Experts brainstorm on local governance reforms

xxxxxPanellists at a roundtable on Local Governance Reforms and Public Service Institutions have called for reforms in the country’s decentralisation programme to enhance local development.

They raised issues such as policy deficits, capacity gaps, inadequate funding, service delivery deficits, decentralisation policy discontinuity and resistance by officials of central government to devolve power to the grassroots, as some of the challenges facing the decentralisation programme which needed reforms.

The panellists, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi, former Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Dr Esther Ofei-Aboagye, former Director of the Institute of Local Government Studies, Dr Nana Ato Arthur, Head of the Local Government Service and a Development Consultant, Mawuena Dotse, made the call at a roundtable on Local Governance Reforms and Public Service Institutions in Accra on Wednesday.

The programme, organised by the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) and sponsored by Open Society Initiative for  West Africa (OSIWA) and Oxfam was on the theme, “Three Decades of Decentralised Local Governance in Ghana:  Retrospect and Prospects,” was to come out with suggestions to further deepen decentralisation in the country to accelerate local development.

Among, other things, the panellists suggested that power should be devolved from the Central Government to the   Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to decide their own development programmes and also the MMDAs should be well financially resourced to enable them deliver on their mandate.

Professor Ahwoi expressed concern about the creation of more districts by the government, and said it could pose financial burden to the economy, stressing that “current 254 MMDAs districts were too many and if we don’t take care every town in the country will become a district.”

Prof Ahwoi stressed that the decentralisation had helped to bring development to every part of the country, but said the government should focus on addressing the administrative, political, financial and infrastructure challenges facing the MMDAs.

Dr Ofei-Aboagye for her part, called for a closer collaboration between the MMDAs and Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations, arguing that civil society and non-governmental organisations were important actors which should play critical roles in the decentralisation process.

Dr Arthur in his contribution said the decentralisation system had brought a lot of development dividends to the country, observing that the programme had helped for power to be devolved from the Central Government to the local level.

The Head of the Local Government Service opined that the staff of the MMDAs was capable and given the needed resources, they would be able to deliver better services to the rural dwellers.

Mr Dotse applauded the government for adopting the decentralisation concept to bring development to the local level and called on the Local Government Service to conduct Beneficiaries Satisfaction Survey to ensure that people at the local level were satisfied with the services rendered by the MMDAs, and also MMDCEs should be made to signed performance contracts.

The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alimah Mahama in a speech read on his behalf by her Deputy, Osei Bonsu Amoah, said the country had made strides in local governance, noting that Ghana had enacted comprehensive laws on local governance and had incorporated decentralisation in the Medium Term Development plans and growth strategies.

She said government was committed to making progress in decentralisation, a very critical component of stable democracy and lauded IDEG for the forum created to discuss the country’s decentralisation process and come out with strategies for the way forward in the next 30 years.

The Executive Director of IDEG, Dr Emmanuel Akwetey in his remarks attributed the growing violence which had characterised the country’s democratic dispensation to the “winner-takes-all” syndrome and called for measures to reverse the trend.

He supported the call for the election of MMDCEs on partisan basis, stressing that it would promote political inclusion.

By Kingsley Asare

 

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