news feature by A.B. Kafui Kanyi/Sepenyo Dzokoto, GNA
Ho, Nov. 27, GNA - The theme for the second awards ceremony of the Volta Region Chapter of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), "Media-Key Partner in Local Governance", cannot be more apt.
Why so? Because media as a development tool, has a duty to dig in the spurs of the nation to develop through effective local governance.
Bottom-up development rather than top-bottom, is the key to national development for all nations.
It is about effective "little" governing authorities, managing people in their local setting, with rotor-like coordination through the regions to the government at the centre.
The system is not new. An Institute of Local Government Studies and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung publication said during the colonial times, the native authorities were used to facilitate communication and decision-making in their areas of jurisdiction.
Every other new concept is modelled on that earlier style.
Indeed, even when there were no Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, the local areas had some powers.
That was why cash from central government channelled through local councils were available to sponsor some local pupils through education at some levels.
At certain times there were even local gendarmeries.
Ghana now has local parliaments, supposed to be bedrocks of vigorous participatory decision-making across many sectors at the grassroots.
The 1992 Constitution of Ghana, in Article 240, tasks the “local assemblies (Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to plan, initiate, coordinate, manage and execute policies in respect of all matters within their areas”.
So the MMDAs have been established and working since the first district level elections in 1989.
There have been many fine-tuning of the laws and procedures. But it appears, input in terms of cash and training is not accompanied by commitment to ensure good output.
Daniel Resnick, a Senior Research Fellow of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), who did some studies on how agriculture was fitting into the new dispensation, came out with this remark.
“Although Ghana has been committed to decentralization since the passing of the 1993 Local Governance Act, it typically has practiced de-concentration.
“Whereby local government is solely responsible for implementation and accountability is upwards to line ministries within the central government”.
Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, talking to Chief Executives of MMDAs at a conference in 2017, said government was poised to sanitize the local government system by ensuring that there was the effective institutional coordination and harmonization.
Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice-President, inaugurating the Local Government, said Local Government was at the heart of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s programmes and plans for the country.
He demanded the Council ensured that they provided world class decentralized and client-oriented services.
The Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) under the direct purview of the Assemblies are Central Administration, Finance, Education, Youth and Sports, Health, Agriculture, Physical Planning, Social Welfare and Community Development, Natural Resources Conservation, Works, Trade and Industry and Disaster Prevention among others.
The Assembly Concept has the linkages from Unit Committees, Area, Zonal, Town and Urban Councils, through to the Social-Services Committees, Finance and Administration, Development Planning committees, among others.
Through these structures and committees, work must go on to improve people’s all-round welfare to move national development into a gallop.
Indeed local government must work to enable Ghana work again.
Using sanitation, a core function of the MMDAs to measure the impact of local governance on development, produces no good results.
There seem a total disconnect from the base structures through to the Assemblies on this issue.
Default rate in some communities could be as high as 90 per cent. Non-conformity is thought to be smartness and the bad practice, a culture.
In fact many individuals blatantly disregard good judgment on this issue.
The media should begin to play an advocacy role, supporting civil society groups to unclog the knots entangling the smooth rollout of an otherwise flawless system.
All districts in the region have radio stations, print also circulates quite well.
Ghana’s wire service, Ghana News Agency (GNA) has the capacity and the experience to do relevant stories to generate public interest in local governance.
In fact all media networks have the skills or must acquire the capacity to do so.
Reporting must go beyond the scheduled Assembly Meetings, inauguration of facilities, speeches at festivals, workshops and scheduled events to processes and their effectiveness.
There is the need to raise the issue of incentive packages, such as free ride on public buses for Unit Committee and Assembly Members.
The procedures going on for the election of Chief Executives should trigger a lot of discussion with journalists being the comperes.
The media must stimulate the interest of locals to participate in local governance, prod local government officials to be focused and not sedentary officers looking for ‘spoils,’ - above all, the position of Chief Executive of the MMDAs is only for visionaries and not political party zealots.
Journalists have a duty to keep the populace alert so duty officers do not compromise standards to turn planned areas into new inner cities, food vendors as disease propagators, churches as horrendous noise pollution dispensers, indeed our towns as physical planning disasters.
The media must ensure, as recommended by Dr Dadson Awunyo-Vitor, as Director of Institute of Local Government Service, (ILGS), that decentralization hinged only on special breed of dedicated local government officials.
We, therefore join Dr Esther Offei-Aboagye, a local governance expert, to make a clarion call on stakeholders, including the media to make the Assemblies more relevant in the rapid socioeconomic development at the local levels.
GJA-Volta is preparing feverishly for the awards dinner on Saturday, December 01, at the SkyPlus Hotel in Ho and commends the National Association for its GJA/STAR-Ghana Local Governance project dubbed, "Enhanced Media-CSO Partnerships for Inclusive Local Governance," expected to change the local governance narrative.GNA