Michael Quaique Strengthening decentralization towards national development

Decentralization has to a large extend become an indispensable tool used by many countries to promote decision making, and attain socio-economic and political development.

This, basically involves the devolution or delegation by central or national government of precise functions, with all of the administrative, political and economic attributes that these entail, to local governments, which are independent of the centre and sovereign within a legally regime

Consequently, Ghana’s decentralization policy, which is backed by local government Act-1993(Act 462), is aimed at promoting people’s participation and ownership of the system of government by shifting the process of governance from command to consultation processes, and by moving power, authority and functions, competence and resources to the district level.

The individual’s participation in the country’s decision making process is imperative and significant to democratic governance. This is another way citizens are empowered through the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs) as the basic means for the promotion of local governance.

Certainly, decentralization gives opportunities to people at the grassroots to participate in the highest political, administrative, legislative, planning and budgeting within their localities.

Indeed, the people can take part in the day-to-day management of their local government, and make inputs into what, how and where money allocated to the various MMDAs is disbursed.

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Decentralization empowers people to take charge of their affairs at the local level by way of initiating and ownership of development projects, which helps central government to concentrate on actual governance.

For instance, people at the local level through the Assembly are expected to ensure that schools within their communities are functional, and are, therefore, not expected solely to rely on central government to solve their problems.

To accelerate decentralization and local governance for national development, a national decentralization policy framework has been developed, which spans 2015 through to 2019, and has the objective to ensure the effectiveness of governance at the local level.

The policy framework inter alia, focuses on the strengthening of the participation and contribution of the various levels of government actors and actions in monitoring the functions of the local governance process.

To facilitate the decentralization process in the country, the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Decentralization (IMCC), has been formed, cumulating in the formation of a National Decentralization Policy Frame Work and Action Plan.

It has the mandate to coordinate the implementation of this policy to ensure that various regions work with the central government to enhance development.

The IMCC encourages the use of focal persons, who serve as points of contact in the various MMDAs as well as the Ministries, Departments and Agencies for development.

Additionally, a Performance Assessment Framework has been introduced to ensure that decentralization is effective. This serves as a measuring instrument to monitor the implementation of the National Decentralization Action Plan on expected outcomes, outputs and expected impact on national development.

No doubt, implementing decentralization has its own challenges, especially when some Ministers begin to cry foul because they have no choice but to cede some of their powers to the MMDAs and Regional Coordination Councils.

Decentralization creates synergy in governance among the various players, which helps in eliminating waste and corruption, and avoid the duplication of efforts at the district and national levels, which is a bane to some government sectors.

The system also creates room for the people to seek accountability from leadership and demand what is due them of the development pie.

It is an undeniable fact that, the basic role of decentralisation is to ensure that governance gets to the various localities, because the central government alone cannot micro- manage activities at all local areas.

Chapter 20 of 1992 Constitution gives impetus to Ghana’s decentralisation process, and aids the establishment, practice and development of a decentralised local government administration.

The Local Government ACT, 2010 (ACT 462), and other related constitutional instruments provide for and regulate the framework within which the system operates.

Decentralisation can mean de-concentration, devolution or delegation, and in Ghana, even though decentralisation finds expression in the 1992 Constitution, the context and subsequent legislation show it usage means different things in different context.

This has affected policy implementation as various governments under the Fourth Republic have approached decentralisation with different understandings and from different perspectives.

This has resulted in the enactment of inconsistent and contrasting legislations in attempts to implement the decentralisation policy.

There is the need for the constitution to clearly define decentralization, and also the political will to set the tone for decentralisation in the right contest, to avoid  any ambiguity and ensure the implementation of the process.

For decentralisation to work properly, the government and the governed must align their interests with national and local interest. The process must be made attractive so that the people would willingly participate in the process.

Decentralisation must be taught in schools, at community engagements, through Faith Based Organisations, market engagements.

The government should adequately resource the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) to champion education on decentralisation.

Religion plays significant role governance throughout the world, and in Ghana, many people are affiliated to one religion or the other.

Religious leaders have influence over their followers, who play developmental roles within their communities through the building of schools, hospitals, vocations centres among others.

It would be easier for religious to educate their members on the importance of decentralisation to national development.  

In Ghana, the existence of traditional authorities, and the people’s perception of politicians largely affect the decentralisation process.

 The Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Decentralisation identified challenges facing the cultural authorities within the localities in the decentralisation process.

It recommended that government must provide offices for traditional authorities with trained staff so that they can effectively collaborate with the MMDAs in the performance of their duties.

The committee further proposed the need for “accountability forum” which will involve traditional authorities on project discussions, seek for clarifications and make contributionswithin the localities.

It is heart warming to note that non-governmental organisations such as the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) holds fora on the successes and challenges of the decentralisation for MMDAs, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Finance, academia, civil society organisations and the media.

It offers participants the chance to acquire grass root experiences on revenue mobilisation from stakeholders.

The meetings improves collaboration of Community-Based Organisation and citizens with district assemblies on revenue mobilisation to enable them to build consensus on strategies for improving decentralisation in Ghana and collaborate with project partners to deepen the entire process.

It is also aimed at tackling bottle necks – the misconception of the District Assembly Common Fund and its disbursement, revenue mobilisation, accountability and transparency.

People also complain of the apathy among citizens, lack of participation in important local governance issues and inadequate resource mobilisation to finance development projects for better public service delivery due to the negative attitudes towards taxation and respect of bye-Laws of local assemblies.

In effect, the people expect from their local authorities transparency, accountability and the (people’s) involvement in important local projects to make them own them.

It appears efforts by government to ensure the election of district chief executives, who would be answerable to the people directly instead of the central government, to ensure development in these areas, if successful, would be a great boost to the decentralisation process.

The IDEG together with its partners, had implemented the Action for Local Employment Accountability and Resource Mobilisation (LEARN) project under an EU grant, to support citizens in districts and municipal assemblies.

This was to exercise increased influence over local governance policy in respect of revenue mobilisation, employment and public service delivery using IDEG’s Governance Issue Forum Network (GIFNet) platform.

The MMDAs, RCCs and all citizens must embrace and support the local governance process, because decentralization holds the key to an accelerated national development. … 

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