Local Government Ministry to re-energise decentralisation process

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development on Tuesday unveiled measures to streamline laws and policies that are in conflict with the Local Government Act 462, as part of a broad platform to re-energise the decentralisation process.

Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, the sector minister, who made this known in Accra in an interview with the Ghana News Agency to shed light on the wider policy direction of the ministry said the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), revisited the issue in line with its manifesto.

He said the ruling NDC rolled out the exercise through consultative sessions in the 10 regions and sideline consultations with the various House of Chiefs, women groups and political parties.

These efforts culminated in the engagement of experts to review the act leading to the Draft Decentralisation Policy Framework on the theme: “Accelerating Decentralisation and Local Governance for National Development.”

The ministry has subsequently submitted issues emerging from the consultations for legislative review.

Touching on the local government instrument 2009, Mr Chireh said it seeks to operationalise the decentralised departments at the district level, which would cease to exist in their present form and reconstituted through a series of mergers.

Sixteen departments will emerge in the Metropolitan Assemblies, 13 in the Municipal Assemblies and 11 in the District Assemblies.

The Local Government Service has since been established under the Local Government Service Act, 2003, Act 656. Staff of the district assemblies will therefore automatically become members of the service.

Some of the departments to operate under the district assemblies include; Works Department, Physical Planning Department, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Department of Social Welfare and Community Department.

Others are Urban Roads Department, Budgeting and Rating Department and Transport.

Mr Yieleh Chireh, spoke at length about the draft decentralisation framework of the ministry, which aimed at accelerating decentralisation and local governance for national development.

The 31-page policy framework hammered on the constitutional requirement for political, administrative and fiscal decentralisation as a channel for fostering democracy and popular participation in governance.

It identified some imperatives for achieving the envisaged decentralisation process through harmonisation and effective realignment.

These include the transfer of functions, powers, responsibilities and resources from the centre to the local government level ; measures to build the capacity of local authorities to plan, initiate, co-ordinate, manage and execute policies; establish a sound financial base with adequate and reliable sources of revenue.

The document expressed concern about incomplete functioning of the local government structures, inadequate capacity in terms of full complement of staff, weakness of district departments, low levels of internally generated revenues, planning and budgeting challenges and unsatisfactory conduct of public hearing.

The guiding principle of the document comprise  the right of all persons to be afforded opportunities to participate in decision making at every level of government and the need for central government transferring relevant functions, powers, responsibilities and resources to local government units in a co-ordinated manner; and in turn, local governments transferring required resources to the sub-structures.

The areas of policy action of the framework include political decentralisation and legal issues; administrative decentralisation; decentralised development planning; spatial planning; local economic development, fiscal decentralisation, popular participation and accountability and institutional mechanism for policy co-ordination.

The implementation framework has tasked the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to function as a secretariat to co-ordinate policy implementation of decentralisation.

There will also be an Inter-ministerial Co-ordinating Committee on Decentralisation and other statutory roles for the Local Government Service, Institute of Local Government Studies, the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, the private sector, development partners and non-state actors.

The Local Government Minister threw light on matrix issues for legislative review emerging from the decentralisation review process and national stakeholder conference on decentralisation.

Some of the recommendations include 30 per cent appointment of representatives identified by interest groups in the districts, whose representation must be agreed to by traditional authorities.

There should be a requirement for the President’s nominee to pass efficiency and competence interview, while the Executive Committee should be presided over by a member of the Executive Committee.

The Presiding Member shall be elected by at least two-thirds of the members of the district assemblies present and voting or by a simple majority of all the members of the assemblies.

Touching on realignment of the district assemblies, Mr Yieleh Chireh said more than 30,000 of local personnel are likely to be transferred to the district assemblies to streamline their activities.

Source: GNA

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