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04.08.2005 Press Review

Editorial: Filling Accountability Deficit At Local Govt Level

Statesman

ALTHOUGH the report by ISODEC, 'FINANCING DECENTRALISED DEVELOPMENT – HOW WELL DOES THE DACF WORK – focused on the period 1999 to 2002 and was published in 2003, we believe it is as relevant today as then, thus informing our projection of it on our front page today.

The study highlights structural problems related to “the reluctance of central government agencies to decentralise the ministries and their proper integration at the district level; including payments for contracts executed at the district level.”

The report points out that the generally poor capacity of district assembly members and officials, local civil society organisations and large segments of the population in general in dealing with budget issues has always been used as an excuse for withholding funds due to the District Assemblies. “As a result,” it argues, “District Assemblies are plagued by high volumes of anecdotal complaints of alleged misuse of public resources, alleged political interference, etc., which require remedial action.”

It may seem unattractive to argue against the ready mitigation that quality of personnel and the capacity at the District Assembly level do not command confidence. Yet, to deal with it by ignoring or bypassing it actually defeats the whole purpose of decentralisation. As a nation we must begin to take bold steps – resources-demanding ones – to build the capacity and attractiveness of the MMDAs and up the standards required of those who think they can serve in that capacity.

Of course, going by Mankatah and Walid Laryea, even at the national legislature, there will always be men and women of modest intellect who will continue to slip through. But that should be more and more the exception rather than the norm at the Assembly level.

It can never be overstated how crucial an effective running of the local government system is to the nation's development. In the spirit of the concept of subsidiarity, it is the level where decisions taken most affect the citizens since each one of us is connected to one district or the other.

Considering the unbreakable link between social service and infrastructural delivery, on the one hand, and tackling poverty, on the other, a badly managed Assembly means a badly managed poverty alleviation strategy. More importantly, considering the lack of efficient tools of vibrant economic activities in most of our districts, a badly managed District means a woefully stagnant wealth creation strategy.

Supporting the widely held view that a lot of our poverty is caused by lack of efficient systems, the ISODEC report says it is obvious that some monitoring of revenue collectors and finance officers by their supervisors and the general public could bring about positive results in revenue generation.

What The Statesman would like to see, especially since the enactment of the Public Procurement Act (Act 663) and Internal Audit Agency Act (Act 658), is the vivid manifestation of implementation of new systems and trained personnel to enhance efficiency at the MMDAs level. There is supposed to be a Strategic Plan 2005-2007. Yet, to access even through its advertised platform, Ghana Government website, you click on it and you get a dead page.

Government needs to work in fixing the festering weaknesses in the local government system and it must be manifestly seen to be doing so, too. We are yet to be convinced why the Kufuor administration has found it so unpalatable to implement its own 2000 manifesto pledge to reform the selection and election of assembly members.

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