Accra, Dec. 6, GNA - Government has released 322 billion cedis from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Funds to 138 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) for various projects since 2002.
The funds were released under the MMDAs HIPC Fund Programme, which sought to provide basic social infrastructure in the basic education; primary health care; water and sanitation sectors.
Mr Charles Bintim, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, announced these when he took his turn at the Meet the Press Series organised by the Ministry of Information to inform the public about progress being made in the various sector ministries.
He noted that since 2002 the Government had facilitated the implementation of the MMDAs HIPC Fund Programme, saying that the 322 billion cedis were released to them in four tranches. The Minister said based on Government's strategy of "commence and complete using HIPC Funds", a large number of new basic infrastructure facilities had been completed all over the country exclusively with HIPC funds.
"This, one must admit, constitutes one of the major achievements of the NPP (New Patriotic Party) administration," he asserted.
Mr Bintim also announced that through the support of development partners, 23.8 billion cedis had been disbursed to 34 districts for the District-Wide Assistance Programme (DWAP).
A total of 26.5 million euros had also been spent on the District Capital and District Towns Project (DCDTP), he said.
He said under the 73.94 million-dollar Community-Based Rural Development Projects (CBRDP), the Government was in the process of signing an agreement with Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) for it to contribute 10 million euros to the projects.
Mr Bintim noted that in 2004 the MMDAs met only 14 per cent of their total revenue mobilization targets, saying that was abysmal and urged them to improve upon their performance.
Mr Bintim announced that from next year the proposed Local Government Service (LGS) under the new Local Government Act, Act 656, 2003, would become operational with specific responsibilities to ensure the effective administration and management of local government. He said the Local Government Service Council (LGSC) inaugurated in 2004, had already accomplished the development of a strategic plan for 2005-2008, a draft organisation structure, a draft scheme of service and communication strategy for the marketing of the Service. "In 2006 the LGSC will among other things fully establish the LGS, begin the construction of an office complex for the service secretariat, put into operation its strategic plan, promote and sustain inter-service, donor, civil society and nongovernmental organisation (NGO) collaboration, develop and institute an incentive scheme to enhance and support professionalism."
Mr Bintim gave the assurance that the Ministry was working feverishly to improve on waste management, saying that in addition to the 17 waste management contractors employed in Accra alone, the Government had procured more equipment and personnel to improve the situation by June next year.
He said the Government was in the process of acquiring several tricycles for young people, who would be employed to go round the city of Accra to collect waste.
At the moment the 17 contractors are able to collect only 1,200 tonnes of the 1,500 tonnes of waste generated in Accra daily.
Mr Bintim said several interventions to ensure environmental sanitation would be made, saying available statistics indicated that most of the cases reported at the out patient departments (OPD) of the various health facilities were sanitation related.
"Henceforth the Ministry will monitor the implementation of the basic sanitation services at the assemblies, including waste collection and disposal, promotion of household toilets and the phasing out of all pan latrines, inspection of premises and issuing of certificates of habitation for households.
"(The others are) enforcement of sanitary regulations, inspection of eating and drinking establishments and food premises, provision and operation of cemeteries and control of the rearing and straying of animals."
In response to questions he said efforts were underway to clear the streets of the regional capitals of hawkers to places demarcated for them to sell their wares, saying that the Government wanted to adopt a human-face approach instead of drastic measures to clear the hawkers.
Mr Bintim also charged the MMDAs to check the sale of lands demarcated as green belts and recreational parks to private developers, saying that the MMDAs were the highest authority in the decentralised system and, therefore, had the right over development in their areas. He cited the alleged impasse between Tema Municipal Assembly (TMA) and the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) over the sale of green belts to private developers by the latter, saying that the TMA had the authority to stop the TDC from that practice.
Asked when the Government would deliver on it promise to ensure that District Chief Executives (DCEs) were elected, Mr Daniel Botwe, Minister of Information, who presided told journalists that it was not a priority.
"The NPP made a promise in our manifesto to ensure that DCEs come to power through elections but that is not a priority," he stated. Mr Botwe urged journalist to apply their investigative skills not only on politicians but also on issues of national concern, like those raised by the Minister of Local Government and to bring their findings to the public.