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A draft constitutional amendment that will allow for the entrenchment of Local Government is now ready.
This was announced yesterday (June 24), by Minister of State, in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Local Government Reform, Robert Montague, during his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.
“The constitutional entrenchment will finally set the legal basis for local government to be a separate sphere of Government,” the State Minister explained.
Mr. Montague said there are plans to merge some 17 pieces of legislation to create one Local Authority Act that would define the role and responsibility of the local authority; re-define the role of the Municipal Services Commission and the Local Authority in managing their human resources; define the role and function of councillors and set the standards for a code of ethics and a code of conduct to guide the relationship between councillors and the public.
“We also seek to remove the various anomalies that exist in these laws,” the State Minister said.
Mr. Montague also informed that there are plans to establish a Municipal Police Force and a Municipal Court to enforce and regulate local and municipal laws.
Already, over 60 municipal officers have been trained at the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Training Academy at Twickenham Park and have been deployed.
“We are moving to train an additional 135 officers, so that all councils will have officers, and an on-going training programme implemented. The officers assist the councils in revenue enhancement,” Mr. Montague said.
“We also intend to conclude discussions with the Ministry of Justice towards the establishment of the Municipal Court,” he added.
Mr. Montague said there are plans to install a Financial Management Information System in eight additional Councils by September 2009. This, he said, is to ensure sound, prudent and accurate management of the financial affairs of the councils.
Three councils have already installed the system. In addition to this measure, stringent deadlines have been set for all councils to have their accounts up-to-date by the end of October 2008.
“Failure to do same will see the cutting of funding to Councils for Central Government,” Mr. Montague said, adding that “councillors and citizens must now ensure that Secretary/Manager and staff meet this deadline, otherwise their council may not have funds for Christmas work.”