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Opinions of Saturday, 7 January 2017

Columnist: Lungu, Prof.

Akufo Addo's million dollar cash giveaways to voting districts

By Prof Lungu

"...While we wish Akufo Addo all the success he needs to responsibly and accountably administer Unitary Ghana...We must properly and critically evaluate the proposals for internal coherence and the power of those ideas to impact life opportunities of the average Ghanaian...What...prevents the next president from setting aside 75%...How come Akufo Addo...did not select the same...District Assemblies...that Akufo Addo now says he will ensure their Directors...are appointed...through elections?...To recap...Akufo Addo's proposal to directly provide "the equivalent of US$1 million" to each of the 275 voting constituencies every year for purposes of development outside of a Constitution is a voucher scheme precisely the kind we'd expect of from ALEC-inspired American conservatives. It will weaken Unitary Ghana, whether Nana Akufo Addo Dankwa knows it, understands it, or not...", Prof Lungu, 1 Jan 17).

This essay is our first of several non-partisan, objective reviews of proposals advanced by Nana Akufo Addo Dankwa at the height of the 2016 elections, which the winning NPP 2016 presidential team is still doubling down on, and promoting to any Ghanaian who will listen, or watch.

While we wish Akufo Addo all the success he needs to responsibly and accountably administer Unitary Ghana, it is important that those of us in a position to do so, who have time, marry promises made with objective data, as faithfully as we can. We must properly and critically evaluate the proposals for internal coherence and the power of those ideas to positively impact life opportunities of the average Ghanaian and in addition, make Unitary Ghana a lot stronger and less divisive.

To recap for the moment, in the run-up to the 2016 elections in Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo Dankwa and Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia promised to allocate to each constituency "the equivalent of US$1 million" every year as part of a "programme of infrastructure for poverty eradication", at the level of voting districts.

Political expediency that benefits partisan political goals can never by a Ghana-centered value or good, particularly if it is not sanctioned by a Constitution of all the People and pegged to a metric all citizens can understand.

Significant proposals that allocate funds year-after-year ought not to have rat-sized loopholes that allow another partisan political party, and still more, to change the parameters of such program(s) just because they can, without recourse provisions in a people-sanctioned and approved Constitution.

As such, as far as Unitary Ghana is concerned, we believe strongly that there are several significant issues with Akufo Addo's "Funds-for-Unknown-Constituencies" program. The issues are at ounce constitutional, conceptual, administrative, and rational, and a complex mix of same. The problem require addressing by the proposers not just with talk-talk, but real, objective data.


OPERATIONAL VALIDITY OF VOTING DISTRICTS AS DETERMINANTS OF DEVELOPMENT FUNDING DECISIONS

IS ALIEN TO THE FREE WORLD:
There is no operationally valid reason to peg development funds to voting districts except political. Increasingly, Ghana is getting urbanized. As such, for effective, outcome-based representation and management in urban/peri-urban and rural settings, electoral districts are typically re-adjusted by law, such as after an official census.

Generally, voting districts are not "communities". Consequently, a very big head-scratcher for us is how and when, in the mind of Akufo Addo, a constituency (there were 267 during the last presidential elections, and 275 during the 2016 elections), transform into a "community" with "needs for development" that would justify direct funding from the resource-challenged capital budget of the state.

First, consider that it is "Communities" (i.e., neighborhoods, villages, districts, towns, cities, regions (NVDTCRs)), that normally have shared values and experiences required for faithfully, honestly, and rationally determining socio-economic and other problems; including community goals and objectives, and plans for their resolution and mitigation.

Second, the fact remains that serious professional planners and administrators initiate development plans (national, regional, district), master plans for towns, area development and facilities plans, etc., for the NVDTCRs. In addition, they also do functional master plans (highway and roads, parks and recreation, shoping/services and hotels, railways, ports, communications systems, airports, hospitals/medical, waterfront, etc.). However, these are almost always at the level of one or more of the NVDTCRs, including the national.

