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Supporting decentralisation in Sierra Leone

The Government of Sierra Leone requested technical assistance to build the capacity of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development

Country: Sierra Leone
Host: Ministry of Local Government
Start date: 27/04/2009
End date: 03/04/2015
Policy area: Public Sector Governance
Policy expert: Munnawar Alam
Project manager: Tim Newman


After an absence of a democratically elected local government for over 30 years, new local councils were established in Sierra Leone in 2004 to work alongside traditional authorities (Chiefdom Administrations) as is common in many African countries.

Decentralisation was (is) considered as vital to improving engagement in the governance of the country and reducing poverty, both key elements for peace-building in Sierra Leone.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) has a key leadership role in the decentralisation programme, supporting policy co-ordination across government and in monitoring, co-ordinating and strengthening local government institutions. However, from its establishment MLGRD suffered from a lack of capacity to fulfil this role effectively.


The purpose of the project was therefore to strengthen the leadership and administrative capacity of the MLGRD to effectively fulfil its roles with regard to local government and decentralisation, thereby contributing to the establishment of an effective and sustainable local government system in Sierra Leone, which was able to deliver improved public services at the local level.

Commonwealth assistance has been through the provision of a local government expert, Ms Alison Sutherland, who has worked within the MLGRD to deliver programming in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) in the area of development of decentralisation policy, training of district council officials in electioneering, resource mobilisation and change management.

The expert also collaborated with donor and development partners to secure support for programmes and capacity building relating to MLGRD roles, including: UNDP (chiefdom governance; information systems and training); German International Corporation (GIZ) (local employment and district planning); Department for International Development (DFID) (decentralisation, justice and security programmes); and the European Union (EU) (human resourcing with Human Resource Management Office (HRMO) and training).


Prior to this project, donor support for decentralisation was uncoordinated with the Ministry, playing only a minor role while a parallel donor led structure (Decentralisation Secretariat) dominated implementation of work in the field. Commonwealth assistance has directly contributed to the reversal and eventual dismantling of this approach, with the Ministry now leading and coordinating all activities in the field, ensuring that the multiple local, national and international partners are all pulling in the same direction.

The project has made substantial contribution to the decentralisation and local government system, including the development and dissemination of the Ministry’s Decentralisation Strategy and the extensive training and mentoring of officials at the Ministry and throughout the local government sector, including chiefdoms.


During implementation, the project delivered a number of key outputs including:

  1. Development and dissemination of the Decentralisation Policy.
  2. Assistance in assessment and implementation of the Chieftaincy Act and the conduct of elections.
  3. Extensive training of ward committee members, district officers, councillors and chiefdom personnel.
  4. Training and mentoring of Ministry staff.
  5. Preparing and publishing of the Local Service Delivery Handbook.
  6. Concept papers submitted to the Agenda for Prosperity (A4P) Technical Working Group, covering proposals for deepening and strengthening decentralisation and chiefdom governance 2013-17.
  7. Support to the Ministry to lead in developing local council-led Local Economic Development (LED) policies and methodology.