The Thorne Commission on local governance is expected to submit the ideas it has gathered from Barbadians both online and from the town hall meetings held to promote the People’s Assemblies by November 30 – Independence Day.
Speaking at the virtual meeting for the parish of St. Thomas, commissioner Krystle Howell revealed: “We asked when people wanted to see such a government implemented, and given our feedback, we are aiming to have the proposals with everyone’s input given to Government by November 30, so we can consider it a gift to Barbados for independence.”
During the discussion, commissioner David Comissiong, Ambassador to CARICOM, spoke of the oversight committees that will form a significant part of the People’s Assemblies’ operations in managing public services rendered by central government departments.
He said: They will take some responsibility to ensure government organisations like the Transport Board, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Barbados Water Authority, Police and court system, maintain high standards of service. Protocols will be established to outline how they will engage with management of these agencies, so both sides will know the procedures.
“The oversight committee will be able to scrutinise the operations, take complaints from the public, call meetings with the management of the institution to discuss the complaints and issues raised, come up with solutions and get commitments from the management, to follow up and see whether the measures were agreed upon and implemented, and then report to the community or general public.”
It was also revealed that assembly members will not be paid and the assemblies will receive funding from central government, but any other sources of financing they decide to accept are to be carefully monitored. The assemblies are also expected to report to the Auditor General.
“We must emphasise that assembly men and women will not be paid; you are being asked to give back to your community as a national duty,” Comissiong said.
Commission chairman Ralph Thorne said: “The assemblies will get an annual grant, a modest amount, from central government, and in addition, they will have the power to engage in fundraising activities, and if businesses in the area like their work and are willing to make donations to assist them on any given projects, we will make provision for that.
“Obviously there will need to be proper rules and regulations, so the Auditor General will come in here to ensure everything is above board.”
Member of Parliament for St. Thomas Cynthia Forde speaking in support of the Government-mandated assemblies, said that ideally they should build on the other community agencies that have existed for years and revive traditional community spirit.
She told the meeting: “There is rich talent in every community and the People’s Assemblies should help to strengthen what exists and build others. No one knows communities better than those who have lived there for years.
“In the past we had community groups who did an excellent job, and this spirit of volunteerism has taken us this far.
“We had lodges when I was a child where we saved money, we had development councils, we had neighbourhood watches, district emergency organisation; for example, after Hurricane Janet in 1955 everyone came out to help the communities.
“We have done it before, we can do it again and we can see who are the emerging leaders as we go through this. Years ago no one waited on politicians to come in and get things done in their communities; they came together and helped themselves.” (DH)