Sierra Leone

For general information about the country profiles click here.

sierra-leone-mapPopulation: 5,978,727

HDI ranking: 177/187

HDI score: 0.359

Following the 2002 civil war, the 2004 Local Government Act (LGA) and the 2010 Decentralization Policy (DP) were major steps toward decentralization. However, there still remains considerable room for implementation of decentralization (World Bank, 2014).

Local governance at a glance

  • Sierra Leone has 19 local councils (5 city councils and 1 municipal council in the urban areas, and 13 district councils in the predominantly rural areas) and 149 chiefdom councils (CLGF, 2013). Furthermore, each ward has Ward Development Committees (WDCs) “to facilitate grassroots participation in development planning” (DFID, 2011).
  • There is a guarantee of equal representation for women at the level of the Ward Development Committees, elected at town meetings. Five members must be women out of ten (Quota Project, 2014).
  • The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) has responsibility for local governance reforms and implementing decentralization (CLGF, 2013).
  • Mayors/chairpersons are elected by universal adult suffrage of the whole local council areas. Councilors are elected on a ward basis (CLGF, 2013).

Civil society actors include

  • Democracy Sierra Leone (DSL) is a coalition of over forty civil societies that promotes democratic governance, human rights, public accountability and the rule of law (DSL, 2013).
  • The Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) seeks to establish a more democratic state by increasing citizen participation in governance through advocacy, capacity building and civic education (CGG, 2014).

Capacity building institutions

  • The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) undertakes training and monitoring of council’s compliance with the Anti-Corruption Act 2008, in cooperation with MLGRD (ACC, 2014).

Fiscal control

  • The LGA 2004 enables both local councils and chiefdoms to raise revenue, such as local taxes, property rates, licenses, interest, dividends etc. Local councils and chiefdoms have to share some of these revenues (CLGF, 2013).
  • Since local councils are the highest local authority, they  have ”the power to claim a precept on taxes collected by the chiefdoms” (DFID, 2011).
  • Beyond own revenues, local councils’ budgets are composed of transfers from the central government (CLGF, 2013).
  • There are mainly three types of transfers to local councils. Administrative grants and grants for devolved functions are conditional and tied grants based on varying formulae depending on the purpose. Local government development grants are not based on any formula, but are guaranteed minimum equal to the pre-devolution amount (CLGF, 2013).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • The LGA 2004 provides the main legal framework for local councils and specifies 80 functions to be devolved from central to local government (CLGF, 2013).
  • The Act also requires that local residents are consulted before a council approves or reviews its development plan. The ward committee provides a focal point for discussing local problems and educating ward residents on their rights and obligations as they relate to local government (CLGF, 2013).
  • By 2007, Sierra Leone had a “well-regulated system of fiscal transfers from central to local government, increased investment in local services and regular production of participatory development plans” (DFID, 2011).
  • A comprehensive local government performance assessment system (CLoGPAS) was designed in 2006. The system is a sustainable mechanism to monitor performance accountability so that councils can guide the provision of capacity-building support to local councils (CLGF, 2013).
  • In 2010, the new DP was approved to harmonize the LGA and other decentralization policies. The goal is to better empower and involve local people and communities in the development process as well as strengthen the collaboration between governments with the private sector and civil society (Awareness Times, 2011).
  • In 2011, a national chiefdom governance and traditional administration policy was adopted “to provide a framework that will ensure chiefdoms and traditional administrations, operate in accordance with the principles of good governance” and to focus “on inclusion, participation, transparency and improving values of customs and traditions of people, in line with the local government system” (Awareness Times, 2012). Furthermore, it seeks to minimize conflictsabout financial resources between local councils and chiefdoms (CLGF, 2013).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Many Ward Development Committees face acute financial problems and are unable to hold meetings regularly. Moreover, a lack of resources and weak oversight foster corruption (CR, 2012).
  • The revenue system at the local levels need to be strengthened and the revenue relationship between local councils and chiefdoms clarified (World Bank, 2014).
  • The effectiveness of local councils, their accountability and responsiveness towards citizens as well as the transparency of local councils’ decision-making process has to be improved (World Bank, 2014).
  • Young people are poorly represented on local councils, even though they form the majority of the population. In most cases, they have little chance of being elected to the councils because of economic and cultural reasons (Conciliation Resources, 2012).

Recent posts on this website about this country:

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List of sources:

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), 2014.

Awareness Times, 2011: “National Decentralisation Policy.”

Awareness Times, 2012: “In Sierra Leone, New Policy to Sanitize Tribal Administrators.”

Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), 2014: www.slcgg.org.

Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), 2013: “Country Profile: The local government system in Sierra Leone.”

Conciliation Resources (CR), 2012: “Decentralisation and Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone.”

Democarcy Sierra Leone, 2013.

Department for International Development (DFID), 2011, Fanthorpe, R., A. Lavali and M. Sesay: “Decentralization in Sierra Leone.”

Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), n.d.

United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), 2012: “LOCASL.”

Urban Institute, 2014.

Quota Project, 2014: “Sierra Leone.”

World Bank, 2014: Decentralization, Accountability and Local Services in Sierra Leone: Situation Analysis, Key Challenges and Opportunities for Reform.“

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