JIS News

The Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport is hosting a series of workshops aimed at enhancing the job skills of the parish councils’ staff, in the government’s bid to improve service delivery at that level.These workshops, which got underway in March of this year, target various personnel within the parish councils, ranging from Mayors to Secretaries, and form part of the Ministry’s Parish Infrastructure Development Programme (PIDP).
“The objective of [the workshops] is to build capacity in the local authorities so that in a reformed environment, the authorities can be better equipped to carry out the additional responsibilities that are expected in a more decentralised arrangement,” Project Manager of the PIDP, Clive Edwards explains to JIS News.
The PIDP, jointly funded by the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), began in September 1999. It is designed to improve the capacity of the local authorities, deliver basic services and maintain the parish infrastructure in a sustainable manner, within the context of the government’s Local Government Reform Programme.
Mr. Edwards points out that both local and international consultants were sourced to lead the workshops, which cover relevant topics, such as financial management, business writing, how to better plan and conduct meetings.
The first phase of the workshops, which involved a number of financial management sessions, have been held, and several others are to be staged until the end of the year, Mr. Edwards tells JIS News.
“We have done phase one of the council training and we will be doing phase two soon,” he informs.Staff members serving in various positions in all the 13 parish councils across the country, are slated to participate in the 20 workshops the Ministry is projecting will take place up to September 2006.
Mr. Edwards explains that prior to arriving at the content now being taught in the workshops, a needs analysis was done to determine the lapses in the job functions of the various personnel working in the parish councils. “There was also consultation with the local authorities to come up with the final design we are implementing now,” he adds.
He says that in the completed first phase, council training entailed a three-day retreat with mayors, minority leaders and their delegates, and that key elements such as “the council’s role as institution builder, as a policy maker, as a team leader, as communicator” were identified.
“We went through those roles and it was interactive, so we worked on action plans for issues and challenges to effect better local governance. At the end of that training session, we came out with tools to go forward,” he notes.
Policy reform is another component of the PIDP and according to Mr. Edwards, this reform examines the “amendment of priority laws as well as looking at the whole entrenchment in the Constitution of local government and that is a very comprehensive, detailed and expensive aspect of the programme”.
He points out that a legal consultant has been brought on board, and “we are trying to catch up on that aspect of the programme”.
Assessments of parish council staff participating in the workshops have shown positive results. “The evaluations certainly show that and the feedback has been very positive,” he notes, adding that “we have adopted the philosophy that ‘if you are not doing it, you have not learnt it’, so for each intervention, we have created a follow-up programme”.
Mr. Edwards tells JIS News that surveys for the follow-up programmes will provide more formal information as to the effectiveness of the workshops.
Explaining how the follow-up programme works, he says “we like to go back in, and three months after for example, in the case of business writing, we start doing surveys to see how the participants’ report writing has changed”.
“These survey instruments are very in-depth and almost intrusive, in that we ask questions of not only persons who did the training, but the people they report to, and the people who observe them in their work,” Mr. Edwards adds.
While the PIDP is slated to conclude in September of next year,Mr. Edwards says the local government reform process does not end with the programme.
“The Ministry, of course, will in its own way find its methodology to continue,” he points out.