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14.05.2006 General News

Public officials urged to more constructive in engagement with citizens

By GNA

Sogakope (V/R), May 13, GNA - Public officials at all levels of authority ought to be prepared to engage an emerging generation of well informed citizenry at the grassroots level on issues of governance.

"Now we seem to be untouchable soon we would have to tread cautiously". Mr Richard Amuah, a Budget Analyst at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning made the observation at a three-day training workshop for members of Governance Issues Forums (GIFs), drawn from the Volta and Eastern regions on "Civic Participation in the District Budget Process at Sogakope.

The workshop organized by the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), an independent policy research and advocacy organization in collaboration with the Ghana-Research and Advocacy Project (G-RAP), took participants through the processes of budgeting at the district and municipal assembly levels and the techniques for tracking projects implementation in the context of national budgets. Mr Amuah said civic participation in governance at the grassroots level was a key thematic area of national policy and even though capacity building in that direction seemed slow, "it will get to a time when officials will have to be on their toes, as people become more informed and confident to question them".

He said cognisance must be taken of the fact that in the exercise of the right to demand accountability and participation, citizenship groups and individuals would have to be constructive and non-confrontational and be guided by the spirit of collaboration.

Mr Amuah therefore, advised the GIFs to form a nationwide association guided by a constitution to strengthen their networking, credibility, acceptance and ability to continue performing their functions independent of the IDEG.

He observed that the expected civic participation was lacking due to lack of motivation to own governance initiatives, lack of confidence by professionals in the processes of local governance, inadequate local capacity to contribute to the budget process and lack of effective sub-structures to facilitate civic society participation.

Mr John Yaw Amankrah, Assistant Chief Statistician of the Ghana Statistical Service, advised members of the GIFs to reach beyond the figures their assemblies might quote, regarding the jobs created for the youths in their areas.

He was taking the participants through techniques for tracking the implementation of projects aimed at solving the problem of youth unemployment at the district levels.

"As trackers, be interested in what happens to those who have been trained, those able to set up their own enterprises, those about to set up on their own and those in paid employment". "Not the numbers, who benefit from loans but what they are able to do with micro-credits and how these have helped improve their lives", Mr Amankrah said.

Ms Ruby Quantson, Project Manager of IDEG urged the GIFs to strengthen their networking and teamwork.

She said the role of IDEG was to provide technical and research support to their projects.

The concept of GIF was developed by the IDEG to enable civil society organizations and individual citizens to participate more effectively in tracking the implementation of national economic policy and the preparation of district assembly budgets. Under the concept, IDEG also trains members of the GIFS in techniques of public deliberation, advocacy, lobbying, dialogue and consensus building techniques.

The high point of GIF activities was the organization of roundtables to facilitate formal dialogue between non-state and state actors, including government officials and members of parliament and district assemblies, on the setting of development priorities with corresponding resource allocation at the local and national levels.

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