A PRESENTATION BY HON. JOSEPH YIELEH CHIREH(MP), MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT, GHANA . IMPROVING LOCAL GOVERNMENT: THE COMMONWEALTH VISION. Contd. Carl Wright, Secretary-General, Margaret Eaton, Chair Local Government Association of England And Wales
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A PRESENTATION BY
HON. JOSEPH YIELEH CHIREH(MP), MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT, GHANA
IMPROVING LOCAL GOVERNMENT: THE COMMONWEALTH VISION
Carl Wright, Secretary-General,
Margaret Eaton, Chair Local Government Association
of England And Wales
Mr. Jean Perrault, President, Federation of Canadian
Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a pleasure to be here and I bring you greetings
In Ghana the provision of basic services and infrastructure is a shared responsibility between the Central Government and the Local Authorities. The Local Authorities are an important and integral part of the Ghana public sector as they have significant responsibility in the delivery of basic services such as primary education, basic health care water and sanitation.
The Local Government Reforms and the Decentralization Policy seek to empower the Local Authorities to promote local democracy through effective participation and basic service delivery geared towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs
The mandates, roles and responsibilities of Local Authorities in this direction are enshrined in the Constitution, the Local Government Act and other enabling legislations on Local Government. The roles and responsibilities of the Local Authorities have been expanded over the years. Under the decentralized system the Local Authorities are the highest political, administrative and planning authorities in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
The Local Authorities have the mandate to prepare Medium Term Development Plans reflecting on the needs and priorities of the various communities. Such plans are prepared through participatory processes.
The plans are prepared based on guidelines developed by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) which is a central body established under the constitution of Ghana.
The developed Medium Term Development Plans of the Local Authorities have to be approved by the NDPC and the approved plans rolled out as the annual plans of the Local Authorities for the delivery of services.
The targets set out in the development plans forms the basis of ascertaining the achievements of the Local Authorities
To address the capacity issue at the local level of both the staff and councilors of local authorities, the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) has been established and given the legal mandate by an Act of Parliament to build the capacities of functionaries of the Local Authorities.
On yearly basis they draw programme offering courses and training in areas of planning, financial management, leadership, management and others.
Another area is to give orientation to new functionaries on their roles and responsibilities to ensure transparency and accountability at the local level.
To address the long term human resource needs of the Local Authorities the government through an Act Parliament has established a Local Government Service (LGS).
The rationale is to provide adequate and competent professionals to support the activities of the Local Authorities.
Furthermore, on annual basis the Ministry organizes review conferences for the Chief Executives of the Local Authorities to review their performances and adopt strategies to resolve common problems.
It also provides the platform for Government to share and equip the Chief Executives with information on national programmes and priorities.
Such fora also afford the Chief Executives the opportunity to share information and best practices among themselves.
As a measure of improving service delivery at the local level the responsibility is bestowed on the Sector Ministries and the Local Governments.
The role of the Central Ministries is basically to support the local Authorities through the formulation of appropriate policies, programmes, guidelines and setting of targets.
However, the sectors take responsibility for the delivery of specific services such as higher education, health, water and sewage, roads etc.
The sector Ministries come out with the policy objectives for the medium term and roll it out on yearly basis.
The major challenge in the preparation of the medium term strategy is the access to reliable data and information.
To enhance the delivery of better services at the local level, the constitution provides for the establishment of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) which constitute not less than 5% of total government revenues to be set aside and distributed to Local Authorities to finance development activities.
This initiative provides the Local Authorities with the necessary resource base for the development initiatives. Currently the DACF constitutes 7.5% of the national revenue and this constitutes about 30% - 35% on the average of national investment expenditure.
Since the introduction of the DACF in 1994, the DACF constitute the main and reliable source of funding to the Local Authorities.
Under the DACF 2% of the fund is set up annually to provide for capacity building and development initiatives to promote efficiency in the Local governments.
This facility is used for human resource development and provision of needed logistics of the Local Authorities.
Through this facility over the years the central government has been able to resource the departments of the Local authorities.
As part of measures to improve service delivery at the local level the government adopted the policy of Public Private Partnerships as a measure to mobilize additional financial resources and skills to support the local Authorities.
Under the PPP policy most of the services are out-sourced to the private enterprises with the Local Authorities providing supervisory roles.
The major challenge under the policy include the weak financial base of the private enterprises and effective contract management and administration on the part of the Local Authorities.
To further improve on the performances of the Local Authorities the government has introduced the District Development Facility (DDF) which is an initiative of the Government of Ghana and key Development Partners on Decentralization. The DDF is aims at:
Capacity gaps that are identified during the assessment processes are addressed through the provision of capacity enhancement funds which are integral in the DDF.
The Functional Organizational Assessment Tool (FOAT ) is applied to determine the performance of District Assemblies before they benefit from DDF.
The DDF-FOAT initiative is also to promote the culture of improving the performances at the Local Level and enhancing continuous capacity improvement of local level government functionaries.
The assessment also validates the routine functions of the Local Government Inspectorate Directorate
In the operations of the Local Authorities an identified gap is the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a tool to enhance the governance processes.
Thus the use of E-Governance as a tool in management by the Local Authorities has not become integral part of the operational mechanisms in Ghana. This is due to lack of competencies in ICT both the hardware and soft wares.
Lack of internet connectivity to the various towns and communities are part of the issues that account for the problem.
To address this issue the government under the various projects and programmes of the ministries, Departments and Agencies is incorporating ICT training to the competencies of the staff.
In addition the Government is introducing ICT as a subject on the curriculum of both basic education and secondary education levels
In order to improve performance of the Local Authorities in the delivery of basic services and infrastructure and also ensure value for money, the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and Traditional Authorities (TAs) have been assigned roles in monitoring the performance of the Local Authorities.
They are to promote the demand side of the accountability processes through the sharing of information and demand for accountability on behalf of the citizenry from the local government functionaries.
They are also to mobilize resources both human and material to support the activities of the Local Authorities in the areas affecting the vulnerable, poor and marginalized segments of society.
In passing, permit me to mention that the new Government of Ghana is committed to deepening decentralization to improve local government and as such arrangements are being made to review the decentralization process.
This is necessary because, after 20 years of practicing the District Assembly system, we find it worthwhile to have this review involving all relevant stake holders including political party representatives.
Through this, some of the institutional and legal framework which impede the smooth implementation of decentralization would be removed and a clear way forward mapped out.
In conclusion, under the decentralized system in Ghana, the local Authorities are being empowered to deliver basic services and improve the standard of living to the communities, towns and cities to meet the demands of the citizenery.
Despite the challenges the Local Authorities as the closest institution to the communities have the potential to identify the needs and priorities and also provide solutions in addressing them.
Sharing experiences from the various countries within the commonwealth on how to improve service delivery by the Local Authorities is a worthy effort.
On this note, I want to thank the Commonwealth Local Government Forum for the invitation and the opportunity to participate in the conference.