Local Government Reform 2013 Onward
At this point in time the main elements of the reform process are the promulgation of three (3) strategic laws; the entrenchment of the Local Government system in the Constitution; the promulgation of the new National Building Bill; and the Local Economic Development (LED) programme.
Three Strategic Laws
The Government of Jamaica has over the past seventeen years pursued a programme of Local Government Reform aimed at fundamentally transforming the Local Government System in Jamaica. In this regard, there is a Report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Local Government Reform. This Committee was established in 2003 to advise Parliament on issues related to Local Government Reform.
There has been extensive consultation with stakeholders including major political parties, trade unions, private sector, civil society, noted academics and relevant government agencies, facilitated by a National Advisory Council (NAC) on Local Government Reform. The NAC has documented the results of the consultations and through further research has produced an Interim and a Final Report.
One of the fundamental recommendations of the NAC Report is the need for comprehensive revision of the legislations relating to Local Government. There are some eighty (80) Laws relating to local government, many of which are dated in the 19th Century and require revision. However, given the limited capacity to undertake such a task, three pieces of legislation have been identified as critical to achieving the goals of a reformed local governance system.”
The proposal has the support of all stakeholder groups that have been consulted. Enactment of these Laws by Parliament is a key element in fulfilling the Government’s commitment to Local Government Reform.
1. The Local Governance Act
This Act will be created by consolidating several existing Acts, which will all be repealed with appropriate grandfather provisions once the new legislation is enacted. In addition, the new Act introduces several new concepts and tenets which reflect a modern approach to local governance and which strengthen local self-management. This will cause Local Authorities to be more autonomous and responsive to their citizenry. The new Act will also seek to reconcile several anomalies and repair the deficiencies of the existing Acts below-mentioned. Existing Acts that are to be consolidated are as follows:
· The Parish Councils Act (1887)
· The Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation Act (1923)
· The Municipalities Act (2003)
· The Parochial Elections (Modifications) Act (1979)
2. The Local Government Financing and Financial Management ACT
This proposed Act will consolidate several existing Acts, which will all be repealed once the new legislation is enacted. The new Act will require Local Authorities to adopt modern, internationally accepted public sector accounting and financial management practices and to be guided by domestic financial legislations, national fiscal policies and accountability standards.
Specific existing laws that are to be consolidated into the new legislation are:
· The Parochial Rates and Finance Act
· The Loans (Local Authorities ) Act
· The Kingston and St. Andrew (Loans) Act
· Part VIII (on finance) of the KSAC Act
· Provisions in the Financial Administration and Audit (FAA) Act,
· The Public Bodies Management and Accountability (PBMA) Act, and
· The Contractor General’s Act will, where relevant, be reflected in the legislation, to ensure that Local Authorities are compliant with national guidelines.
3. The Local Government (Unified Services and Employment) ACT
This Act will be created by consolidating five (5) existing Acts which relate to human resources management issues in respect of staff employed in the services of Local Authorities. The new Act will address issues that are critical to establishing a competent work-force, with the requisite skills, orientation and commitment.
Existing Acts that are to be consolidated in the new legislation are as follows:
The Parish Councils (Unified Services) Act
The Municipal Services Commission Act
The Poor Relief Officers (Unified Services) Act
The Municipal Officers (Surcharge) Act
The Pensions (Parochial Officers) Act
ENTRENCHMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN THE CONSTITUTION
This will offer protection to the Local Government System.
It will no longer be the singular remit of the Minister to dissolve Local Government in whole or in part. It will demonstrate the commitment of the Administration to local government as a critical ingredient of the national governance process by providing it with constitutional protection.
The constitutional amendment to have the Local Government System entrenched in the Constitution is being carried by the Minister of Justice.
NATIONAL BUILDING ACT
The purpose of the new National Building Bill is to provide a modern legal framework for the effective regulation and management of buildings and building related activity, to ensure safety in the built environment and the promotion of sustainable development. This piece of legislation is urgent since current laws and related building codes are too outdated to apply to modern construction. The new Bill will operationalize a new National Building Code as a separate set of documents which can be more easily updated and amended where necessary and will therefore reduce the risk to the built environment from natural disasters.
· The reduction in structures and agencies exempt from the requirements of the Act,
· The streamlining of the applications process through recognizing the connection between building, sub-division and environmental approvals,
· Increase in penalties for breaches and identifying the role of registered building professionals in the process.
LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (LED)
The LED programme will provide a springboard for the transformation of communities throughout the country. This programme will provide the opportunity to achieve meaningful economic growth and job creation.
Resources for the Jamaica LED programme will include funding from CIDA Caribbean Local Economic Development Program (CARILED) for the pilot parishes. Funding includes salaries for a National Country Coordinator and four Local Economic Development Officers in each of the four selected pilot parishes and support for preparation of LED Parish Plans. The Ministry will be pursuing other opportunities to obtain external support for LED.
The six parishes shortlisted for the CariLED pilot project are Manchester, Westmoreland, St. Catherine, Kingston & St. Andrew, St. Elizabeth, Clarendon. Each parish will have a local economic development plan targeted to support public/private partnerships, community based enterprises, local cooperatives, producer organizations. Local Authorities will work in close collaboration with Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including SDC and local stakeholders including MSMEs and organizations that facilitate community based enterprises.