Decentralization in Sierra Leone: Impact, Constraints and Prospects.


DFID Sierra Leone and other donors have been supporting a long term project to re-establish decentralised governance in the towns and districts of Sierra Leone. Local councils have now been in operation for seven years and are set to receive greater fiscal transfers from central government. With options now opening up to channel additional resources through decentralised local councils, this study was commissioned to assess: (a) the impact of local councils on the delivery of pro-poor development, particularly the delivery of basic services and on opportunities for poor people to articulate their voice; (b) the institutional strategies and power relationships that affect local councils' capacity to fulfil this design purpose. The fundamental question here is whether elected local councils have provided a more effective means – or perceived to be more effective – of delivering development outcomes and responding to the needs of the poor.

Specific questions addressed in the study:

  • Have local councils had a material impact on development outcomes in terms of the delivery of basic services?
  • Have local councils improved pro-poor decision making and enhanced poor people's voice in local level political structures?
  • To what degree have local councils used their power to deliver development outcomes that would not otherwise have taken place?
  • To what degree have established local power networks particularly chiefs ? been affected by the establishment of local councils?
  • What are the major constraints upon making local councils more powerful actors in delivering pro-poor development and enhancing poor people's voice in local decision making?
  • How do local people and civil society groups perceive local council operations, particularly in comparison and contrast to existing chieftaincy structures?

Successive sections of the report analyse findings from the four research components (literature review, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and a quantitative survey of 600 questionnaires covering four districts: Bo, Bombali, Kono and Western Area Rural District (WARD)). The report concludes with responses to the main research questions. A full version of the literature review is annexed along with the tabulated survey results.


Fanthorpe, R.; Lavali, A.; Sesay, M. G. Decentralization in Sierra Leone: Impact, Constraints and Prospects. Fanthorpe Consultancy, Purley, UK (2011) 105 pp.

Decentralization in Sierra Leone: Impact, Constraints and Prospects.

Published 1 January 2011