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Opinions of Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Columnist: Acheampong, Kwame

Decentralization Of Local Government Proposing Assembly/Council


Under the current 1992 Constitutional arrangement, Article 242 (paraphrased)
District Assembly (non-partisan in nature) – is the highest political authority
in the district and consists of the following:

(a) one person elected by universal adult suffrage from each electoral area

(b) the member of members of Parliament from constituents that fall within the
area of authority of the District Assembly (no voting power)

(c) the District Chief Executive of the district appointed by the President
with executive powers and with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds
(2/3) majority of the members of the Assembly present and voting at the meeting

(d) other members not being more than thirty percent (30%) of all the members
of the District Assemble, appointed by the President in consultation with the
traditional authorities and other interest groups in the district

In addition, Article 251 establishes the following:

(1) an Executive Committee of a District Assembly which shall be responsible
for the performance of the executive and administrative functions of the
District Assembly.

(2) the composition of the Executive Committee and the procedure for its
deliberations shall be as provided for by law.

Again, Article 252 (4): there shall be appointed by the President with the
approval of Parliament, a District Assemblies Common Fund Administrator.
From the above, one can conclude that there is no autonomy in the current
political and administrative dispensation of the District Assemblies. There is
too much Executive (Presidency) control of the District Assemblies that defies
the original intention of political autonomy and power of the citizens of
various districts; decentralization of local government faux pas!
In order to bring the true meaning of decentralization of local government in
Ghana today, this article proposes a local government form that would uphold
democratic tenets: Assembly/Council – Manager Form of Government. It would also
be non-partisan in nature to allow citizens to elect candidates that they can
trust and also perform. Candidates would be elected among individuals who hail
from the districts and not necessarily residing in the districts but must be
available for monthly assembly meetings. The appointive powers of the Executive
(President) enumerated in 1992 Constitution relative to local government have
distorted the original intent of non-partisanship of the politics of local
administration. The President who performs the executive functions of the
country is also a political leader of his party. No wonder, since 1992, various
MCEs/DCEs that have been appointed to administer the assemblies have mirrored
the political parties of the president of the ruling party. The Assembly/Council
– Manager Form of Government if adopted would register the intent of the
non-partisanship of local government that the framers of the constitution

Assembly/Council – Manager Form of Government

In this form of government, a Mayor or District/Municipal/Metropolitan Chief
Executive would be elected by universal adult suffrage from the entire district.
While there could be no term limitation in their service, Mayors or
District/Municipal/Metropolitan Chief Executives and Assembly members could be
elected to serve four-year term. The power of the Mayor is limited to performing
ceremonial duties and presiding at assembly/council meetings. His/her ability to
act as a policy leader would depend on the individual’s personal leadership
skills rather than official power. Other members of the assemblies would be also
elected on at-large basis among the rural District assemblies while members from
Municipal and Metropolitan assemblies could be elected from each electoral area
or combination of both at-large and electoral area.

Assembly and Mayor/DCE/MCE

While the Mayor/DCE/MCE has the responsibility of presiding at meetings of the
Assemblies, the primary functions of the Mayor/MCE/DCE and the Assemblies would
be as follows:

a) adopt budget
b) adopt ordinances
c) appoint Assembly/Council Manager

It is important to note that, under this form of government, rural district
assemblies could be limited to those governmental structures and power
specifically granted by Parliament. However, metropolitan district assemblies
could in addition, be encouraged to enact and adopt ordinances due to their
complex urban settings. This could be compared to the administration of local
government system under General Law and Home Rule Cities in the State of Texas
as prescribed by the State Legislature.

Assembly/Council Manager

A professional Assembly/Council Manager who is appointed by the Assemblies would
be responsible for the day-to-day management and administration of the Assembly.
He/she would be charged to do the following:

a) appoint department heads
b) supervises assembly bureaucracy
c) prepares budget of the Assembly

The compensation of the Assembly/Council Manager and the department heads would
be determined by the Assembly and would be charged on the District Common Fund.
District/Municipal Common Fund Administrator/Controller

The District/Municipal Common Fund Administrator/Controller would be the
custodian of the revenue of the Assembly. Currently, the President appoints the
District Common Fund Administrator. Under the proposed form of government,
he/she would be appointed by the Assembly. Besides integrity, the Common Fund
Administrator must demonstrate high professional excellence and capacity to
deliver. His/her responsibilities would include but not limited to the

a) supervision and disbursement of assembly common fund
b) revenue generation through taxation and collection of fees
c) support Assembly budget preparation

Duality in local administration is impeding the effectiveness of
decentralization of local government in Ghana. Government ministries in Accra
have officers in all the district assemblies who supervise the work of the
ministries. Assembly members have to work in tandem with these government
officers to execute public projects designed for their districts. But one does
not overlook the fact that to paraphrase Ted O’Neil, former House Speaker of US
House of Representatives, “all politics are local”. Assembly members must be
given the freedom to determine what is good for their districts. The Assembly
must supervise the existing departments and if need be create others with
appointed heads to run effectively the administration of the districts.

Finally, one can conclude that should decentralization of local government be
efficient and effective, district assemblies in the country must be given the
freedom to elect officers. Competent candidates, no doubt would be lured to run
for offices in the assemblies which would serve as incubators for future
political leaders. Public service must be viewed to be a dedicated and honorable
call for individuals who have passion to selflessly work for government.

From : Kwame Acheampong,
Adjunct Professor of Political Science
Texas Southern University
Houston, Texas USA