25.10.2004 General News

Speaker of Parliament questions district assemblies

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Accra, Oct. 25, GNA - The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Peter Ala Adjetey on Monday questioned whether it was practical for Ghana to continue to make the election of members to the district assemblies non-partisan.

He stressed: "On the vexed issue of district assemblies and partisan politics, do we still have to continue with our pretence that at the level of the district assembly we can deny the people their desire for partisan politics...?"

"Is there any reason why our countrymen at the local level should not be able to elect their own District Chief Executive by universal adult suffrage?"

Mr Ala Adjetey was addressing the 18th Speaker's Breakfast Forum in Accra, on the theme: "Decentralization of Governmental Authority under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana: an Adequate Basis for Good Democratic Governance?"

He said it was at the local level that all issues bothering on governance started from and it was, therefore, important that the current Parliament, which is drawing to a close, took a serious consideration of the issue.

The Speaker inquired whether the current framework for decentralizing governmental authority under the Constitution and the Local Government Act ensured the devolution of "actual power to the local authority or does it just amount to a window dressing exercise?" "Are we as a nation and people certain that we want to continue with the system of local government in which district assemblies, as they exist today, are not really responsible for local administration?" Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Director of the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), said it was important to establish a system of local government that could deliver development with equity.

He said the idea for establishing the Local Government System was to place the people at the centre of the decision-making process.

Prof Aryeetey said challenges such as the lack of clarity about roles and functions of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies at the districts level, the lack of autonomy, weak human resource base and control of finance by Central Government were problems facing the decentralization process.

He said although there were laws in place to ensure proper local government system what was lacking was the development of the human resource base.

He said the National Planning Commission established to facilitate planning at the lower level had failed to find the right human resource for the district assemblies.

Prof. Aryeetey said the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning had also overshadowed the work of the Commission. Mr Christopher Bahuet, Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP, said decentralization was an important item on the policy agenda for both Ghana and her development partners.

"The appointment of the Presidential Oversight Committee on decentralization in November 2003 was an important milestone," he said. He said effective local governance increased access to social services and facilitated the creation of the right environment for public participation and accountability, especially the vulnerable and the marginalized.

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