Feature Article of Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Columnist: Bolus, Mercy Adede

Ghana lacks a Comprehensive Needs Assessment

to address social issues of concerns in every region.

I reckon that it would be right to raise this awareness that community development needs to be taken very seriously by current Government. In Britain local councils perform marvellous work through working with the Government on initiatives identified by each community. This is a system perhaps worth emulating in Ghana. Local MP’s alone cannot identify local needs. We need to remunerate all our Chiefs and Queens playing a pivotal role in our community in helping to bring discipline, law and order in our villages and towns who are yet not on any salary.

May I ask whose responsibility lies in this area? I am sure it is not only local chiefs and queens? It would be fair if we want quality services from our local chiefs and queens. At present it appears no Government have ever thought of perhaps making a firm decision so that our chiefs and queens are on a salary earmarked as Community Development representatives? For example if there were issues affecting a village the Government would be the last to know of it. The chiefs and queens are the frontline when it comes to community development. Community engagement and Social responsibility clauses in our constitution would address most inequalities that exist in our communities throughout Ghana.

The equivalent of district councillors in Ghana are currently not working to any schedule and with no needs assessment document as a baseline to work on. How can every village or town hold so-called councillors in their area to account then? If Ghana has a package used by each district this would provide a uniformed service provision in every district and we would have standard services in all our regions.

This would also ensure that each year designated Community Leader could sit with the councillors and discuss identified needs, which would be addressed in the yearly plan within a given period of time.

This would ensure that there is an annual audit of any project each year and ascertain if the community is pleased with the outcome of a project each year. These are the points the general public need to base their points on to vote for a particular MP or a district councillor. Currently some MP’s do not work hard enough to deserve being voted to return to office again.

This would be a good yardstick for every community throughout Ghana and could determine their voting rights too. For example, whether to vote some one back to office for a Parliamentary candidate. At times, one wonders why certain villages are missed each year when it comes to earmarking funds for developmental projects in Ghana. In some case village have not been touched or developed for over 31 years.

In Britain and Ireland there is no traditional chieftaincy system except the Monarchy. They have gone through periods of struggling and have now accepted the local councils to perform certain duties to keep the community running by involving the Government. For the sake of this article, I would be comparing and contrasting what we could learn from the British system to give our villages ands towns a holistic development improvement.

Experience shows that coordinating needs assessments is an important element in saving lives and restoring people’s livelihoods. In addition, emergency preparedness, the timeliness and quality of assessments help determine an effective humanitarian response. Surely, a coordinated assessment is an assessment planned and carried in partnership with all stakeholders that is the local district councils, chiefs and queens of each village, town or city including the city Mayors, in order to document the impact of a particular crisis and to identify the needs affected populations. Experience shows that a credible and accurate assessment results form the basis for need-based strategic planning and system-wide monitoring.

Would it be right for the Government to undertake a mapping of existing initiatives and to establish synergies among these initiatives? Then the mapping would identify the following concerns:

1. Lack of essential baseline information required at the on-set of a crisis
2. Significant overlap in data collection between different initiatives; this information could be collected more efficiently through a coordinated assessment approach
3. Need for a core set of indicators that would be collected more consistently to improve the comparability of data
4. Need for better sharing of lessons learned and best practices on needs assessments and their design

Why the need for needs assessment:

It is important to have contingency planning and pre-crisis information as basis for assessment. This is because experience has shown that coordinating needs assessments is an important element in saving lives and restoring people’s livelihood. In addition, with emergency preparedness, the timeliness and quality of assessments help determine an effective humanitarian response. A coordinated assessment is an assessment planned and carried out in partnership by humanitarian actors such as chiefs, queens or queen mothers, district councils, fetish priests and priestesses, ngo and other local businesses. This is necessary in order to document the impact of a particular crisis and to identify the needs of affected populations. As a result a more credible and accurate assessment results form the basis for the needs- based strategic planning and system- wide monitoring.

When each district is able to have this key needs assessment it would certainly facilitate the development of a needs assessment framework, and any undertaken mapping of existing of initiatives would establish synergies among these initiatives.
We would need to develop a package, which would be user friendly to our specific needs, which would harmonise and promote across sector needs assessment initiatives.

