DECENTRALISATION EXPERTS at a forum in Accra have kicked against the Members of Parliaments' (MPs) share of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF), and called for its abolishment since it is unconstitutional.
George Kyei-Baffour, immediate-past President of the National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana (NALAG); Modestus Ahiable, former Member of Parliament; and Eric Osae-Oduro, a Lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) were unanimous in their call for the scrapping of the fund as they indicated in their presentations.
The workshop, which was organised by the Public Agenda, a local newspaper, with support from RAVI, was on the theme “The MP's Share of the District Assemblies Common Fund and the Challenges of Development at the Grassroots.”
“The 1992 4th Republican Constitution has not in any of its provisions conferred on MPs the authority of development agents in the decentralized local government framework.
“Article 252 (2) of the 1992 Constitution states that subject to the provisions of this constitution, Parliament shall annually make provisions for the allocation of not less than 5% of total revenues of Ghana to the District Assemblies for development; and the amount shall be paid into the District Assemblies Common Fund in quarterly installments.
This clear provision does not permit MPs to access the DACF,” they quoted.
According to Mr. Kyei-Baffour, who also chaired the function, the Public Procurement Law (Act 665) states that MPs were not procurement entities and therefore could not be designated as such because they did not have the procurement structures that constitute a legal component of the procurement process.
“MPs should therefore not saddle themselves with huge sums of monies from the DACF, HIPC and GETFUND because it is in complete violation of the laws of the land which they themselves have enacted and taken oaths to protect,” he stressed.
Mr. Kyei-Baffour therefore categorically stated that “any attempt by MPs to directly undertake procurement within the decentralized system will depict a conflict of interest and compromise their effectiveness and legitimacy to undertake the assignment.”
Mr. Osae-Oduro mentioned some of the benefits of decentralization as the cutting of bottlenecks or red tape imposed by an over-centralized system.
“It allows local people a greater chance to participate in development planning and decision making,” he said.
Mr. Osae-Oduro expressed unhappiness about the relationship between the Common Fund Guideline and formula for distribution with reference to Constitutional Provisions Article 252 (3), which made way for a formula to be used in sharing the fund among Assemblies, but added “there is no such legislation provision for guidelines”.
“The closest is the provision under section 9 of the District Assemblies Common Fund Act 455, which provides that the Minister responsible for Finance shall in consultation with the Minister responsible for Local Government determine the category of expenditure of the approved development budget of the District Assemblies that shall in each year be met of amounts received by the District Assemblies from the Fund,” he stated.
Mr. Ahiable on the other hand noted that “the operationalisation of this parliamentary decision was done with so much caution, to avoid creating a problem for the law as shown by the guidelines. It is therefore a moral question more than a legal one.
He called on Parliament to take a second look at the 'moralists' position on the MPs Common Fund as against the gains and impacts the fund was making in the lives of the people.
Hon. Freddie Blay, 1st Deputy Speaker of Parliament did not take kindly to the call for the abolishment of the MPs' Common Fund.
He contended that even though MPs passed the laws it was rather the Executive arm of Government that initiated and implemented such laws.
To him, MPs were partners in development and that the use of such a fund was symbolic and a mark of good governance.
“We need to appreciate what government and for that matter good governance is all about. Good governance is not just the separation of the three arms of Government but now we have the fourth Estate, Civil Society Organisations who are working to improve the quality of life for the people,” he pointed out.
Hon. Blay was of the view that MPs used their own resources to meet some contingencies in their constituencies and that they (MPs) spent more than what their fund could give.
“Whatever name you give it does not change the developmental purpose of the District Assemblies Common Fund,” he emphasized.
He therefore strongly opposed the idea of scraping the MPs Common Fund since according to him, the measurement of development was not restricted to physical development.
He was however of the view that MPs who misapplied their fund should not be left to go unpunished.
By Wisdom Peter Awuku