President John Agyekum Kufuor yesterday cautioned assembly members not to put themselves into a position of conflict of interest through lobbying for contracts from District Chief Executives (DCEs).
"If you live on the palms of the DCE, you cannot exact discipline on him," he said, when the Executive Council of the National Association of Local Authorities (NALAG) called on him at the Castle, Osu in Accra. They had sought audience with the President to discuss ways of consolidating and reinforcing Government's achievements at the district assembly level.
President Kufuor said the general impression was that the assemblies were not functioning to the expectation of the public and attributed this to members not appreciating the power to demand performance from the DCEs and their staff.
He reminded them that it was only by their insistence on accountability and ensuring that the assembly's budget was implemented to meet set targets that the people would be made to feel part of the assembly. The assemblies should begin to show sparks of good governance and accountability by getting their acts right.
President Kufuor also responded to some concerns raised by the Council with respect to the increase of the Common Fund allocation from five per cent to 10 per cent, payment of 10 million cedis ex-gratia to assembly members at the end of their term, technical resources for the assemblies, the need to down-size Unit Committees and the operationalisation of the Local Government Service.
On the Common Fund, he said although he shared their position, the current state of the economy could not support that adding it should be kept under constant review.
With regard to the implementation of the Local Government Service, President Kufuor said since governance in general was based at the first stage on the local government system, it was important to get serious at it. The system should be all encompassing in terms of good services to the people and the Government would co-operate with the Council in this direction.
He, however, pointed out that to make this happen and to ensure that the assemblies became well resourced technically, it was important for them to strive to generate more funds on their own to implement their budget as much as possible.
Mr George Kyei Baffour, Chairman of the Council, praised the leadership of President Kufuor, which, he said, had helped to endear Ghana to the rest of the world and made it a pace setter in good governance and democracy.
He also touched on the phenomenal infrastructure development that had taken place in the past five years in the various districts, the creation of 28 new districts to bring governance closer to the people, passage of the Local Government Service Act and piloting of the composite budgeting. He said these were achievements that needed to be consolidated and reinforced at the assembly level.
He said the view of the Council was that the size and numbers of the Unit Committees should be reduced to promote effectiveness, efficiency and economy.