In serious, professional practice, planners and administrators they do not directly initiate or develop plans for voting districts (i.e., constituencies). That is quite possibly the major reason the statute that established the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) did not identify "constituencies" as planning or funding "blocks" of any kind, outside the general idea of ensuring citizens have a voice in national development planning.

In Ghana, it is the Electoral Commission that uses constituencies (voting district) as the basic planning blocks for all its work, as it must, given its statutory mission. Political parties, for their own partisan gain, may use constituency information available to the public for their own agenda as long as they alone bear any and every cost. (Please take a moment to review Table 1, as we go forward).

Graphic 1:
Generalized Planning Areas and Infrastructure Systems Development*

Akufo Addo and his team could easily have chosen to use Census Districts (CD) for their program, but didn't. CDs are the greatest and most effective generators of data on communities because that is what effective governments and professional administration do. In Ghana, there were CDs in 2010. CDs are the standards many developed countries rely on to assess community health and needs, including levels of physical/infrastructural development, employment and growth. Those data can them be economically distilled down to the NVDTCRs, but rarely to Voting Districts, except for armchair academic exercise (and partisan/political purposes).

Consider what the Ghana Statistical Services reported following the 2010 Census enumeration:

"...The final census results were presented for the 10 Administrative Regions and the 170 Districts...Questions asked during the population and housing census covered geographical location of the population, Households and Non-household population, Literacy and Education, Emigration, Demographic and Economic Characteristics, Disability, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Fertility, Mortality, Agricultural Activity and Housing Conditions...", 2010 Population and Housing Census, GSS.

So, Akufo-Addo (and Bawumia) want Ghanaians to understand that constituencies are in fact better and more reasonable representatives of their "communities", compared to Census Districts (and the NVDTCRs)!

Problem for Akufo-Addo is that, for all the talk-talk, he and his team have not explained clearly why it is necessary that in 21st Century Unitary Ghana, voting districts must become "political units" for determination of the needs for development funding, including funding levels, at any percentage?

Significantly, having passed over the NVDTCRs and CDs, Akufo Addo further tests the limits of the Constitution and the Local Government Act 462 (1993) that specify that District Assemblies (DA), that is, administrative districts, including metropolitan districts (and their neighborhoods) in the Regions are (1) the "highest political authority" outside the national, "with deliberative, legislative and executive powers", (2) are the development authorities in their areas of jurisdiction, and (3) can partner to develop common resources and facilities that may span more than the geographical extent of one DA.

Akufo Addo and his team do not plan to allocate those resources to the DAs even though from the other side of their mouths they are communicating to Ghanaians that beginning 2018, all DA executives in Ghana will be directly appointed by the people, through elections.

Why must Ghana bear competing and duplicative administration?

How is Akufo Addo going to do all these important things starting in 2017 when his team has not bothered to communicate to the people information about what, when, how, if ever, Akufo Addo will do all these things, but only after he fixes the warts-infested Rawlings Constitution?

Is that not a more important, foundational goal for Ghana today?

We hope that Akufo Addo will tell the People the real, the actual reason, he proposed that nearly 20% of capital budget funds should go directly to constituencies when voting districts are not always communities with shared values, needs, goals, and plans; and another president can just as easily change the parameters of the program without recourse to a duly sanctioned Constitution of all the People.

GHANA'S NEW "CONSERVATIVE PARTY VOUCHER PROGRAM" MAY DESTROY UNITARY GHANA:
What is the Constitutional basis and of what impact on Unitary Ghana, this Akufo Addo proposal, we must ask.

Fact is, in most progressive, developed, and developing countries, NVDTCRs, CDs, and other Administrative "Districts" (including Regions/states/Provinces, etc.), constitute the units of analyses for planning and community development. Those are areas funding is directed for development, health, and growth, beyond agencies who by default have geographic areas of responsibilities that are rarely census districts, except in the case of electoral commissions and bureaus as we've shown.

