Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Noel Arscott, says a Bill to facilitate entrenchment of the local government structure in Jamaica’s Constitution, is to be tabled in Parliament shortly.
This action forms a pivotal part of the process of local government reform, currently being embarked on by the administration.
Speaking at the first in a series of Town Hall meetings, Mr. Arscott said Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, has given him an assurance about the Bill’s advancement.
The meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, and its agency, the Social Development Commission (SDC), at the Jose Marti High School in St. Catherine, on Wednesday (October 17).
“Just last week, I spoke with the Justice Minister (about) the laws and programmes that we have advanced from the Ministry. He advised me that the Bill to provide for the entrenchment of the Local Government system in the Jamaican Constitution, will be tabled in Parliament in the very near future,” he informed.
Mr. Arscott said the Justice Minister further advised that the Ministry has completed work on three strategic laws to guide the new system.
“As soon as we receive comments from the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Legal Reform Unit, Cabinet will be in a position to issue drafting instructions for the new legislation to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel,” the Local Government Minister informed.
He further advised that the long awaited Building Bill has been amended, “after some consultations,” and is now with the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. He pointed out that these new laws will provide for the establishment of Local Public Accounts Committees within the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), and the Portmore Municipal Council, which will function in a manner akin to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Mr. Arscott said local government reform has been ongoing for some 17 years, and emphasised that, “it is full time to give legal authority to real people participation in governance.”
The Minister argued that the system of governance is currently “at a cross roads,” with citizens making greater demands and having higher expectations of the government, at the local and central levels.
He argued that a system of good governance is characterised through partnerships between communities and the government in developing and monitoring national policies, decisions and plans, “which reflect broad participation, genuine engagement, consultation, transparency, accountability, and general respect for the rule of law and human rights.”
Mr. Arscott pointed out that by virtue of his Ministerial appointment, he has been entrusted with the responsibility of guiding the “strategic policy direction” of the local government system, in partnership with the Ministry’s various agencies, and other key stakeholders.
“This administration is committed to building that partnership that will result in people centred development. Ultimately (the) people must feel that they have a stake in the mission,” he said.
The meeting, which was attended by members of community, civic and business groups, was held under the theme – ‘Government and Governance’. The scheduled series of fora will provide Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, and other members of the Cabinet and Government, with the opportunity to engage the public on a range of topical issues.
They will also provide an opportunity for relevant government agencies to update the public on programmes and initiatives specific to the local and parish levels.