SABI Conducts a Roundtable on Governance and Accountability.

 

With similar events supported in the North, South and Eastern Regions of the country, the UKAID funded SABI programme has now conducted the grand finale of roundtable, on governance and accountability in Western Area, on the 3rd of March 2021, at the Family Kingdom Resort, Lumley Beach Rd, Freetown.

Essentially, the objective of the event was to exchange learning with development partners based on what works on accountable governance in Sierra Leone.

Jeanne Kamara – Country Manager, Christian Aid Sierra Leone.

At the start of the event, Jeanne Kamara, who also served as Chairperson of the event, stated that this roundtable is a trailblazing event because it precedes the 60th anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence. She said it’s time for constructive, open and honest reflection on service delivery, and urged participants to focus on workable solutions for improved accountable governance in Sierra Leone.

She revealed that Christian Aid Sierra Leone has played an integral role in accompanying the government of Sierra Leone and other development partners in humanitarian emergencies; by providing urgent, practical help in times of crisis and beyond. She explained that Christian Aid is on a journey; to build a world free from poverty and need, a world where everyone can live with dignity. She sustained that the organisation stands together with its many networks, for a world built on love, dignity, equality and justice.

As Christian Aid, we exist for two main reasons; to expose the scandal of poverty around the world, and to challenge the structures which keep people poor. That starts with improved accountable governance and giving citizens a voice. This is why the work that SABI has done is so important;

– Jeanne Kamara – Country Manager, Christian Aid Sierra Leone.

The Country Manager disclosed that SABI being part of Christian Aid works within the strategic direction of the organisation; which includes the 3 Ps; Power, Poverty and Prophetic voice.

As a faith-based organisation, we don’t implement ourselves and we don’t indulge in mysticism. We put people first, we inspire communities, we are driven by belief and we speak out. We work only through generating evidence and through partners, our esteemed SABI project has done just that with the stack of citizens perception’s data, generated year after year.

– Jeanne Kamara – Country Manager, Christian Aid Sierra Leone.

Jeanne acknowledges the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) who has been a trusted partner of Christian Aid in Sierra Leone and internationally. She thanked Christian Aid-SABI partners for being a catalyst for communities working together and improving relationships between citizens and government at every level.

 

Kobi Bently, Head of the  Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Sierra Leone.

Kobi Bently stated that the UK government is very proud of the ground-breaking SABI programme, and all that it has achieved, in supporting local governance and accountability mechanisms, to help improve service delivery for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone.

As the programme scales down, Kobi sees this roundtable as an opportunity to look back over the period, to recognize and celebrate the success, and to reflect on the lessons learnt since 2016.

She advised that those lessons will be part of SABI’s legacy and its really important that we capture them so they can be fed back to policy and planning for service delivery at every district and at the national level.

So, one of the things that really strikes me about SABI, and I think it been a remarkable element is the way the programme has remained relevant. It was designed to be flexible and adaptive. We talk a lot about that in the development world, but not many programmes really manage it. But I believe SABI has. An example of this is how SABI rapidly generated data to inform the roll-out of the government’s flagship Free Quality School Education Initiative. I am particularly proud of the work SABI has done to empower women and girls, and people with disabilities, giving them a voice in their communities, and help drive changes in areas that can improve their lives.

– Kobi Bently, Head of FCDO, Sierra Leone.

The head of FCDO, who’s new official title is Development Director at the British High Commission; emphasized that it is worth noting that the fundamental objectives of building more accountable and inclusive governance, remains as relevant and important as ever. The UK government remains deeply committed to supporting the creation of increasingly open societies and will continue to promote the lessons that we have collectively learnt from SABI.

She extends enormous thanks to the SABI team, Christian Aid and their partners, to the many Youth Accountability Volunteers and to the citizens who engaged with SABI in communities across the country.

Saiku Bah – Team Leader, SABI – Christian Aid Sierra Leone.

Saiku Bah presented the SABI journey, noting that the programme has played a critical role in terms of getting people at the centre of the development process, since 2016.

The presentation focussed on what works, with practical instances drawn from improvement in service delivery, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion – GESI, the combined agency of citizens driving change, the benefit of low hanging fruits, the role of established structures and local partners, the significance of informing, involving and facilitating evidence-based Bottom-up approach, alignment with government priorities, working on both sides of the equation and relationship building.

The Team Leader also shared information on what to improve and recommendations going forward. This marked the starting point of exchange learning among development partners, including a round of questions and answers to deconstruct the approaches of the programme.

 

With this level of collaboration (inspired by SABI) among stakeholders at the community, district and national level, we have seen changes in how society is working. We now see increased proactiveness on the part of citizens, raising concerns relating to service delivery, and working together with their elected representatives and state service providers, to find gender-equal and socially inclusive solutions to service delivery problems.

– Saiku Bah – Team Leader, SABI – Christian Aid Sierra Leone.

 

Experiences from the Sector

 

Partners working on accountable governance at a more strategic level in Sierra Leone, including; Campaign for Good Governance, Institute for Governance Reform, Transparency International, Parliamentary Budget Office, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Decentralisation Secretariat and Westminster Foundation for Democracy; unboxed their initiatives across multiple projects, with a specific focus on their role, what worked, what didn’t, recommendations and key lessons learnt. This subsequently formed the basis of a plenary discussion that lasted for half an hour.

In a similar presentation, SABI partners; inclunding SEND Sierra Leone, RADA Sierra Leone and SLSAV, explained their role and shared experince on how they energized the key approaches of the SABI programme.

