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Call For Views On Local Government

THE National Advisory Committee (NAC) is asking the public to weigh in on proposals for local government in New Providence.

Last week, The Tribune reported concerns by retired Abaco publisher David Ralph, who suggested government take a closer look at the successes and frustrations of the Family Island local government system before it pressed on with a New Providence roll-out.

NAC chairman Senator Ranard Henfield acknowledged Mr Ralph's concerns.

"It makes no sense telling community leaders to be innovative and to address the problems if you don't clearly legislate that they have the authority, sufficient revenue streams, adequate facilities and proper training," he said.

"Mr Ralph and his wife are extremely passionate Bahamians and more specifically, Family Islanders that want to continue significantly contributing to the development of their district and the country at large.

"The NAC read his article and we reached out to him because we appreciate his frustration with the Family Island local government system.

"The inability to raise revenue, the fact that so much of its allocation goes for salaries and the times when those impacted by certain decisions did not have a say in that decision-making process is frustrating.

"To add insult to injury," Mr Henfield said, "imagine residents seeing hundreds of millions of dollars leave their district for the capital to only get pittance returned. It's enough to discourage the best of us."

The NAC committee has reportedly spent the past five months researching, debating and creating an effective local framework for the New Providence system.

NAC executives also met with the Auditor General on Friday where discussions focused on key elements of the committees' proposals, including a structure which would allow local government councils or districts to raise revenue themselves and have the autonomy to address their own needs out of that revenue.

"We have been getting essential feedback on how public finances are audited," said Brenda Bullard-Colebrooke, acting director of the Ministry of Local Government.

"One of the most critical issues for us is accountability and transparency for the local government structure."

This week, the committee plans to engage the Bahamian people through a sustained media campaign, appearing on various local radio shows, to share some of its research and considerations along with its short to long term goals for implementation and re-evaluation.

Mr Henfield said: "From our focus groups, we've learned that many Nassuvians are not fully knowledgeable about local government or its functions.

"Our proposal includes implementing this strong local government structure in 2020, but we know how important it is to seek input from the wider community. I always remind persons I meet that when we are appointed or elected, we don't become know-it-alls.

The NAC has created a Facebook page where people can send questions,. The public can also send emails to LGNP2020@gmail.com.

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