An open letter to our new Assembly Members

• Mr Collins Dauda, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development

I take this opportunity to congratulate and welcome all our newly elected assembly men and women to their ‘District Parliaments’. The nation salutes you and looks forward to a fruitful tenure of office for you over the next four years.

Honorable members, you may recall during your electioneering campaign that what the people were asking from you was DEVELOPMENT…… development that brings potable water, good health, quality education, security, total sanitation and good governance to them.

Unfortunately, many of your districts, for various reasons, are still underdeveloped and their populations are experiencing wide ranging forms of social and economic deprivation. This is why social accountability is essential for generating positive dialogue between governments and their citizens towards addressing issues confronting them.

 

DLT

In November 2014, a new social accountability tool for Ghana; the District League Table (DLT) was developed and launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Ghana and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

The DLT ranks progress toward delivering wellbeing in key basic services such as education, sanitation, health, security, governance and rural water in all the 216 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs). Six indicators were selected: 1. Average BECE pass rate; 2. District certification as Open Defecation Free (ODF); 3. Skilled attendance at delivery; 4. Coverage of police services; 5. Evidence of DA holding Ordinary Meetings; and 6. Access to water by rural communities, are all aggregated into one DLT Index.

Each district had to obtain a score of 100 in the DLT to demonstrate that the respective populations had full access to core basic services as represented by the index. In the maiden report (2014), the top five districts were Tano South, Nsawam-Adoagyiri Municipal, Denkyembour, Jaman South and Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai, with scores ranging from 76 to 73.  The five most challenged districts were Gushiegu, Saboba, Sekyere Afram Plains South, Ekumfi and Karaga with scores ranging from 32 to 15.

While the results of the DLT generated a lot of interest, discussions and some controversies as well, the most significant outcome of the DLT’s launch was that district leaders, assembly members, parliamentarians, the media and ordinary citizens became more aware of their district’s development status and were now asking questions and demanding answers for what happened, and what they could do to change that status for a better ranking in 2015.

What were some of the lessons derived from the first-ever League Table of Ghana’s Districts that are relevant for you? First, the DLT provides solid evidence to illustrate the disparity in development levels between districts. The highest ranked district is doing five times better than the lowest ranked district.

While many issues of structural poverty and other immediate causes may affect a district’s score, there is much that government and other stakeholders can do to address these inequities by better targeting resources. So, as an assembly member, you and your colleagues can also use the results of the DLT to raise debate over why your district ranks as it does.

Naming and shaming

As Ghana’s development has rapidly accelerated in recent years, why should some districts be left so far behind? In the future, annual publications of the DLT, those districts that have made the most progress can be given the recognition they deserve, thereby creating incentive for stakeholders to do better. The DLT should, therefore, never be used to ‘name and shame’ those districts that are struggling.

Secondly, as assembly members, you can also impress upon your respective MMDCEs to lobby for and mobilise resources from within and outside the district for the development of your communities. For example, in March this year, in apparent response to the low level of development and DLT ranking of the Central Tongu District, the assembly, led by the DCE, Honorable Madam Mary Agbenyenu, organised a donor’s conference to discuss their medium-term development plan, and successfully solicited support and pledges from partners for its implementation.

Thirdly, the DLT results have once again highlighted one of the most unacceptable commentaries on Ghana’s sanitation situation, that none of our 216 districts was certified as open defecation free (ODF). Dear Assembly Member, what are you going to do to ensure that open defecation is completely eradicated from your area, and becomes a thing of the past?

Finally, for whatever reasons you were elected, one thing is certain, you must begin to do things differently for your communities, and to collaborate more with the assembly leadership and its departments to deliver development to the people. This is important because by the end of this year and subsequent years, the District League Table will be coming out, and all of us – citizens, district departments, DCEs, assembly members, and MDAs at the national level - are going to be held accountable once again. Thank you.