Professionals of the Local Government Service have been urged to lead the drive for the new agenda of productivity through the decentralisation process to create wealth for the nation’s development.
The Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, who made the call, tasked the staff of the service at the opening of the 4th Professional Conference in Ho on Tuesday to take up the challenge of being the game changers in Ghana’s transformational agenda and bring the necessary positive change at all levels of the decentralisation process.
The three-day conference was attended by 400 professionals from 28 professional groups within the regional co-ordinating councils, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in the country.
They included coordinating directors, engineers, development planners, administrators, human resource managers, environmental and waste management officers, agriculturists, transport officers, accountants, internal auditors, budget analysts among others.
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Although he proposed for a budget decentralisation in order for the administration of the central budget to be pro-locality in order to speed up development in the various regions, Mr Osafo-Maafo observed that the implementation of decentralisation in 36 years had not achieved a lot in revenue mobilisation locally to champion development at the local level.
According to him, the fast urbanisation of cities and towns in the country was not reflective in the realisation of accrued revenues, especially from property rates.
He disclosed that only GH¢10million was realised as revenue from property rates last year which was woefully inadequate for a city such as Accra.
He called for staff to step up their efforts to increase revenue mobilisation in order to wean themselves off government budgetary allocation in the discharge of their obligations.
Urging them to develop an eye for value for money, Mr Osafo-Maafo said: ‘Over the years, we have totally lost the trust and confidence of the citizens because we have not been able to live up to the principles of transparency, accountability, openness, value for money and diligence in the application of resources in our institutions’.
He noted that the Auditor-General’s annual reports and certain media reports concerning the operational, utilisation and financial management of resources did not give a good account of local government operatives as professionals.
He gave instances where the cost of government projects compared to similar projects by individuals or organisations was higher and, therefore, charged the staff to work towards redeeming its image off the corruption tag.
The Head of the Local Government Service, Dr Nana Ato Arthur, stated that the service was strong and ready to support all programmes of the government towards the development of communities and the country.
According to Nana Arthur, the conference on the theme: ‘Transforming Ghana through effective leadership, coordination and implementation of government’s policies at the decentralised level in the 30 years of Ghana’s Decentralisation’ would be a platform to identify options and fashion out a roadmap to address challenges in the implementation of policies and systems in line with the service’s mandate.
Benefits of decentralisation
The former rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Prof. Stephen Adei, enumerated some of the benefits that Ghanaians, especially those in the rural areas, had enjoyed as a result of decentralisation which included massive extension of electricity across the country, bringing services closer to the people, provision of water, cottage industries to remote districts, significant increases in the educational and health facilities among others.
Despite the benefits, he said, decentralisation was yet to fully realise its potential as an instrument of development and good governance.
He called for quality leadership at the local level to address all challenges affecting the decentralisation process.
‘We should not only strive to elect MMDCEs but the standard should be set such that those who become DCEs have certain minimum academic qualification and understand the local conditions’ he indicated.
Commendation of staff
The Deputy Local Government Minister, Mr Carlos Ntim, said resource constraints continued to hamper effective performance of staff and, therefore, called for ingenuous ways of addressing the challenge.
The Volta Regional Minister, Dr Archibald Yao Letsa, commended the local government staff who continued to work hard despite the myriad of challenges they faced.