Accra, Dec. 19, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufour on Monday took Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives to task on the poor state of sanitation in the cities and municipalities saying the unsanitary conditions in the cities were a health threat, dented the image of the nation and indictment on the District Assemblies. "Sanitation has become a topical issue that we can hardly ignore. Our cities and municipalities in particular have become engulfed in filth as evidenced by the increasing heaps of rubbish that we encounter by our roads and our residential areas," he said. "To say the least, this is an indictment on the Assemblies which you as Chief Executives are managing," he said in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing at the opening of the 12th Annual Conference of Chief Executives of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies underway at the Institute of Local Government Studies, near Accra. The two-day conference on the theme: "Responsive Local Government for Poverty Reduction and Wealth Creation - The Way Forward," is to take stock of the activities of the assemblies during the past year and to chart the path for the New Year. The Conference is examining issues relating to district revenue mobilisation, alternatives to financing sanitation and waste management, NEPAD, school-feeding programme, tourism and modernisation of the capital city. Other issue being examined are the District Development Planning Guidelines 2006-2010, enhancing district statistical capacity, the 2006 District Level Elections, and sharing experiences on the implementation of the Procurement Act. President Kufour said the problem of sanitation should be considered as a dual responsibility of both the local authorities and citizens to behave responsibly in waste disposal and removal, maintenance of efficient sanitation, and also engage in sanitary practices. President Kufour observed that so far more attention had been placed on the inability of the district assemblies to contain the waste, without not often considering the problems of the enormity of cost and the difficulty of finding appropriate methods and locations for disposal. The citizens' contribution to the solution of the problem was also not emphasised, the President noted. President Kufuor requested the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to consider upgrading the Environmental Sanitation Unit to the status of Directorate of Environmental Health and Sanitation, to spearhead the review of Environmental Health Policy to articulate more clearly the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy II targets of the Millennium Development Goals. The President said it was imperative for Chief Executives to spend some time to reflect on how to strategically address the weakness in the existing systems of revenue mobilisation, adding that the over-reliance on Central Government sources to finance development was not a healthy sign. "Indeed, poverty reduction would be greatly accelerated if our District Assemblies could satisfactorily implement the resources provided by HIPC relief and the District Assemblies' Common Fund." President Kufuor expressed appreciation to the efforts of the Chief Executives to familiarise themselves with the Medium Term Planning Guidelines in the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II, for the period 2006-2009, which reflected the priorities of private sector competitiveness, human resource development, good governance and social responsibility. The President said it was imperative for District Assemblies to interpret the guidelines within the context of their local priorities and make them meaningful to their people. He asked the Chief Executives to give the issue of adequate statistical capacity attention by collaborating with the Ghana Statistical Service in its efforts to decentralise its activities. President Kufuor noted that Local Government was the bedrock of local democracy, and a training ground for the exercise of civic responsibility. He asked the Chief Executives to assist in creating an enabling and peaceful environment by assisting the National Electoral Commission and the National Commission on Civic Education in creating awareness for the conduct of next year's District Level Elections.
The President said the vote is about electing persons to work with Chief Executives to facilitate development, and people should have an enabling environment to feel encouraged and safe to offer themselves for public service.
Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Mr. Charles Bintim, re-echoed the sanitation situation, and asked the Chief Executives to declare the first half of 2006 as filth free. He said low revenue mobilisation partly accounted for the sanitation problem and asked the Chief Executives to intensify their efforts to increase revenue mobilisation from the present 14 per cent to 50 per cent.
Mr Bintim said it was a wrong notion that the District Assemblies were corrupt institutions, and asked the Chief Executives to work hard to win the trust of the people and ensure that they had Members of Parliament on their tender board committees.
Nana Boakye Danquah, Chairman of the Local Government Council, reminded the Chief Executives to be cautious of their activities since the messages they sent were a reflection of government. He said any development they undertook must be qualitative to satisfy the masses' demand for value for money. 19 Dec. 05