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From Municipalities Up, With the CEP

Public employees graduate from a program that helps them take financial and strategic thinking back to their municipalities.

By Raissa Batakji

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A municipality employee receives his Municipal Administration and Finance Diploma from LAU and Muhanna Foundation leaders.

Nearly 50 public employees from all over the country marched into Irwin Hall in caps and gowns for a ceremony celebrating their completion of the Municipal Administration and Finance Diploma (MAFD), which gives them a thorough education in managing offices, finances and projects on the municipal level of government. The program is run by LAU’s Continuing Education Program (CEP) in collaboration with the Muhanna Foundation

The program – which just completed its fifth year – “empowers municipalities to fulfill their constitutional obligations,” according to CEP Director Charbel Azar. It is the only diploma of its kind in the Middle East and is open to employees within Lebanese municipalities or municipality unions.

“This program fills the gaps between the market and academia by looking at what the market needs and what academia does not currently provide,” Azar said. “The MAFD is one example of how we, as part of an academic institution, fill the gap in the market.”

“Training and empowering municipal employees is a necessity for democratic systems, as the municipal employees interact directly with citizens on the ground and work to fulfill their needs,” he added.

Indeed, the program has received major support from local governments around Lebanon. In a recorded message, Mina Mayor Abdel Kader Alameddine said that training employees with the MAFD will help his city modernize, which will create more interest from tourists and lead to more jobs for locals. 

During his speech, Audit Court Judge Elie Maalouf, who is an instructor in the program, told the crowd that one of the outcomes of the MAFD is increased transparency on the municipal level, which has a direct and positive impact on the way Lebanon is governed from the ground up. Assistant Provost for Special External Projects Wassim Shahin agreed, and added that the course is part of LAU honoring the third pillar of its Third Strategic Plan – LAU Without Borders – in which the university serves its community by spreading knowledge outside its gates. Shahin, who was present representing Provost George Najjar, also noted the high number of previous graduates who have received promotions at their municipalities after finishing the diploma.

Chairman of the Muhanna Foundation Board Ibrahim Muhanna took the podium to thank LAU for its role in the program and noted that it was the first institution in Lebanon to embrace the idea of such a diploma for municipal employees.

He then addressed Hadi Deek, who was at the event representing the minister of the interior in his capacity as municipal auditor, proposing that the course be made mandatory for all new municipal employees in the country.

Deek, who himself graduated from the program three years ago, confirmed that his ministry believes in the promise and strength of the diploma and addressed the graduating cohort with his conviction that they “have the potential to raise the standards of the municipalities and revive the whole country,” noting how municipal employees in other countries are required to obtain similar degrees as part of their job training. The Interior Ministry currently sends several employees per year to obtain their MAFD.

One of the graduating municipality employees was Rita Bkasin of Tannourine. She said she felt that the program empowered her with a thorough understanding of the relations between the municipality and the Interior Ministry on one hand, and with the local community on the other. “We can no longer say that we are lacking the knowledge, as this program has been very comprehensive,” she said. “Our challenge now is to put this information to use.” 

For Dr. Sumayya El Ahmadieh of the Union of Jurd El A’la Municipalities of Bhamdoun, her learning will not end here. “We are still closely in contact with the professors who taught us here at LAU, as they have offered their consultation for any questions we may have in the future,” she said, adding how thankful she is for the program mentors’ genuine commitment.

 

 

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