14.04.2005 General News

Contribution of District Assemblies to Poverty Reduction limited

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Accra, April 14, GNA - The contributions of district assemblies to local poverty reduction remained limited despite their role, notably in education and water supply, Professor Gordon Crawford of the School of Political and International Studies, University of Leeds, UK, said on Thursday.

Speaking at a symposium in Accra, Prof Crawford said the inability of the district assemblies to exert so much influence on the development process stemmed, partly from the lack of discretionary authority and financial resources made available to them by the central government. Other reasons are limited capacity of the district assemblies and poor political representation and participation.

The symposium was organized by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD) on the topic: "Decentralisation, Political Participation and Poverty Reduction in Ghana."

Prof. Crawford, who shared findings of a pilot study on decentralization in Ghana, said for decentralization to deliver pro-poor policies the district assemblies should be able to exercise autonomous discretionary powers ceded to it by the central government. There must also be channels of political representation and participation that would ensure local government authorities were accountable to the local people instead of the central government. He said there was currently no genuine devolution of power to districts since the central government still retained major decisions that affect their development.

With regard to political participation, Prof Crawford said there was an overwhelming support for local democratic processes at the grassroots level although there were various shortcomings that limited accountability to the local level.

These included the neglect of assembly members' representative role, the relative collapse of sub-district structures, the power of the un-elected District Chief Executive (DCE) and the weakness of sub-committee structures.

During discussion, participants expressed concern about the large number as well as membership of unit committees, area and urban councils, which, according to them, had been hardly functional since their establishment two years ago.

The thorny issue was however, on the role of the DCE. While some claimed that the lack of democratic election for DCEs meant that he was only accountable to the central government and not the people, others believed that the current level of mistrust in the country's politics did not make room for an elected DCE.

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