By Madiba Singhateh / Mustapha Jallow
As part of their public consultation, commissioners of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), on Wednesday 13th 2019, received a draft position paper from officials of the Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities (GALGA).
At the presentation ceremony which was held at the Kanifing Municipal Council head office, Mayor Talib Ahmad Bensouda said local governments are supposed to increase the equality of lives of people within their regions; that the Gambia has a centralized government structure, which makes it difficult to deliver services to taxpayers. ‘‘Since we came into office, we have been advocating for a decentralizing system,’’ he said; that Government subvention to local governments have not been disbursed since 2002.
Mayor Bensouda said most of their revenue lines have been centralize which makes local governments very poor, and in need of revenue. “Our infrastructure is poor and none existent. Our health care is also poor to some degree and in a place like the KMC, the education system is in the intensive care unit. In KMC today, the average class-room seize is 70 students to a class-room, in public Schools,’’ he said. According to the KMC Mayor, local governments are created to save the people because they are closer to them. “We know their problems, we live in their communities and this is the reason they bring us into office, with the hope of mitigating these problems and deliver social services,’’ he said.
He continued: “In order for Gambia to develop and for our people to have a good standard of living, we most focus on the decentralization of Government, where revenue sharing is a sin qua non, and support is given to local government authorities in order to deliver to the expectation of the people.”
He further said that KMC was glad to welcome CRC Commissioners to the forum because of their belief that the CRC will be their last defence; that they believe they will champion their mission in order to give Gambians the services they deserve.
For his part, the Chairman of the CRC Justice Cherno Jallow, said their visit to the KMC was a friendly engagement in order to find-out what the real issues are, and what solutions can be work-out from the Constitutional Review perspective.
“The CRC would ensure whatever we do, as so long as it relates to Constitutional reform within this country, will be made know. It is important that Gambians are fully engaged and involved in charting the way forward, as far as the development of their new Constitution is concerned,’’ he said.
“We have been engaged in this process and this is just one aspect. It is true that we are meeting with the local government authorities but we will be moving beyond this process. We listen to people who are the subject of governance in this country,’’ he said.
According to Commissioner Jallow, the CRC has gone around the country and they have seen or heard some of things that have been raised; that there are quite a number of key issues that concerns them which they made abundantly clear; that this concerns their Councillors.
He said some of the Councillors indicated their frustration to them, and that a solution has to be found which he thinks should begin with a dialogue, to see what can be mapped-out as a way forward.
“We expect to have a separate meeting with other local government agencies, including the government as well as Ministry officials. It is a subject that concerns everybody and all stakeholders in local government, must be consulted,’’ the CRC head said.
In addition to this, he said Commissioners are also expected to meet with Chiefs because they want to learn more about local government; that this will equip them to be in a position to take key decisions, in terms of what can be in the proposed new Constitution.
A representative from the ministry of Lands and Local Government, Deputy Permanent Secretary 2, GALGA President and Chairman of Mansakoko Area Council, and First Vice-President of GALGA, spoke at the event.