Government Ministers attend the opening ceremony of the Annual Local Government Conference held at the Wyndham Nassau Resort on Monday, October 29. Seated left: Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources the Hon. Larry Cartwright, Minister of Tourism and Aviation the Hon. Neko Grant and Minister of Housing and National Insurance the Hon. Ken Russell. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)
By: Llonella Gilbert
NASSAU, Bahamas – One of the major highlights of the annual Local Government Conference which will take place from Monday, October 29 to Wednesday, October 31, 2007 will be the selection of the Chief Councillor of the Year.
In addition, there will also be awards for the Most Outstanding Councillor of the Year and the Practitioner of the Year. First and second runners-up in each division will also be honoured.
Minister of Lands and Local Government the Hon. Sidney Collie announced the establishment of these awards at a press conference at the Ministry’s office Friday.
Over 250-plus participants are expected at the conference inclusive of Family Island Administrators, Chief Councillors and their Deputies, Township Committee Chairpersons and their Deputies along with other elected officials who will attend in the capacity of observers.
Mr. Collie said, “In order to arrive at these selections, a committee (made up of individuals from the Ministry) is going through the record of performance.
“The committee has to look at and evaluate the record of performance of the individual practitioners, as well as the record of performance of the individual councils in order to arrive at a winner.”
Mr. Collie explained that the awards would be a welcomed feature by the councils as well as the practitioners, adding that the Ministry hopes to make this a staple of the annual conference.
Permanent Secretary Harrison Thompson said this award is also part of getting Local Government officials prepared for a performance evaluation that the Ministry is planning to put in place.
Mr. Thompson said, “When we talk about performance evaluation, as you know Local Government has been instituted from 1996 and every year we try to look at how we can improve the product of Local Government, so we will look at the performance of the Councillors and their practitioners.
“We hope as we evaluate their performance, we would be able to project a better product to the community at large and to the country,” he noted.
With regard to the upcoming conference, Mr. Collie explained that it will encourage local authorities to work across geographic boundaries, particularly on issues like economic development and environmental sustainability.
“Working within the framework of strong, strategic districts and regions,” he said, “my Ministry believes that Local Government Councils or authorities will be better equipped to drive forward sustainable economic development if they work together.
“For we believe in the principle that the greater the powers being devolved, the greater the premium on clear, transparent and accountable leadership.”
Mr. Collie noted that it is under this new framework that the ministry seeks to establish the performance evaluation programme to monitor the performance of local authorities and make them more accountable for their actions.
Other features of the conference that will be held at the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino are the ministerial roundtable, information and discussion on the Introduction of Local Government to New Providence and working sessions for Family Island Administrators on financial matters.
Mr. Collie pointed out that participants will be able to interact, dialogue and question Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham and members of his Cabinet at the ministerial roundtable.
He added, “Although the conference will focus heavily on Family Island development, participants will have the opportunity to discuss the implementation of Local Government for New Providence, which is a policy objective outlined in my Government’s Trust Agenda – 2007.
“During this discussion it is anticipated that participants will again gain some insight and appreciation for the difference between the new concept of local government in the Family Islands for New Providence,” Mr. Collie said.