From Samuel Agbewode, Ho .
The Senior Minister, Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, says it is unfortunate that after 30 years of local government practice in the country, the relevance of local government administration has not been achieved, as decentralisation only remains documental evidence.
To him, decentralisation does not practically exist at the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA).
According to him, the country has over the years been paying lip-serve to the practice of local government and that there was the need to transfer power from central government to the Metropolitan, Municipal and District assemblies, with adequate funding that would enable the assemblies to work more effectively.
He said it was vital for the regions to operate independently with special budgetary support from the central government.
The MMDAs must also be managed effectively by the civil servants working at the various assemblies.
Mr. Osafo Maafo said this at the opening ceremony of the 4th Professionals Conference of Local Government Service at Ho yesterday, for about 400 staff from 28 professional groups in the service to review, brainstorm, share and learn from best practices and challenges.
The conference would also assess the role of professionals in achieving the national decentralisation objective after 30 years of implementation.
The Minister stressed that the time has come for the purposes for which decentralisation policy was implemented for the past 30 years to be taken more seriously.
To him, it should be seen as the engine of rapid rural development by empowering the people to be able to contribute in the decision making process.
According to the Senior Minister, the various professionals at the various assemblies needed to see themselves as people who are supposed to lead the implementation of best practices in local governance in the rural areas.
He charged them to consider resource mobilisation as key to drive the development aspirations of the people who, he said, were eager to see their areas well developed.
Mr. Osafo-Maafo said what is important in local governance system, but has been overlooked, is the collection of internally generated funds, pointing out that most of the development problems at the various assemblies were not actually linked up to politics, but rather lack of knowledge. According to him, after 30 years of the decentralisation policy, assemblies did not know that their development largely depended on locally generated revenue as they still rely on central government’s budget.
He noted that the assemblies have enough avenues to mobilise funds for development, citing for example property rate, which could be tapped into to generate more revenue for development, but has been neglected because the civil servants at the assemblies did not know that it is an area where revenue could be generated.
The Dean of Arts and Sciences at the Ashesi University, Prof. Stephen Adei, noted that little has been done in local government administration since its implementation.
He was, however, happy that the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo’s administration has decided to introduce reforms, including the election of the MMDCEs.
He noted that in transforming local governance, things ought to be done differently. To him, the implementation of the ‘One-District–One–Factory’, ‘One-Village–One–Dam’ policies should be owned by the people with effective supervision from civil servants who would be giving direction, thereby giving meaning to decentralisation.
Prof. Adei called for the cancelation of the policy, where budgets are prepared from the central government in Accra and imposed on the MMDAs.
He argued that after 30 years of local governance practice, it should be seen as alien to local governance, stressing that local government practice should normally ensure that more activities take place in the rural areas, with the people fully participating.
He observed that the provision of electricity, education and health facilities in the rural areas over the years have seen significant improvement, but the full benefits of local government was yet to be derived.
The Dean of Arts and Sciences at the Ashesi University pointed out that lack of mobilization of citizens at the MMDAs was getting worse, compared with the past where communities regularly embarked on communal labour to keep their environment clean.
Prof Adei also urged the head of the local government service to introduce “the rotation system of civil servants to ensure that personnel would be transferred from towns and cities to work in the rural areas as those personnel in the rural areas would also experience working in the cities and towns to help ensure effective management of human resources in the country, as well as to promote productivity.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Prof. John Owusu Gyapong, who chaired the programme noted that the efficient management of the human resource of the country still remains as one of the major development challenges confronting the nation, saying it was unfortunate that 48 percent of health workers alone remain in Accra to the detriment of rural areas.