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16.11.2019 Opinion

Discussions About The Welfare Of Assembly Members Is More Important Than Same On The Impending Referendum

By Nathaniel Acheampong
Discussions About The Welfare Of Assembly Members Is More Important Than Same On The Impending Referendum

Dear fellow citizens of the Republic of Ghana. Good day to you all. I trust my literature reaches you in good health and ecstasy. In the last few days and some to come, the impending district Assembly elections and referendum, which seeks to amend article 55(3) of the constitution of Ghana by the citizenry due to its entrenched status, has engaged our collective attention as a nation.

I have enjoyed the debate that has characterized the discourse on the referendum, relative to the quest to involve political parties in the conduct of district-level elections, as well as that of a chief executive, either by appointment by the President, or elections by universal adult suffrage by eligible voters in the district. I believe the objective of the referendum and all discussions for and against it; is aimed at reforming our current local government system, in order to render it more robust and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the citizenry, which in all sincerity, is well and good.

However, it looks as if, we, as a nation, have averted our minds on the modus operandi of a district Assembly, and the transformation that may, or may not even occur, relative to the ongoing discussions on the referendum. Following the conversations so far with vested interest, a seeming impression is created that, the impending referendum would introduce immediate transformation in our local governance process. I humbly beg to differ on the latter, insofar as the essence and modus operandi of MMDA's remains unchanged after the referendum.

I make a case for Assembly members with this script, because, conspicuously missing in the ongoing discussions, is the welfare/concerns of the elected representatives of the people, who by far constitutes the intent and purpose of the local government concept. Whether district chief executives are elected or appointed, and district level elections conducted on partisan basis or not, nothing substantial can take place at a given district Assembly without the consent, or prior approval of Assembly members. That is a simple fact!

So at all material time, unresolved concerns of Assembly members across the nation, such as non-payment of monthly allowances to them, outstrips any policy initiative on local government, since the office they occupy, is the pivot of the local governance process we are practicing as a nation. Assembly members lack of resources to effectively function on their core mandate, since the inception of the fourth Republic in 1992, is more important, in my humble opinion, than the ongoing discussions on the referendum, especially when no basis has been given by "all" which sounds more beneficial, than the current one we are practicing.

Further, surprising of all, is the deafening silence of policy makers including the local government ministry, on the obsolete nature of the present standing order in use at all district Assemblies in the country. The existing model standing order, which traces its source in its preamble, explicitly relies on section 18(6) of the local government Act 462 of 1993, which every citizen, or active partaker in local governance circles of the nation know, is a repealed law, and should have been replaced with the substantive statute, that is, section 18(6) of the local governance Act 936 of 2016, immediately after the repealed took place.

It is basic legal knowledge that, the above exposition renders the entire standing order in use, an illegal document, hence, everything done with the standing order at all district Assemblies before their dissolution on October 6th 2019, unlawful, and of no legal effect. The foregoing amendment, which hasn't been done since 2016, and has also not been discussed on any national local governance platform, amply affirms the limitations associated with the reform process, since everything about the reform initiative has been about the impending referendum.

I end by submitting that, the ongoing discussions on the impending referendum should be of least priority to the nation, when the welfare of the very officeholders whom the referendum anchors, has not been comprehensively addressed by the state(not a particular government) for decades. Local government reform should be comprehensive, and it must begin with salient issues that hover around the spirit of local governance. Payment of monthly allowances to Assembly members across the sixteen regions of the country by their respective district Assemblies in the not distant future, more so when it's a constitutional obligation, would instead serve as a productive springboard to local government reforms in Ghana.

Nathaniel Akyeampong
Former/Aspiring Assembly Member
Odonkonyanmu/Obra Wogum Electoral Area, Effutu.

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