The Decentralisation Review Conference
The Manifesto for a Better Ghana (2008) outlines the vision and direction of the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for Ghana. Amongst other things, it indicates that the government will organize a broad national Stakeholders Conference on Decentralization which will look at the conceptual issues in Ghana’s decentralization process as well as review the twenty (20) years of implementation and make proposals for the way forward (pages 29 and 30).
While some activities have been initiated it is imperative that within the next six months concrete steps are taken towards these priorities …
The assembly system of local governance was introduced in 1988 with the passage of the Local Government Law, PNDCL 207. This brought into being local authorities known as metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) with legislating, executing, budgeting, planning and rating powers. This initiated a comprehensive programme of local government and decentralization reform. Provisions for representation of the people included elected and appointed memberships of the assemblies. Following the transition to constitutional rule in 1992, the overall provisions for decentralisation were set out in Chapter 20 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Enabling legislations, such as Local Government Act, 1993, Act 462, the National Development Planning (System) Act, 1994, Act 480 and the District Assemblies Common Fund Act, 1993, Act 455 were subsequently enacted. Numerous subsidiary legislations were also prepared including the individual Establishment Instruments of the respective assemblies and the Local Government (Urban, Town and Zonal Councils and Unit Committees) Establishment Instrument, 1994, LI 1589.
The decentralisation programme has been anchored on four main and inter-related pillars of Political Decentralisation, Administrative Decentralisation, Decentralised Planning and Fiscal Decentralisation.
Over the two decades of implementation, there have been varying achievements in each of the four areas. Policy implementation issues have emerged and in some cases, the process has not been completed. In particular relation to Parliament, certain legislations have been passed which have proven difficult and even impossible to implement because of lack of policy clarity, failure of legislative drafting or both. Indications were that if lawmakers had been adequately sensitized to the policy and other implications of the enactment, the laws might either have been enacted differently or might not have been enacted at all.
Therefore, a process of engaging Members of Parliament (MPs) early on the policy implication of the proposed legislations had to be established to enable the legislators appreciate the contents, likely implementation difficulties and bottlenecks, the likely cost implications and the impact of the legislation on the system of local government, decentralisation process and ultimately on the people.
Secondly, the nation was embarking on a process to review twenty years of the decentralization and local governance experience with a view to improving conceptualisation and accelerating decentralization. Such a process would require broad political consensus for sustainability and popular acceptance of this strategic aspect of Ghana’s overall development.
Group discussions were also conducted to generate recommendations for the National Stakeholders Conference. The process was also intended to distil issues for proposed legislative and constitutional reform (See Appendix 1 for details of the Workshop Programme).
This report presents the proceedings and key recommendations emanating from the Workshop. Appendix 1b presents the programme for the Opening Ceremony; Appendix 2, the Concept Paper underpinning the workshop and Appendix 3, the List of Participants).
In 1988, Ghana embarked on a comprehensive decentralisation policy and local government reform programme with the aim of establishing decentralised government machinery where the process of governance is through the participatory and consultative process. As such 170 districts have so far been created throughout the country to be the main pivot and focal points for the decentralised governance structure. The effective functioning of such a system of governance is dependent on decentralised institutions at the local level with strong institutions capacity.
It is expected that this process of governance should open up the local governance process to make it more transparent and responsive due to the active participation of the local stakeholders. The envisaged decentralised structure is supposed to have well laid fiscal and political decentralised structures to empower the district assemblies to effectively implement their mandates and deliver the needed services to the people at the local governance level.
Twenty years of implementation have yielded various results and experiences from the perspective of practitioners as well as the citizenry whose lot the decentralization process was intended to improve. National and international environments and their socio-economic, political, technical and administrative dimensions have also changed considerably over two decades. These developments have put additional pressures for local authorities to innovate and perform even in relation to their original functions. Therefore, for Ghanaian local authorities to respond appropriately and be pro-active in ensuring the well-being of their citizens there is an urgent need to take the changing context into account and adapt efficiently and effectively by reviewing the process, assessing the policy gaps and making some amendments that will make the program achieve the objectives to which it was initiated.
The government intends to conduct a national stakeholder conference to review and recommend measures for accelerating Ghana’s decentralization effort. However, a series of activities are being undertaken to precede the conference, in order to facilitate wider ownership of the recommendations and products.
Specifically, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) has identified four sets of activities be undertaken to provide inputs for the national stakeholder conference. Namely:
a) consultation of special interest groups;
b) regional consultations (which are presently ongoing)
c) identification and analysis of existing literature, reports and documentation and
d) an ongoing process of generating written memoranda, statements and position papers as inputs for the purpose of reviewing decentralization.
The entire exercise is intended to generate five main outputs:
(i) an issues paper outlining the key issues as is currently known;
(ii) a consolidated stakeholder review process report with proposals for the acceleration of decentralization
(iii) a revised decentralization policy framework
(iv) a second national decentralization action plan
(v) inputs on priorities for the envisaged legislative and constitutional review processes.
It is within this context that a two-day consultation with Political Parties was organized at Volta Hotel, Akosombo to present their party’s position papers on the decentralisation reform for discussion and build consensus on key areas where there is the urgent need for reform.
As one of the Consultations with Special Interest Groups, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in collaboration with Institute of Local Government Studies organized a two- day consultation with Political Parties with support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS).
The role of Political Parties in this consultative process is of paramount importance as all the parties during the last campaign pledged in one form or the other to reform the decentralisation process to make them responsive to the people’s needs. Further it is important that on important issues such as this, the need to build a consensus in such consultative process and get all ideas on board are very important for effective implementation of the outcome of decisions reached at the consultative process.
Objectives of the Meeting
The objective of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for participants to contribute to the review process. Specifically, the meeting:
- Reflected on the performance of the assembly system over the past two decades especially in relation to the rights and participation of the disabled- the achievements, the lessons and the priority areas for reform
- Examined the interpretations of concept of decentralization, the issues that have arisen in the different sectoral approaches to its operationalization
- Provide opportunity for political parties to present their party’s position papers on the decentralisation reform for discussion
- Build consensus on key areas where there is the urgent need for reform
- Made recommendations for the way forward.
The intended outcome of the meeting was an assessment of the decentralization process and the assembly system of local governance; good practices and lessons was generated; and recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of Ghana’s decentralization and local governance processes was provided.
The meeting started at 9.20 am with an opening prayer by the Hon. Kuntu Blankson, MP, Mfanstiman East. The moderator, Dr. Callistus Mahama (Deputy Director, Institute of Local Government Studies) thereafter introduced the key personalities and briefly discussed the programme outline. The Director of the Institute of Local Government Studies, Dr. Esther Ofei-Aboagye thereafter introduced the chairman for the programme, Daasebre Professor (Emeritus) Oti Boateng, the Omanhene of New Juaben and President of the Eastern Region House of Chiefs.
Daasebre Oti Boateng in his address said he was happy to be associated with this very important meeting intended to discuss one of the crucial areas of governance. He indicated that he had been associated with the present local government system since its inception in 1988. As the Government Statistician he was responsible for the demarcation of the initial 110 MMDAs in Ghana.
He conveyed his acceptance to chair proceedings but also made some preliminary observations about the captioning of the workshop.He said that the decentralization process could be reviewed annually through an effective evaluation system.
Daasebre Oti Boateng explained that the workshop as captioned, “First Annual Local Government Reform and Decentralisation Workshop” was inaccurate. He explained that having the first meeting does not annualise an.