Editorial : Yes, Local Government Law must be amended
Mr Joseph Dindiok Kpemka, Deputy Attorney General, is calling for the amendment of some provisions of the Local Government Act and Legislations to ensure that the election of a Presiding Member for a District Assembly is based on a simple majority.
He based his call on the fact that the various assemblies have not been able to elect their Presiding Members after the District Assembly Elections and inauguration in December last year and January this year respectively.
Mr Joseph Dindiok Kpemka, who was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), said in the Upper East Region, out of the 15 Municipal and District Assemblies, only six assemblies have been able to elect their presiding members. He went further to mention the Bawku District Assembly, which has not had a presiding member for four years running, and the situation is having a toll on the development of the district.
“I will support any move by the President to amend the various Local Government Acts and Legislations to ensure that the Presiding Member position is by [a] simple majority, because the reason behind the current system is to make sure that the Presiding Member has absolute support and control over the Assembly. But if we have realised over time that the practice does not allow development to flourish, but is rather a hindrance to the development of the districts, we have to go by a simple majority,” he reportedly told the GNA.
As the Deputy Minister indicated, per the provisions of the Local Government Act of 2016, Act 939, one must obtain a two-thirds majority of the total number of assembly members to be a Presiding Member, and many of the Assemblies across the country, on countless occasions, failed to meet the law.
The Chronicle finds the development very worrisome, because that was not the intention of those who drafted the law. What the drafters had in mind was that the district assemblies are non-partisan, and that Presiding Members who are to lead them must be above reproach, hence, the adoption of the rigid procedure for their election.
Though the district assembly concept is still non-partisan on paper, in reality, it has become partisan, and this has defeated the provisions of the law. All the assembly members are elected based on party affiliations, and they go to the assembly to do pure politics. With both New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) dominating the political landscape, election of these Presiding Members are no more non-partisan, but grounds for these two dominant parties to test their political strength.
Go to any assembly, and the members themselves will tell you their colleagues that belong to either the NPP or NDC. With the Metropolitan, Municipal and District assemblies serving as preparatory grounds to test their political fortunes, NDC members will never vote for an NPP candidate to become PM, and vice versa. This is the reason why there is always difficulty in electing PMs throughout the country.
The development is thwarting the forward march of our local government system, and this is the reason why The Chronicle supports the call by the Deputy Minister for the amendment of the law to enable the assemblies to elect their PMs with a simple majority. When this is done, it will help bring down the partisan nature of the assemblies.
The political interest of individuals constituting the assembly should not override the larger interest of the local people, and the time to do something about the law is now!