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Paragraphs Related to the Theme Paragraphs VII Summit
Date:  5/15/2012 
Strengthening Democratic Governance
Local Government
95. An Act to make provisions for Local Government in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Local Government Act, was assented to on 5 March, 1996, and came into force on 25 June, 1996. The Act allows for the division of The Bahamas into a number of districts so that governmental services may be administered locally and thus improves effectiveness of the bureaucracy within the community.

96. Local Government, as a component of democracy within The Bahamas, is viewed as too important for unplanned growth. In the Family Islands it assists with the economic development, improves the quality of life of our citizens and encourages residents to participate in the decision-making at the community level.

97. According to the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, some of the Local Government services relate to general health and sanitation, including street cleaning, cleaning of drains, road verges and ditches, and collection and removal of refuse. To ensure compliance with The Business Licence Act, 2010, commenced 1 January, 2011 and The Planning and Subdivision Act, 2010, also commenced 1 January, 2011, the Local Government Act has been amended in order to enhance the level of governmental services for residents and visitors.

98. The Department of Lands and Local Government has undertaken a number of strategies aimed at strengthening democratic governance, namely, the establishment of an Internal Monitoring Unit, the introduction of a Local Government Junior Council and the systematic general and specific training of elected Local Government Practitioners.

I. Internal Monitoring Unit
99. The Internal Monitoring Unit (IMU) was established in January, 2009, to assist Local Government Councils in exercising the highest level of fiscal prudence.
100. The Auditor General conducts periodic audit of various districts’ accounts and provides detailed reports of deficiencies and/or omissions. However, it was determined that an intermediary unit, created to assist with improving the management of the accounts, would decrease the number of audit queries.
101. The Internal Monitoring Unit’s overarching goal of enhancing accountability, transparency and efficiency has the following objectives:
• To oversee the execution of all budgetary and financial matters related to Local Government Districts;
• To ensure that the District Council and Administrator’s Office manage their financial and human resources and other assets under their control in a manner consistent with the Local Government Act and other established polices and guidelines for Local Government;
• To evaluate, on an ongoing and systematic basis, the performance of individual Districts in pursuit of their statutory and policy obligations;
• To regularly report on the collective and individual performance of Local Government Districts on matters related to the accountable use of public resources;
• To investigate and report immediately to relevant Authorities, any actual or perceived irregularities in the management of Local Government finances or breaches in administrative guidelines;
• To ensure that Local Government record keeping and reports are sufficient and appropriate to permit successful audits by the Auditor General and other external auditors; and
• To make recommendations to the relevant Authorities on methods for improving the administration of Local Government either in specific Districts or on a systematic basis.

102. The Unit’s successes within the various Districts led to the Financial Secretary requesting that it become a Department within the Ministry of Finance. Hence, in February, 2012, the monitoring functions of the Department of Lands and Local Government’s IMU, along with its assigned staff, became a part of the Ministry of Finance’s Family Island Internal Audit Section.
II. Local Government Junior Council Programme
103. The introduction of the Local Government Junior Council Programme is viewed as a critical avenue through which Bahamian youth can be engaged to fully recognize the importance of their commitment and investment as leaders in a future Bahamas to influence our development.
104. The Programme’s goal of building a strong cadre of young people with Local Government experience has the following objectives:

a. Capacity building of potential candidates - Enhance the skills and talents of young people for leadership within their local communities to increase the pool of candidates for future Local Government Elections;

