Politics of Saturday, 17 January 2015
Source: Graphic Online
A local government expert, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi, is calling for a national consensus on an irrevocable decentralisation policy which cannot be altered even when there is a change in government.
He said a change of government was the main threat to a sacrosanct Local Government Act which could stand the test of time.
Prof. Ahwoi, who is also a former Local Government Minister, said at a workshop for directors of agriculture in the Ashanti Region on decentralisation that frequent modification of the number of departments to be captured under the Local Government Act informed his call.
For instance, he said, before the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government took over, the number of departments captured under the Local Government Act were 22, but it was slashed to 17 with the axing of key ministries, including education.
Concerning the new consolidated Local Government Bill, which is yet to be forwarded to the Cabinet for onward submission to Parliament, Prof. Ahwoi said there was the need for governments to look beyond party loyalty in the appointment of District Chief Executives (DCEs) and Metropolitan and Municipal Chief Executives (MMCEs) and look out for those with other competencies which could enhance the policy because the success or otherwise of it hinged on the chief executives.
Pointing out some corrections that needed to be looked at, the former minister said the Local Government Secretariat, for instance, was not an appendage of the local government ministry, but an autonomous body which could be likened to the Head of Civil Service.
Under the Consolidated Local Government Bill, six main areas are being considered for review. They are the District Assemblies Common Fund of 1994, the Local Government Act of 1993, the Local Government Service Act of 2003, the Internal Audit Agency Act of 2003, the Public Procurement Act of 2003 and LI 1964 of 2009.
Subsequently, the various regional coordinating directors are expected to sign performance contracts with their regional ministers on specific targets on January 23 in Accra, which is expected to trickle down to the very least on the decentralisation ladder.
The Head of Local Government Secretariat, Dr Callistus Mahama, said the decentralisation in Agriculture was to make agriculture officers accountable to the various districts and, by extension, the assembly.
Unlike formerly when budgets were submitted to the national and action plans imposed from the national to the district level, the individual agriculture departments shall participate in the provision of extension services in the area of natural resources management and rural infrastructure and small-scale irrigation in the districts.
He said they would also assist in the formulation and implementation of an agricultural policy for the district assembly within the framework of national policies, among other things.
The Regional Minister, Dr Samuel Sarpong, expressed the hope that the decentralisation in agriculture would help address the specific needs of the districts and design policies that would address their problems and thereby increase yields for the country.
He applauded the decision and said the policy would prevent any future food shortage and help the people implement their own specific projects and not policies handed down from the national level to them.