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Opinions of Thursday, 3 September 2015

Columnist: Asamoah-Siaw, Kofi

Ghana’s local government system is a sham!

- Give Power to the People to Elect their MMDCEs

Decentralization has become important and synonymous with both developed and developing countries. The zeal for decentralization has increased over the years as it is considered by many as the key to effective and efficient public administration. Decentralization requires that political power is transferred or delegated from central government to regional and local authorities. It is important to note that many western countries have seen remarkable development due to the fact that they understand democracy and allow their people to participate in their local governance. Democratic processes in these countries are allowed to work to the letter. Mayors and local government authorities are directly elected by the people.
The recent district level elections and its attendant poor patronage have exposed the shambolic nature of local government system we have in Ghana. There are many who want us to believe that Ghana has a proper decentralization system that is second to none in the world. One would have wished that, this is rightly the case. However, our local government system is a sham! The most powerful and important person at the local level is not elected but appointed.
Article 240 (2) (e) of the 1992 constitution clearly states that, “ to ensure accountability of local government authorities, people in particular local government areas shall, as far as practicable, be afforded the opportunity to participate effectively in their governance”. Is this the case with our local government system?
There is no way any country can have proper decentralization when Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) are appointed by the incumbent government. This is an indictment on our democracy. The people should be allowed to participate effectively in their local governance. We cannot have proper decentralization where people from the various regions and districts in Ghana travel to Accra to transact government business that could have been done at the local level, if authority had been properly transferred to the local levels.
What amazes the PPP is the assertion by some local government experts that the election of MMDECs will create disunity at the local level, and that the elected MMDCEs will be hostile to the sitting government. They will even try to unseat government for their party to come to power. This argument is absurd and cannot be taken seriously. Why is it that Ghanaians are allowed to elect their President, Members of Parliament and Assembly Members but are denied the right to elect MMDCEs? Does it augur well for Ghana? Do we call this proper local government or decentralization?
We believe that the best way to ensure proper decentralization is to give power to the people to elect their own MMDCEs. Elected MMDCEs will not lose cognizance of the fact that the people will hold them accountable, and will vote them out of power at the end of their tenure if they refuse to carry out developmental projects. This is the only way meaningful development can reach the people. Power must be given to the people.
We strongly believe that if we do not elect our MMDCEs, there will be the continuous decline of interest in the current decentralization process and that will be a waste of time and resources. This is because the most important person at the local level, the DCE, is not accountable to the people. Thus the Assemblyman tries in vain to secure development for the electorate.
The government of the Republic of Ghana must respect the views of Ghanaians and give them the desired and expected right to elect their MMDCEs.
Kofi Asamoah-Siaw
National Secretary