b. Encourage citizens’ participation in the decision-making process of government - Through civics and personal development instructions, students’ (and their communities) understanding of governance in The Bahamas and what it means to be Bahamian will be improved; and,
c. Encourage greater womens’ participation in Local Government.
III. Training of Elected Local Government Practitioners
105. The goal of the various training interventions is to build capacity and provide practitioners with the skills and knowledge necessary to strengthen leadership roles within the various Districts. Objectives include, but are not limited to:
• Providing an opportunity to increase practitioners’ understanding of new and amended legislation impacting upon the delivery of services in the Family Islands;
• Equipping practitioners with the knowledge and skills necessary to strengthen the participation in the various democratic processes, thereby providing more efficient services in a contracting economy;
• Making practitioners aware of the role of international and local Agencies in energizing economic development; and
• Providing the venue for networking of practitioners.
106. The Department of Lands and Local Government encouraged the establishment of the Bahamas Association of Local Government Authorities (BALGA). The Association is comprised of Chief and Deputy Chief Councilors from the thirty-two (32) Districts. It has a Constitution which identifies its purpose, mission statement and objectives, which are:
• Purpose: To make representation to the Central Government on behalf of Local Government Districts while enhancing the Council’s delivery of effective services through best practices.
• Mission Statement: Building a Country through the empowerment of a people by the implementation of an orderly system of government and collective participation.
• Objectives :
? To assist in strengthening the partnership between Central and Local Government and relationship between Local Government and its constituents;
? To strengthen the partnership between the Department of Local Government, the Bahamas Association of Local Government Authorities (B.A.L.G.A), the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (C.A.L.G.A), while promoting a system of orderly local governance;
? To partner with regional Local Government Associations to develop a mutually beneficial regional policy and frame-work for co-operation;
? To encourage the strictest adherence to the Financial Administration & Audit Act, 2010 and the Local Government Act, 1996 of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
? To have The Bahamas Association of Local Government Authorities registered with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum - London, England;
? To assist in and promote the continued education of Local Government practitioners;
? To maintain the capacity to influence the Central Government’s implementation policies and legislative amendments regarding the continued development of Local Government throughout The Bahamas;
? To assist and partner with Councils in the creation of social programs that promote the economic growth and development of Local Government Districts;
? To liaise with Central Government on any and all matters impacting the Council’s delivery of effective services to Local Government Districts;
? To enlist, train, employ or make use of such personnel as are necessary for the purposes of accomplishing the objectives of the Association;
? To embark on any number of fundraising drives for the purposes of conducting all financial transactions on behalf of the Association;
? To assist schools, youth and other social organizations through grants and other contributions in order to facilitate improvement to the social fiber of society at the local level; and,
? To encourage Island-specific associations in cases where there are multi-local Government Districts (i.e. Andros, Grand Bahama), so that regional strength is increased.
Paragraphs: 79 Paragraphs VII Summit: -

Date:  5/15/2012 
I. Civil Society access to governance structures
107. The Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Legal Affairs have indicated that, with respect to Civil Society, the following legislative reforms have been undertaken:
? The Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Act, 2011, commenced 29 July, 2011. Following the passage of the 2011 Act, the accessibility of Civil Society to governance structures has improved significantly. This Act allows citizens who are living overseas to engage in the paramount political process by having the ability to vote at a number of designated locations outside of The Bahamas.

? The Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Act, 2012, has completed the Parliamentary process but is in the final stages prior to Assent and publication. This Act will enable the participation of International Bodies to serve as observers during the electoral process.

II. Fighting corruption

108. In an effort to further strengthen the fight against crime particularly as it relates to the elimination of corruption, The Bahamas ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention), on 26 September, 2008. The Office of the Attorney General is reviewing the Penal Code in preparation to draft the necessary amendments in order to criminalize the participation in an organized criminal group, as required by the Palermo Convention.

109. To further strengthen the elimination of corruption, The Bahamas has ratified the following Protocols, on 26 September, 2008:

a. Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air;
b. Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components; and,
c. Protocol against the Trafficking in Persons.

110. The Government of The Bahamas has strengthened the legislative agenda through the passage and amendment of several pieces of legislation in order to eliminate corruption in the public and private sectors.

a. The Customs Management (Amendment) Act, 2009, became law 1 July, 2009, and The Customs Management (Amendment) Act, 2011, became law 5 December, 2011, and both seek to ensure that adequate and proper accounting is completed for goods brought into the Country via the ports of entry. In this regard, collection of the Government’s revenue will be enhanced.

b. The Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) (Amendment) Act, 2009, became law 4 January, 2010. This Act allows for ease of cooperation between The Bahamas and other jurisdictions, especially as it relates to the proceeds of crime, including elements of corruption, criminal enterprise and transnational crime.

c. The Business Licence Act, 2010, which became law 1 January, 2011, and The Business Licence (Amendment) Act, 2011, which became law 1 January 2012, are model pieces of legislation which created an advanced system for conducting business throughout The Bahamas. These Acts incorporate the ‘Know Your Customer” rules and hence have improved transparency within the business and economic market.
Paragraphs: 79, 80 Paragraphs VII Summit: -

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