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19.11.2005 General News

Ex-Minister calls for the review of assemblies' law

By GNA
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Koforidua, Nov. 19, GNA- A former Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Cletus Avoka, says there is need for a wide range review of the workings of District Assemblies (DAs) to address incidents of financial malaise and also to correct administrative bottlenecks stifling their effectiveness.

According to him, the spate of the financial irregularities being recorded by some of the assemblies, required "a political will and courage to deal ruthlessly with the financial miscreants" since the failure to do so would amount to "decentralizing and institutionalizing corruption in the District Assemblies".

Mr Avoka, a Legal Practitioner and former Member of Parliament for Bawku West, was delivering a paper on "Effective Local Revenue Mobilization for Sustainable Development and Growth" at a roundtable discussion at Koforidua on Friday.

It was organized by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) and served as a platform for the participants that were drawn from both the public and private entities to review the progress of the decentralization concept and seek ways to enhance its implementation.

According to Mr Avoka, "corruption, downright stealing and fraudulent practices" were being recorded in DAs as well as "embezzlement, disregard for laid down financial regulations, illegal award of contracts, inflation of contracts and services and payment for goods not supplied", among many other incidents of malfeasance. Tabling proposals for a review of the DAs, Mr Avoka advocated an increase in the Gross Domestic Product being allocated to the DAs from 5 per cent to 10 per cent in view of the increase in the number of assemblies from 110 to 138.

Similarly, Cabinet must consider a review of the criteria used for the appointment of District Chief Executives to ensure that "only persons who are business-inclined and have a vision are appointed to manage the districts rather than appointing inexperienced and visionless persons", he suggested.

Guidelines governing the disbursement of the District Assemblies Common Fund indicated that the DAs receive 5 per cent of the GDP as their allocation for development programmes but the government recently announced an upward adjustment of 2.5 per cent making it 7.5 per cent.

Mr Avoka wants that figure increased to 10 per cent and further recommended that three per cent of this amount should be earmarked for the lower level local governance structures so that they could take off from the ground.

He acknowledged the tremendous role the assemblies were playing in opening up the rural areas for development and urged Ghanaians to show greater interest and zeal in the workings of the assemblies. The DAs, he said, must for instance consider liaising with the Central Bank to ensure the creation of Rural Banks, especially in districts without such financial institutions, in order to curtail the incidence of cash transactions and keeping heavy sums of money in offices and homes with their attendant risks.

Mr Avoka urged the assemblies to consider the privatization of some aspects of their revenue collection as well as developing partnership with financial institutions for the provision of advisory services to the assemblies for the execution of their projects. Nana Adjei Boateng, New Juaben Municipal Chief Executive, admitted that although the Local Government concept had been very beneficial, there were still many problems with its implementation, especially with regard to the establishment of its sub-structures.

Another problem identified by Nana Adjei Boateng was the increasing insulation of some Departments and Agencies from the ambit of the assemblies thus negating aspects of the concept. The Executive Director of CDD, Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, said there was "anecdotal evidence" that District Assemblies have been slow and unimpressive in mobilizing local resources and asked them to devise strategies to overcome them.

Mr. Ernst Specht, Country Director of the Germany-based Friedrich Naumann Foundation, sponsors of the workshop, gave the assurance that his outfit would continue to assist in facilitating citizenry participation in the governance of the country.

The Omanhene, of the New Juaben Traditional Area, Daasebre Dr Oti Boateng chaired the function, which was also addressed by Odeefour Boadi Asiedu, the Presiding Member of the New Juaben Municipal Assembly.

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