A research conducted by three Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on the decentralisation policy introduced in the 1980s, indicated major challenges affecting its effective implementation.
Although the local government system had instituted structures, they were not functioning and some of the sub-metropolitan, district, urban, area, town, zonal councils and unit committees could not perform functions assigned to them.
The research findings jointly signed by Mr Edwin Batiir, Project Coordinating Director of Local Civic Coalitions of GrassRootsAfrica, and Mr Bismark Ayorogo, President of NORPRA was issued and read by Mr Ayorogo at a press conference in Kombusogo, near Bolgatanga.
The CSOs noted that the scenario about the findings of the decentralisation process was not quite different from the other regions, therefore the proposed recommendations be implemented to improve upon the work of the MMDAs in the country.
It said the local governance system was to enable many people get involved in governance and provide for subordinate bodies to exist and function as part of the local governance system, but that this was feasible under the system.
In Upper East Region, the local government structures were not functioning and out of the eight districts where the research was conducted, only one, Bawku West District could boast of having all the town and area councils, working and contributing to the work of the assembly through the efforts of Ibis Ghana that helped to constitute the substructures in that area.
The seven remaining districts in the Region were now working towards activating the town, area, and other sub-structures under the Community Based Rural Development Project (CBRDP).
The findings revealed that many members of the sub-structures in the local governance system did not know their roles, duties and revenue mobilisation for the assemblies were their main occupation.
The delay in the payment of District Assembly Common Fund (DACF), was another major challenge confronting the decentralisation policy since they could not embark on their developmental programmes effectively.
There were some instances where the Central Government or Ministries, Departments and Agencies acting on behalf of government had deducted various monies allocated to the assemblies under the disguise of providing facilities and services to the assemblies such as sanitation equipment but the assemblies were not informed about these deductions before hand, making the deductions an unexpected shortage for the assemblies.
It noted that although staffing positions of most of the assemblies in the region had improved over the years in terms of capacity building, personnel from the administrative categories and clerical staff including co-ordinating directors benefited from the package at the expense of district planners co-ordinating the district Units.
“Most of the assemblies in the region have a planning and budget officer, but there were equally many without qualified district engineers and other technical staffs.” It said.
The findings observed that many of the decentralised departments had officers heading them, but the issue of concern was the quality of officials heading these organizations.
"With the exception of some departments such as Ghana Health Service and few others, many other decentralised agencies are manned by "caretaker" heads, indicating that they are not qualified to handle such positions, “ it said.
According to the findings, some core departments in the districts including department of social welfare, department of town and country planning, department of parks and gardens, department of animal health science, department of forestry and birth and death registry whose duties and functions were not well co-ordinated into the main duty of the assemblies structures were operating in isolation.
“They only take their orders directly from their head offices in Accra,” it added.
The findings recommended to Government through the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment that there was the need to clarify the various roles, responsibilities and duties of substructures of the decentralisation system such as urban, town, area councils, and to empower them with financial resources to enable them procure basic logistics to undertake their duties.
It said the common fund should be made available early to avoid derailing plans and programmes of assemblies, and immediate steps taken to stop what it termed "Statutory Deduction" from it.
The findings recommended that Central Government should in the interim absorb the payment of allowances to members working at the substructure levels until more sustainable payment arrangements were made.
It said efforts should be made to enforce the legislative provision which demanded that those substructures should be paid five per cent of revenue allocated for and on behalf of the assemblies, to enable them undertake some of their functions.
The findings said decentralised departments should be well coordinated into the assembly system to enhance efficiency and harmonise efforts at development at the local level.
It stressed the need to hasten implementation of the recommendations since the assemblies were physically closer to the people and would know them better in terms of their developmental needs than the Central Government.
The findings said implementation of the recommendations would help empower the people, especially the marginalised to participate actively in the development process that affected their daily lives.
It emphasised that decentralisation when properly implemented could reduce poverty in the country.
The Research was under the title "Speeding up the Pace of Decentralisation in Ghana as a way of Reducing Poverty: The Case of Upper East Region of Ghana".
It was sponsored by Ibis Ghana and undertaken by the Foundation for Grassroots Initiatives in Africa (GrassrootsAfrica), Northern Patriots in Research and Advocacy (NORPRA) and Association for Sustainable Development of Upper East (ASDUE).