mining activities in their Regions; that this has greatly affected the efficiency and effectiveness of Councils in carrying out their functions; that the Government is in full control of mining activities in all Regions. They called on the CRC delegation to make provision in the proposed new Constitution that will prevent CG from having a hand in their activities in the Regions.
Ismaila Badjie, the Councilor of Bullock Ward who spoke at the meeting in Somita, said the 1997 Constitution has neglected Councils.
“The salary of Councilors is not captured in the 1997 Constitution. We want to have salary and benefits like all elected representatives such as the president and National Assembly members,” he said. He opined the Chairpersons should lead the Regions instead of Governors; that because they are elected representatives of the people whereas Governors are political appointees. Badjie called on the CRC delegation to review the provision of the Local Government Act that make provision for the president to dissolve a Regional Council upon advise by a Governor.
“How can a political appointee advise the president to dissolve a Council, whose members are elected representatives of the people? Who should have more powers? The Councilors or the Governor?” Badjie asked. He said CG has control over everything in the Regions.
The Councilor for Faraba Ward Bala Musa Darboe, said the Local Government Act should be reviewed; that Local Governments should be autonomous; that the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Director of Finance of Councils by the Minister of Local Government and Lands, does not help them in their work.
“The CEO and Director of Finance are doing whatever they feel like and nothing can be done about it. They always tell us that since we did not appoint them, we cannot remove them,” he said.
Other Councilors made similar remarks and asserted that the proposed new Constitution should make provision for the autonomy of Local Governments.