President John Agyekum Kufuor on Thursday counselled the nation not to rush into the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCs).
He said given the current level of the country's development, when national unity, security and fair distribution of the national cake should be central in governance, any hasty move towards electing the local government chief executives could prove counter-productive.
"My honest opinion is that we allow the system as it is to mature to the days when the nation can confidently adopt it."
President Kufuor was addressing the closing session of the annual review conference of Regional Ministers and the MMDCs at the Institute of Local Government Studies at Ogbojo-Madina in Accra.
It provided a forum to discuss among other things the achievements and challenges in decentralization and local governance over the past four years and to effectively strategize for the future.
"Consolidating the gains in local governance and charting the way forward", was the theme for the two-day meeting.
President Kufuor recommended that forging genuine alliances with traditional authorities and Members of Parliament (MPs) should be made a priority on the agenda of the Assemblies.
This was necessary as all of them represented the interests of the local people, albeit in different capacities and in different arenas.
Additionally, he called on them to focus on local economic development by enhancing their capacities to take advantage of investment opportunities.
They should in the future build the capacity to take calculated initiatives in exploring sources of capital and engaging in partnerships with private and civil society sectors.
President Kufuor said; "this calls for bold and strategic examination of the options of the Assemblies, particularly those within whose boundaries there are considerable natural resources".
They again needed to develop the ability to internally assess their own performances and take timely corrective action to deliver quality service to their people.
To do this, he said, it was necessary to ensure quality of the membership of the Assemblies, members who would demand accountability from all including the Chief Executives and perform with statutory and ethical self-censorship.
President Kufuor touched on some significant progress made within the last eight years towards deepening the local governance system and the involvement of the people in decision-making, citing the increase of the number of Assemblies from 110 to 170, the rise in the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) from five per cent to 7.5 per cent of total government revenue and the establishment of the Local Government Service.
Considerable stimulus had also been given to them to build the capacity for economic development at the grassroots through collaborative programmes like the Community Based Development Programme (CBRDP) and the Urban Poverty Reduction Programme (UPRP), the Northern Poverty Reduction Project (NOPREP) and the Millennium Challenge Project.
These, he said, were intended not only to promote pro-poor approach to local development, but also to foster stronger partnerships between local enterprises and the Assemblies.
Mr Kwadwo Adjei-Darko, Local Government Minister, said in view of the wide range of competing development demands on them, the Assemblies would have to put premium on local revenue generation to supplement their DACF allocations.
He announced the setting up of a District Development Fund to reward performing Assemblies and support capacity building of the non-performing ones.
Madam Grace Obeng-Donkor, DCE for Nkoranza-North, on behalf of her colleagues pledged their resolve to work harder to move the nation forward.