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Sierra Leone

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made with (a) governance reform and (b) transparent economic management, including the transparent management of diamonds, in Sierra Leone. [113639]

The Government of Sierra Leone is taking forward a wide-ranging programme of governance reform. In particular it has established an Anti-Corruption Commission, addressed essential reforms in the security sector, and begun the important process of decentralisation. Progress is being made, but is affected by limitations on local capacity.Support for governance reform is central to our assistance to Sierra Leone. We provide extensive support for reform in the security sector, including the armed forces, police and intelligence services. We are also supporting the Governance Reform Secretariat (GRS), which reports to the Office of the President and leads co-ordination of both central and local government reform. Through the GRS we have supported diagnostic studies of four key ministries to provide guidance on measures to improve their effectiveness. A second phase of this programme is being designed. We have assisted the re-establishment of the chieftaincy system. We are also assisting with the preparations for local elections and plans for decentralisation of government. We provide substantial support for the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission, strengthening of the judiciary and law reform, and media development. We are designing major projects to promote access to justice and to strengthen the role of civil society.

The Government of Sierra Leone has made significant progress in economic management, which has been acknowledged by the international financial institutions. We are working to help improve public financial management. We are represented on a donor/government public financial management working group which has been established to oversee improvements in a number of key areas including internal and external audit, financial management information systems, and procurement procedures. We plan to provide assistance to the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to help ensure transparent economic management of government and donor funds. We have also supported Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys.

A UK adviser to the President has prepared a draft strategy for the diamond sector. We plan to work with the Government of Sierra Leone and other donors to gain broad commitment to implementation of the strategy.