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JIS News

The long awaited reform of Jamaica’s Local Government system, to empower the Councils to be more efficient and responsive, is expected to be completed in June, 2010.
Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) with responsibility for Local Government Reform, Hon. Robert Montague, informs JIS News that the extended timeline is achievable, and “we are working assiduously to come in before time.”
Highlighting some of his achievements since assuming responsibility for the process in October, 2007, Mr. Montague listed the establishment of parish public accounts committees to review expenditure within the Parish Councils, and the revenue workshops which have been held, as the Councils prepare to contribute 30 per cent of their budget from their own resources.
“We have moved to expedite the treatment of the whole building permit systems. We are now operating at a 97 per cent success turnaround rate within 90 days of application, in getting your building permit back from the council. We are moving to tweak that to give you 100 per cent,” he posits.
“We have moved to begin the process of writing 20-year developmental plans, and we have moved to have a number of consultations with the communities, (through) town hall meetings, etcetera,” he explains.
He also added that all Parish Development Committees (PDCs) have been re-established, and a national PDC will also be established.
The primary objective of Local Government Reform is to create a strong, viable and effective system to deepen the democratic process, and empower citizens to participate more fully and directly in the process of governance and in the management of their own affairs.
The State Minister notes that the process which should have been completed within a 24 month period, since assuming responsibility, was extended beyond October 2009, based on “unforeseen circumstances.”
“One of the major reasons, we were to do an organisational review and we ran into some procurement problems in getting a consultant on board,” he explains. Additionally, he says that consultations with the Ministry of Justice in establishing a municipal court, took longer than anticipated.
He is calling on Jamaicans to get involved in the Local Government Reform process, as the aims and objectives will not be fully realised without the public’s input and support.
“We are making an appeal to members of the wider public to be more active, to be more proactive, and to not only use the Councils and the channels that are available as places of complaints, but also to forward new and innovative ideas as to how governance can be better executed in the various parishes. So we are making an appeal for the general public to play a more active role in the whole reform process, so that the Councils can be more responsive to their needs,” he informs JIS News.
Mr. Montague says that several strategies are being undertaken to reduce expenditure. For example, some of the requisite skills that would have been required from private contractors have been compressed, and some of the training pushed back.
On completion, he expects the Councils to be more responsive, with the capacity to undertake jobs and meet the expectation of the citizens in the various parishes. The reform process is being funded from the national budget.
Among some of the measures to be adopted as part of the process, will be the return of certain functions to the Parish Councils, including the calculation of Councillors’ pensions and the payments for street lighting to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).
The implementation of a sustained public education programme, to facilitate greater dialogue between citizens and elected officials, will also be high on the agenda.

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