The Decentralized Service Delivery Programme (DSDP) was set up in 2010 to build on the successes of the Institutional Reform and Capacity Building Project (IRCBP) which ended in June 2011. It will be recalled that the IRCBP was created in 2004 to spearhead the proper functioning of the newly established Local Councils across the country. And this was meant to translate into improvement in the wellbeing of the people. However DSDP focuses on the delivery of certain basic services by local councils in the devolved areas of health, education water and sanitation (solid waste management).
The Programme is administered by the World Bank which has been actively supporting Governmentís decentralization programme primarily through the Multi-Donor Trust Fund which is also supported by DFID and EC.¬†
The Information Unit of the DSDP went on a fact finding mission to some DSDP project sites in the week that ended on 16th¬†May, 2011. The purpose was to observe at first hand and place on record some of the successes scored by the programme so far, in terms of meeting the needs of the people.
The Unit first visited projects undertaken by Bo City Council in the devolved sector areas of Health and Education. Most DSDP interventions take the form of rehabilitation of dilapidated structures and reviving of neglected/abandoned services.
Over the past twelve months or so, the UBC Primary School at Upper Moriba Town in Bo has benefited tremendously from Rehabilitation work with DSDP funds. The roof of the building and some of the walls which were falling apart were rebuilt to the satisfaction of the entire community. The Head Teacher of the school, Vandi Vincent Bockari, told the DSDP Team that the entire community is proud of the improvement done to their community. ĎThis building was an eyesore.í He said, adding that now ďthere is no more leaking and the atmosphere is now extremely congenialĒ for learning
The Unit also visited the Gbongboma Peripheral Health Unit, where the MCH Aid in charge, Kadiatu Sandi, proudly explained as follows: ďWe appreciate this development. This place was just like an ordinary house before, but thanks to the City Council, our lactating mothers and pregnant women from the entire surrounding now have very good facilities at their disposal.
The Team visited similar DSDP projects in Kenema, Kono, Magburaka, Makeni and Port Loko.¬†¬†¬†¬†
PHASE ONE OF DSDP
Phase one of the DSDP provides $20 million and lasts from February 2010 to December 2011, while phase 2 which starts in 2012 lasts for three years.
Phase I focuses on strengthening Governmentís institutional and organizational capacity at the central and local levels to enable LCs to fulfil their core devolved functions. Phase 1 also launched an ďumbrellaĒ platform to consolidate all financial flows to Local Councils
DSDP was established with the consideration that the performance of the Councils and the decentralization programme generally had indicated that capacity at the local level can be developed quite quickly. It is discerned that the Local Councils now provide better management systems than some of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the central government. For example, all Councils already have development plans on which they base their annual budgets.¬†
However, there is still a need to support the Councils with regular capacity building to achieve better development planning and service delivery, and the MDAs for their part are in need of support to refocus their activities from direct service provision to developing national policies, setting national standards and monitoring the outcomes of Council activities to see that the national objectives are achieved.¬† It is also observable from recent Council experience that while citizen participation in government has increased, there is need for further improvement in this aspect of local governance.
AREAS OF FOCUS
DSDP focuses on strengthening key processes in the service delivery value chain that will reinforce efficient use of existing and additional resources:¬† namely, development planning, budgeting and expenditure monitoring, monitoring of service delivery results, and strengthening citizensí involvement in the service delivery cycle.
PROPOSED ACTIONS FOR PHASE 2
Phase I focused on assuring that funds flowed to local councils for the basic services attributed to them under the law.¬† During Phase II, focus will shift from assuring funds flows to assuring that the councils used them to improve service delivery outcomes.¬†
During phase 11 the Local Government Finance Department (LGFD) will specify certain service delivery variables which will need to be monitored before release of latter trenches. The LGFD will require councils to achieve targets, and councils in turn should sign results agreements with service providers and link council funding for them to achieve results. This change will require a strong training and sensitization effort on the part of LGFD and Dec-Sec (including through its Resident Technical Facilitators).
There needs to be a more concerted effort during the second phase to integrate local council plans into broader national sector plans. The key indicators on which LC performance should be measured would be drawn from sector plans and included in the LGFD-LC agreements
SPECIFICS OF PHASE 2
Phase II will have the following components: (1) grants to LCsí to supplement the central budget transfers to LCs adding some results based elements to the phase I program; (2) capacity development and technical assistance to strengthen LCsí capacity to perform their core functions and central government capacity to provide adequate strategic guidance and oversight to LCs; (3) results and social accountability component; and (4) program management component.¬† Phase II will also emphasize the importance of the Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) to ensure that it is applied effectively. This emphasis and the added focus on results and social accountability will strengthen capacity of the Monitoring Unit in the Decentralization Secretariat of the Ministry of Local Government and also build the capacity for environmental and social safeguards initially within DecSec which would later be mainstreamed within the Ministry of Local Government.
Donor Mission Praises DSDP
As reported in an earlier publication, a World Bank mid-term review Mission for the DSDP recently submitted its findings to government.¬† Key among the findings is that the programme is largely on track and that Government has been able to achieve the triggers set in phase 1 paving the way for the design of phase 2 of the programme.
It was noted that during phase one government concentrated on the provision of funds for Local Councils. At the same time it is important to note that phase two will shift from assuring funds flow to assuring that the councils use such funds to improve service delivery outcomes.
Additionally, MDAs will strengthen their monitoring and oversight functions with respect to the functions devolved to the Local Councils.
It may not be an understatement to say that the decentralisation programme has turned out to be the Ďsaving graceí of Sierra Leoneans, especially people in rural communities. No doubt this realisation has compelled donors to support the transformation of the IRCBP to the DSDP.
The next crucial element that is necessary to ensure the continued success of the decentralisation programme is the support of the people. And with DSDP projects strewn across the country, from Kailahun to Koinadugu; from Moyamba to Freetown, support from the people no doubt has a very strong base.¬†
¬© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.