General News of Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Source: GNA

Strengthening local governance structures critical for democracy

Accra, Jan. 5, GNA - Dr. Esther Oduraa Ofei-Aboagye, Director of Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) has called for national commitment in strengthening the capacity of local government structures t= o make them more efficient, effective and accountable.

She said since local governance involved joint management of public concerns through partnership by various stakeholders including the privat= e, public, non-governmental and civil society sectors, it was critical to enhance their capacity to ensure a more coherent, integrated, responsive and sustainable development at the local level.

Dr. Ofei-Aboagye, who was addressing participants at a symposium at the on-going 61st Annual New Year School in Accra on Tuesday, under a sub-top= ic "Strengthening Local Governance for Development," said capacity building would develop the appropriate organisational structures and put in releva= nt procedures for the envisaged standards within local governance.

She said in order to be responsive, Ghanaian local governments must have the capacity to plan and coordinate programmes, identify the appropriate beneficiaries, ensure that their needs were effectively achie= ved and managed the interfaces between them and the other stakeholders.

Dr. Ofei-Aboagye noted that the local authorities needed to be able to respond appropriately and be pro-active in ensuring the well-being of the= ir citizens, taking into account various changing contexts and adopting them=

efficiently and effectively.

She pointed out that the dilemma involved in capacity building for decentralisation and local governance had been whether the transfer of po= wer should precede capacity building or the other way round, but argued for t= he necessity to establish strong human, financial, technological and other resources before assemblies were created.

According to Dr. Ofei-Aboagye, capacity building should be linked to=

targets, aspirations, realities and prospects so that beneficiaries would= be able to evaluate what was offerred to them by the suppliers, be they development partners, training organisations, ministries, departments or agencies and strategically select their needs.

According to her, this would also ensure that the right levels of resources to match the assignments and establish effective working and reporting relationships, recognising the interdependence but independence= of the entities in the local government system were available for an effecti= ve delivery system.

Dr. Ofei-Aboagye said over the past 20 years, the District and Local=

Assemblies which formed an integral part of the local governance machiner= y had been given legislating, executing, budgeting, planning and rating pow= ers through relevant legislation, model guidelines and policy frameworks. She said provisions for representation of people had included both elected and appointed memberships of assemblies and the formation of vari= ous district level committees particularly related to service delivery and development programmes and projects, adding that this system though had worked effectively, had faced various challenges that had generated sever= al concerns. Dr. Ofei-Aboagye mentioned issues such as accountability of Chief Executives, links and relationships between the various actors such as Presiding Members, Members of Parliament and District Coordinating Directors.

She said the working of appointed membership system and the capacity= of assembly members to perform their representation and feedback functions a= nd concerns such as incomplete functioning of local government sub-structure= s, inadequate capacity in terms of full complements of staff, weakness of district departments, low levels of internally generated revenues, planni= ng and budgeting challenges as well as unsatisfactory conduct of public hearings had all come up for re-consideration.

Dr Ofei-Aboagye said in practice, relationships between local authorities and central government ministries, departments and agencies, sectoral units, development projects and programme; the scope of responsibilities and reporting mechanisms needed to be worked out further=

adding, the robustness of the checks and balances built into the system a= nd the implications for accountability of people needed to be reinforced. She noted that the local governance system over the past years had fallen victim to unfavourable laws that had contradicted the spirit of decentralisation as envisaged by the Constitution. Citing laws such as those establishing education and health service= s, she said those that reinforced centralised control of processes included public procurement adding that the one which established internal audit a= lso denied local control over or sufficient participation in the management o= f development resources. Dr. Ofei-Aboagye said though various efforts had been made over the=

past and was still on-going to review such limitations to strengthen loca= l governance, the performance of the assemblies had not been appreciated by=

the assessment of many people in terms of their expectations on service delivery, infrastructural development, local economic development and accountable governance due to lack of capacity building. Nana Kobina Nketsia IV, Omanhene of Essikado Traditional Area, advocated for the total involvement of traditional authorities in local governance, saying the current local government system did not fully invo= lve such important authorities as their powers to function effectively were curtailed by the Constitutional Act. He said Ghana needed to be de-colonised in order to achieve total a= nd true development, saying most of the laws being implemented under the constitution were just a continuation of colonialism and the need to translate such laws to reflect the nation's own culture was critical to sustaining a system of true sense of ownership at the local level. Nana Nketsia said the relegation of the chieftaincy institution to the background could also bring about various conflicts especially in the current event of oil find in Ghana and asked for total accountability and=

openness of the assemblies to ensure total development. 5 Jan. 10