Throwing all jokes and Trumpian election promises aside, lawyer Nana Akufo Addo Danwka ought to recognize that there is actually no law in Ghana, (in fact, there ought to be no law in Ghana), that gives a solitary president the sole authority to decree from Accra that he/she will set aside a certain percentage of development funds (approx 20% in this case) for the infrastructure development of voting districts many of whom he has never visited.

What, we must ask again, prevents the next president from setting aside 50%, 75%, etc., of all funds dedicated to infrastructure development directly for voting districts, and without consideration of national and regional development priorities, and such? Then, when the constituents fail or squander all that cash without beneficial results, when there is no proper accounting, or when the constituents have incurred unplanned/uninsured liabilities as many surely will, the president can merely point fingers at those constituents.

Dear reader, by not seriously attempting to fix the wrongs in the Rawlings Constitution, but rather, by attempting to assume authority to directly pay voting districts, Akufo Addo is not only making the Presidency even more powerful, he is as well making it less accountable. Those are predictable effect of the scheme to directly fund constituencies.

Significantly, Akufo Addo's promise has great potential to weaken the Unitary Ghana bequeathed to Ghanaians by Kwame Nkrumah and many of the great ones who believed in that nationalistic concept. ALEC1 could not have written a better plan for dissolving Ghana as the rich and the powerful gain more and more control, as they surely will.

Akufo Addo's proposal to directly provide "the equivalent of US$1 million" to each of the 275 voting constituencies every year for purposes of development outside of a Constitution approved by the People is a divisive and diversionary voucher scheme precisely the kind we'd expect from ALEC-inspired conservatives. We see it as a naked vote-buying scheme for purely partisan purposes masquerading as freedom of choice in development for Ghanaians.

It will weaken Unitary Ghana in more ways than we can count, whether Nana Akufo Addo Dankwa knows it, understands it, or not. The talk about the promise, in addition to available data and our professional estimates, suggest to us numerous flaws inherently built into the $275 million-per-year proposal, enough to make the cash payments not only unconstitutional, but also administratively ineffective and potentially wasteful of resources.

In fact, as former officials and major politicians in Ghana who surely have access to better and more information, their talk on the cost of their proposal does not even add up as we will show in this paper.


OUR 21ST CENTURY GLOBAL AGE REQUIRES MORE DATA THAN TALK-TALK:
Every person in Ghana knows that Ghanaians talk way too much!

In fact, a Google search of the term "Ghanaians talk too much" the first day of January, 2017, yielded over 4,100 hits.

Ask a Ghanaian and they will also tell you that talk is a lot cheaper than real actions that help Ghanaians and their communities.

(In the next paper(s) we will show with more data and graphics that as well, conceptually, the whole million-dollars-per-constituency- per-year is deeply flawed, if Akufo Addo and Bawumia want Ghanaians to believe what they are saying).

To be continued....

Note/sources:

1. ALEC is American Legislative Exchange Council. In the 1980s, ALEC opposed U.S. disinvestment from South Africa, a movement to put pressure on the South African government to embark on negotiations to dismantle apartheid.

Today, many people credit ALEC with Stand Your Ground Laws that is used as defense by numerous shooters; discriminatory voter identification laws that penalize and deprive the poor, minorities, and elderly of their votes; privatization of prisons and harsher criminal sentencing guidelines; vouchers for school children using public funds to attend private schools; denial of the role of humans in climate change and sea-level rise, etc., among other conservative agenda mainly geared to support corporate interests and to weaken the role of the governments.
Read more at:

(a) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council
(b) http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed.

2. Each constituency will get $1m every year under NPP - Bawumia, (http://pulse.com.gh/politics/election-2016-each-constituency-will-get-1m-every-year-under-npp-bawumia-id5437995.html).

3. Ghana Statistical Services, 2010 Census Final Results, (http://www.statsghana.gov.gh/docfiles/2010phc/2010_population_and_housing_census_final_results.pdf).

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SUBJ: Winners and Losers: Akufo Addo's Million-Dollar Cash Giveaways to Voting Districts, by Prof Lungu.
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