Thanks to a recent report by SEND-Ghana, a civil society organisation (CSO) to assess the contribution of the District Assemblies’ Common Fund (DACF) to development in communities, which t dwelt on the utilisation of the common fund for local development.
The study covered Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Greater Accra Regions. In all, 27 districts were randomly selected from the regions.
Dubbed: “Bringing Development to the Doorsteps of Citizens,” the report found out that a total of 416 projects were initiated by the 27 assemblies from 2010 to 2013.
Over the years, CSOs organisations have been concerned about the management of the DACF.
Their anxieties include delay in the release of fund, the utilisation of the finance in line with public financial management practices and the impact of the money on intended beneficiaries.
In its earlier works, SEND-Ghana has focused on adherence of the assemblies to implementation guidelines and compliance with public financial management practices.
Specifically, the monitoring looked at planned and implemented DACF projects by the MMDAs from 2010 to 2013, the benefits derived from DACF-funded development projects and how DACF-funded projects and benefits are distributed.
Per the guidelines of the Local Government Ministry, the DACF has over the years funded economic ventures, social services and environmental projects with at least 50 per cent of the fund being consistently allocated for such projects.
Projects in these sectors address the developmental and poverty needs of the various districts.
Most of these projects are in the critical sectors such as energy, road and market centres, which is taking 15.3 per cent while education, health and security took 36.3 per cent as well as water and sanitation, 12.2 per cent.
The remaining 36.2 per cent involved 134 projects undertaken in administration and local government sector by 22 assemblies.
These involved renovation works on assembly offices, supply of furniture, procurement of assembly vehicles, offices for governmental agencies and housing for key staff.
Presenting the findings of the report, Ms Clara Osei-Boateng, Director of Policy Programmes, SEND-Ghana said almost half, representing 45.7 per cent of 416 projects initiated by the assemblies from 2010 to 2013, were not completed on time due to delayed funds transfer.
Besides, delayed project inspection by the assemblies, bureaucracy in awarding contracts and deliberate frustration of contractors to make them offer bribes are other causes of the inability of the MMDAs to complete their projects.
“The delay in transfer of funds alone, accounts for 43.1 per cent of projects that were not completed on time,” she said.
Indeed, timely release of funds to ensure execution of projects on time would ensure that there are no cost over-runs and make the projects accessible early to beneficiaries.
Ms Osei-Boateng said analysis showed that projects that involved simple procurement procedure, including purchase of office equipment, supply and procurement of electrical poles and water and sanitation projects had better time management.
On the flip side, construction of facilities such as school buildings, roads and office structures suffered poor time management due to the cumbersome and prolong procurement processes.
An interesting finding in the report was that, human factors such as long bureaucratic processes and procedures involved in awarding contracts, human barriers intentionally created to compel contractors to offer bribes at every stage of the process and the delay in inspection of projects by the assemblies before authorisation of payment for project execution to continue.
The research established that a large majority representing 94.6 per cent of projects executed by the assemblies such as schools and health centres are in use and have had significant impact on their communities.
However, poor location of facilities, delay in handing over for use and inaccessibility to persons with disabilities have been noted as the reasons for the non-use of completed projects.
The study also found out that projects that were planned in consultation with assembly members were more successful in contrast with those that were done in consultation with government’s medium term development plans (MTDPs), partly because resources get diverted for other politically expedient projects.
SEND-Ghana believes that local development would be enhanced if the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Finance and the District Assemblies Common Fund Secretariat ensure that funds are made available to the assemblies on time.
The group is also recommending resourcing of assembly members to enhance consultations with their electoral areas, improve project monitoring, community participation and greater consideration for disabled persons in accordance with the Persons with Disability Act 2006.
Mr Siapha Kamara, Chief Executive Officer, SEND-West Africa, commenting on report said issues of accountability and transparency are not only in the domain of CSOs and urged the media to play a key role.
He said Ghana would be better when citizens could ensure that duty-bearers are made to account for their stewardship.
Mr Kamara called on government to introduce policies that institutionalise equity across board to ensure that no one is excluded from the opportunities that exist for all.
In its recommendation, the report called on government to ensure timely disbursement of funds to MMDAs to enable appropriate completion and implementation of projects.
Designated departments within assemblies should improve monitoring of projects by working in close collaboration with community leaders.
In addition, community participation should be encouraged by MMDAs at all stages of projects life and citizens should be made to choose services they desire most, when and where they want it.
By Christian Akorli