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GC Holds Policy Dialogue on “Enhancing Citizens’ Access to Services"

The Governance Commission on April 27, 2016 hosted a one-day policy dialogue under the theme “Enhancing Citizens’ Access to Government Services: Lessons from the Grand Bassa County Service Center.” 

The policy dialogue’s venue was the Buchanan City Hall.  Key stakeholders discussed broadening of a national strategy on emerging issues in decentralization and deconcentration implementation, and challenges and prospects for coordinating government’s service delivery at the County Service Centers (CSC).

The dialogue also discussed management and local coordination issues  between the office of the superintendent (on one hand) and the ministries, agencies and commissions (MACs) working in the county (on the other), lessons learned, as well as citizens’ demands and perception of service delivery at the CSC.

The Grand Bassa Service Center, launched in June 2015, has been a bastion of service delivery where citizens can access numerous government services including marriage certificates, land deed registration, business registration, birth certificates, adjudication of labor cases as well as psychosocial support to victims of domestic violence and other sexual and gender base violence related cases, all at one location. The service center has also increased government revenue in the eight months of its existence raising millions of Liberian dollars and over twenty nine thousand United States plus dollars ($29, 000 +).

Through the CSC, numerous local businesses migrated from the informal to the formal sector in Grand Bassa County thus providing security and secured environment for local businesses to access loans and participate in microfinance programs. The CSC has also facilitated the documentation of numerous births through the issuance of birth certificates for children between the ages 0 – 12 years old, among others.

Grand Bassa CSC Coordinator MR. Sagacious Gardor was the policy dialogue’ Speaker. His presentation highlighted successes, constraints and quantitative analysis of ongoing services provided at the CSC and other services in demand at the services center. Mr. Gardor emphasized citizens turn out and appreciation of the services provided at the CSC as achievements. The County Service Center (as at April 27, 2016) disclosed that it had provided the following services to the people:

Birth Certificate:  0- 12 years = 2,617; Married Certificate: Statutory - 35/ Traditional - 273; Psychosocial services - 865; Business Registration - 304; Letter of administration - 43; Land Deed- 66; Labour inspection - 43; Contractor licence - 2; Labour cases - 60; Agreements – 11; Other legal instrument - 19;

 

Citizens’ demands for additional services are said to be high and or yet to be deconcentrated or process completed in Grand Bassa County. MACs responsible to roll out such essential services are yet to complete arrangement for their full deconcentration and integration at the County Service Center.  These are some of the highly demanded services yet to be rolled out completely:

  • Issuance of Driver’s License
  • Issuance of License Plates
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Registration of transport related businesses
  • Import & Export Declaration
  • ECOWAS Biometric Identification Cards
  • Adult Birth Certificates
  • The Commerce Ministry signed Liberia Business Registration Form

 MACs operating under the County Services Center lack equipment, adequate funding for daily operations of the center and utility vehicle to facilitate staff movement and/or transporting documents in support of Liberia Decentralization Support Program (LDSP), and the timely delivery of other logistics, all of which have the propensity to undermine effective service delivery.

Recommendations

To improve service delivery at the County Service Centers, Mr. Gardoe put forth several recommendations including:

  1. increased awareness of the County Service Center in the Districts in both English and the local dialects;
  2. Prioritize community radio discussions;
  3. Distribution of posters in key transit areas and check points with high passenger traffic; public buildings in the districts, video clubs, and bill boards, bank buildings, school buildings, Attayi centers/shops, stadiums, restaurants, hotels, hospitals & clinics to enable people in Bassa County understand the objectives of the County Service Center.
  4. Operational funds be disbursed to facilitate maintenance and logistics of the County Service Center;
  5. Utility vehicle be provided County Service Centers to facilitate staff movement, transport documents and aid the daily logistical operational needs of the Center; and
  6. The Ministry of Transport is encouraged to deconcentrate its services. An increasing number of persons continue to make inquiries about the different services offered by the Ministry of Transport.

Levi Demah is the Superintendent of Grand Bassa County. He commended President Sirleaf for her numerous comments and commitment toward decentralization, and assured of county officials’ determination to the development of their communities.

The coordination role of the superintendent over line ministries in the counties is becoming more prominent through the CSC as staffs of ministries now regularly report to a coordinator who in turn reports to the Superintendent. This development makes it possible for the Superintendent to keep track of activities of the MACs in the county. 

According to superintendent Demah, there is need for budgetary support to the CSC either through the central ministries or appropriations to the local authority for daily operational expenses and long term sustainability; human resource management at the county level and the supervisory role of the superintendent over local staffs of the ministries; and the need for massive awareness and sensitization of the citizens on the workings of the county service center.

Mr. Demah said despite all of the difficulties on the ground, the coordinative effort between the Governance Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs will go a long way in engaging the appropriate stakeholders to develop the necessary policy frameworks to address all policy concerns emanating from the Service Center, while lessons learned from Buchanan will guide the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other partners in the roll out of new service centers across the country.

In remarks, Dr. Amos Sawyer noted that Grand Bassa County Service Center was the pioneering experience and has proven to be successful over the last several months, as confirmed by users. Dr. Sawyer observed that commendation regarding the successes of the County Service Center has redoubled government’s effort at wanting similar centers built across the country before the end of Madam Sirleaf’s leadership, and engendered County leaders’ interests in the establishment of such centers in their localities.

“We at the GC as part of the group of institutions that are working to advance decentralization, we are not into the implementation business… Ours is working with all of the agencies and listening to the people and observing how they use the center”.

Part of the County service center and the whole idea of coordinating decentralization are to build synergy that can make service delivery easily accessible to the people. Under the de-concentration phase of decentralization is the establishment of CSC across the country. So far, four CSC have been established in three of the fifteen counties. The first was established in Buchanan Grand Bassa County followed by one in Kakata Margibi County, and the third is in Gbarnga Bong County. The fourth CSC has been built in Sanniquellie Nimba County and is expected to be open soon. President Sirleaf has assured that before the end of her administration there will be at least one CSC in every county.

The passage of the Local government act is important to reinforce the effort to make decentralization process irreversible. Dr. Sawyer maintained that “if we can pass the Local government Act then the provision of services at county level, the operating of county councils, the strengthening of the hands of the superintendent, all of these will become statutory, and not depend on the president, who can use his or her discretion.”

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