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Politics of Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Source: GNA

Citizens want partisan local government election

Some citizens in the Upper West Region are advocating for district assembly and unit committee elections to be conducted on partisan basis to help attract qualified persons into the assemblies to deepen Ghana’s democracy.

The people want district assembly and unit committee elections to run along political lines to encourage the effective mobilisation of revenue and the management of resources.

The concerns were raised at community durbars and focus group discussions on the concept of Decentralisation and Local Governance, organised by National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) in eight districts in the region.

The European Union sponsored community durbars, aimed at deepening democracy through the active participation of the citizenry in the local governance system.

The fora offered the opportunity to district assembly and unit committee members to present their functions and duties as well as their challenges at the community level for discussions by stakeholders.

The assembly and unit committee members mentioned low citizenry participation, low capacity of most assembly members to deliver, and low voter turnout as some of the challenges facing grassroots democracy.

They also referred to unrealistic demands by the people on them, over dependence on district assembly common fund; and low revenue mobilisation as other challenges impacting negatively on the growth of local government systems in the communities.

Addressing one of the forums at Jirapa, Mr. Haruna Husheini Sulemana, the Upper West Regional Director of NCCE, said the local government system was so dear to Ghana’s democracy.

He explained that grassroots democracy would suffer if the district assemblies and unit committees were dysfunctional and called for the nurturing of both human and natural resources development at the assemblies and unit committee levels.

“Qualified persons manning the district assemblies and unit committees will encourage active participation of the citizenry and strengthening of authority and promote voter turnout and compassion,” he said.

“As it is now, a few people are handling issues of the district assemblies and unit committees and it is necessary for the government to give premium to the district assembly and unit committee concept to nurture and advance local governance and democracy,” Mr. Sulemana said.

He said the poor revenue mobilisation at the rural assembly and unit committee levels could be attributed to the low capacity levels of members.

Mr. Sulemana said the NCCE and the European Union have realised that local government activities were largely managed at the assembly level but because of the low level capacity of most of the assembly members to mobilise and organise the people for output gains, much was not achieved.

He said the Unit Committees had been left out to run their own affairs after electing them into office, while most chiefs and other major stakeholders did not think they had a role to play in the local governance.

Mr. Sulemana complained about the huge percentages recorded on spoilt ballots papers during elections and called for effective campaign strategies by stakeholders, especially, political parties, NCCE and the Electoral Commission to educate the electorate to help reduce the practice.