SEND Sierra Leone in the East, represented by Allieu Marrah (Programme Officer), RADA Sierra Leone in the South, represented by Ann Kargbo (Programme Manager) and SLSAV in the North, represented by Alfred Dumbuya (Executive Director) – explained what worked, what didn’t and lessons learnt in their respective regions. The presentation ended with recommendations for future accountable governance interventions.

What started as a roundtable, quickly transformed into a vibrant and responsive learning platform, with the experts sharing bright ideas, cost-effective and creative solutions that worked. The best thinkers sharing their best ideas from a sustainable development standpoint. The platform also served as an opportunity for development partners to learn the major factors that drive each other, and how this transformed into transformative programming.

 

Reflecting the role of the media, the presentation of Campaign for Good Governance -CGG, focused on the need to increase citizens participation in governance, through advocacy, capacity building and civic education in order to build a more informed civil populace and a democratic State.

Marcella Samba-Sesay – Executive Director, CGG.

Its really about voice and accountability. We need to increase the ability of civil society, media and elected representatives to enable citizens to effectively express their views and hold governments to account for their actions. Through it all, we need to reach the media and set the agenda with the right information.

– Marcella Samba-Sesay – Executive Director, CGG.

 

The Institute of Governance Reforms shared a key approach involving the use of afrobarometer to bridge the gap in accountable governance in Sierra Leone.

Andrew Lavalie – Executive Director, Institute of Governance Reforms.

Much as high-quality data matters, engagement equally matters. We need to create a platform for collaborative social accountability. We can always learn and adapt in the context.

– Andrew Lavalie – Executive Director, Institute of Governance Reforms.

BBC Media Action shared creative ideas on the power of media and communication to help reduce poverty and support people in understanding their rights.

Dr. Mamoud Tarawalie – Country Director, BBC Media Action.

Governance should be specific. What has not worked in Sierra Leone so far has to do with contextual challenges. Trying to replicate what works in other countries, if the context is fundamentally different it won’t work. Governance has to fit within and get buy-in from the people. The other problem is information disorder, misinformation and disinformation. As much as the internet has liberated information flow, what it has done is provide multiple layers for disinformation, and we don’t have a way to manage that. This has implications on governance, rights and accountability. There are challenges today about how neutral the media is, and to what extent the media represents the public interest. But information is power. With the growth of media, we can get more dialogue at every district, and increase the supply of information on health, education, social protection, energy and power.

– Dr. Mamoud Tarawalie – Country Director, BBC Media Action.

 

The Parliament Budget Office – PBO explains how simplifying complexities for members of Parliament is a major element in building a strong governance and accountability system.

Ibrahim Jimissa – Director, Parliament Budget Office.

According to the 1991 constitution, one of the requirements somebody needs to become a member of parliament is to read and write, nothing beyond that. But we also know that members of Parliament are expected to provide oversight on the activities of the legislation. Some MPs cannot breakdown complex information because they are not professionals. As such they cannot be critical when representing citizens. But this is why we exist as a Parliamentary Budget Office, we simplify complexities so members of Parliament can understand, we interpret bills to inform decision making. The Parliament Budget Office (PBO) is a critical element in the governance and accountability system.

– Ibrahim Jimissa – Director, Parliament Budget Office.

 

The Westminster Foundation for Democracy – WFD, shared a practical approach to promoting transparent and inclusive politics in Sierra Leone through supporting the operationalisation of the Government’s international commitments regarding openness and transparency.

Rev. Alusine Diamond Suma – Country Rep, WFD.

In his statement – Rev. Alusine Diamond Suma how WFD supported the Parliament of Sierra Leone to use Open Government Partnership (OGP) as a tool to promote openness, transparency and inclusion.

The country rep maintained that the need for Parliament to make itself accessible to citizens is borne out of the fact that there has been a general perception that the institution seems to be remote, inaccessible and far removed from the people it purports to represent. There has been an ever-growing need to respond to this view so that Parliament is seen visible and accessible to its constituents. WFD is focused on promoting disability inclusion in Parliament and Local Councils in Sierra Leone.

 

With a critical role in amplifying citizens voice at the national level, Focus1000 talked about their extensive engagements with MDAs and the Media.

Mr Mohamed B. Jalloh – CEO, Focus1000.

In his presentation, Mr Mohamed B. Jalloh, highlighted key achievements that demonstrate successful advocacy and engagement with MDAs at various levels.

The joint monitoring visits conducted with line ministries enabled national partners like the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education – MBSSE and the Ministry of Health, to see practical examples of challenges faced by communities on health, education and social protection. This was the starting point of our evidence-based advocacy – the CEO concluded.

Similarly, working with MDAs and Christian Aid to develop policy briefs helped increase awareness of the government’s flagship education programme and the free health care initiative.

This is how SABI inspired the erection, renovation and approval of schools and health centres, including the provision of improved services that communities are now benefiting from.

– Mr Mohamed B. Jalloh – CEO, Focus1000.

 

Accountability led by young people. Restless Development Sierra Leone presented how they engage young people across Sierra Leone with innovative ways to improve real-time data collection on service delivered in Health, Education and Social Protection, which contributed to giving young people a voice, on the issues that matter to them.

Mr. Alfred T. M. Navo – Programme Manager, Restless Development Sierra Leone.

Mr Navo explained the role of Restless Development, working through volunteers to collect Citizen Perception Data and then supports communities to use that data to demand improved services in their area. Generating credible and verifiable data (CPS) on access and utility of service delivery in priority sectors.

The roundtable ended with a reflection on each partner’s presentation and a consensus was reached on the best way to move forward. SABI was appreciated for creating the platform and for making a difference in accountable governance in Sierra Leone.

 

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