Ghana should aim to focus on ensuring the collection of consistent, reliable and timely data on needs in humanitarian settings and strengthen informed decision-making to improve humanitarian response.

Key outlines should be focused on the following:

a) All activities should be based on adopting the guidance, tools and methodologies developed by the NGO or other agencies working in Ghana.
b) Synergies would be established with relevant working groups in our country to avoid overlap and benefit from mutual support.
c) All activities undertaken by specific groups whether joint NGO and district councils plus other stakeholders as monitors and will consider the needs of all he vulnerable groups including children no more under the tree form of education, elderly people day care centres provision, disabled persons and address cross –cutting issues such as gender, HIV and age.

We need to adopt these Key outlines in our terms of reference as follows:

i. Undertake inter-agency data and assessment prepared missions from at least three countries for example, Malaysia, South Korea and U.K These would include the mapping of existing assessment capacities and mechanism, provision of technical assistance and support for capacity building among operational agencies (where appropriate) so that we could develop and implement assessment and preparedness plans.
ii. We need to produce and implement a targeted plan for training so that we could build the capacity of operational agencies and support the development of global surge capacity for needs assessments. Do we have any rapid response mechanism in the country, as this approach would address crisis issues?
iii. Finally evaluation /review on which would form the basis of a report that will be presented to those involved in the needs assessment.

Plan of work for each year

A. The key humanitarian indicators will be refined in consultation with the global three countries identified. This will include a review of quality, appropriateness and measurability.

B. Having a closer linkage to NGO efforts will b cultivated in support of coordinated assessment to facilitate increased engagement and a more equitable sharing of responsibilities in implementing the operational Guidelines.

Coordinating efforts

Ghana needs Operational Guidance on Coordinated Assessment in Humanitarian Crisis, which promotes a shared vision on how to plan and carry out coordinated assessment, and use the results to support humanitarian decision- making.

In addition we need a Rapid response manual, which outlines an approach to undertaking a joint multi-sector assessment in the earliest days of a crisis or change in the context, and guides subsequent in- depth sectoral assessments.

A package or guidelines would be implemented throughout Ghana by operational agencies, working in humanitarian contexts including NGO’s UN agencies and governments.

For example a typical responsibilities of a council in Britain / Ireland is as follows:
Main functions of local councils
This include direct service provision and representation
Direct service provision
Each council is responsible for providing a variety of services in its own area. This could be used as the equivalent of what each village in Ghana could do if given the earmarked money through a system like the councils.
Councillors are appointed to represent their councils, or elected members in general, on a number of public bodies such as Education & Library Boards, Heath & Social Services and Road Safety Committees.
Areas of responsibility
Local councils are responsible for service areas including the following:
• refuse collection and disposal
• recycling and waste management
• civic amenity provision
• gounds maintenance
• street cleaning
• cemeteries
• public conveniences
• food safety
• health & safety
• environmental protection
• environmental improvement
• estates management - building design and maintenance
• building control-inspection and regulation of new buildings
• dog control
• enforcement byelaws such as those around litter
• sports and leisure services
• sports and recreational facilities
• parks, open spaces and playgrounds
• community centres
• arts, heritage and cultural facilities
• registration of births, deaths and marriages
Councils also have a role in the following areas:
• economic development
• community development
• community safety
• sports development
• summer schemes
• tourism
Councils are currently not responsible for, although they may be consulted on, the following areas:
• education
• personal social services
• roads
• public housing
• fire service
• police service
• trading standards
• drainage water
• sewerage
• libraries
• planning
• street lighting
• collection of rates
• transport
The system also ensures that there is a complaint system running so that services are audited.
Other council duties:
Free lands are allocated as alloments to encourage people without large garden to have one thus, paying yearly fees to the council.
Conclusion: I believe the above would enable Ghana to move on and develop a package to aggressively address most of our social problems still facing us in 2013.
The future is brighter. Ghana must lead the way in Africa in addressing social economic inequalities that currently exsit in Ghana. Ghana should aim to work with standards in order to provide a uniform services throughtout the country.