Reforms in local government system critical - Kwesi Jonah

BY: Emmanuel Bonney
Mr Kwesi Jonah,  A Senior Research Fellow of IDEG
Mr Kwesi Jonah, A Senior Research Fellow of IDEG

A Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Mr Kwesi Jonah has said reforms within the local government system are critical for the effective development of the country.

According to him, the local government system was one that was very close to the people with its main function being delivering services to them.

He told the Daily Graphic that in spite of the importance of local government system which was the most important to the people, it was not functioning the way it should function on the African continent.

Survey

“All the surveys the Ghana Centre and Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) has done and the Civil Society Coalition (CSO) on Local Governance Reforms is taking up, is designed to reform local government in a way that would make it serve the people better,” Mr Jonah said on the sidelines of the CDD-Ghana –USAID Electoral Support Project in Accra last Thursday.

The event, attended by journalists, was dubbed “Regional Consultative Forums: Revisiting the agenda for Local Government Reforms”.

It was part of a nationwide regional level consultation in all 16 regions with identifiable stakeholders on the ongoing discourse on local government reforms.

This is to help gain additional insight from the various groups about their perspectives, interests and position to derive possible proposals for policy consideration.

The collated views will be documented and used for advocacy and also, to prepare policy advice to the government through the Minister of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development (MLGDRD) to inform policy decisions on the subject.

The regional consultations that began on November 22, 2021 and ends on December 10, 2021 will engage traditional leaders, political parties, the media and community-based organisations (CBOs), assembly men and women and local bureaucracy.

Context

In 2019, there were attempts to amend Articles 243(1) and 55(3) of the Constitution that bordered on the election of Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and making local level elections partisan.

A referendum was scheduled for December 17, 2019 by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo but was cancelled over some major controversies surrounding the amendment.

The referendum was to decide on the amendment of Article 55 (3) of the Constitution to enable political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections, while the amendment of Article 243 (1) was to allow for the election of MMDCEs.

Per Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, District Chief Executives for every district are to be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the assembly present and voting at the meeting.

Past

Mr Jonah explained that the local government system had been practised in the country for about three decades since 1993, adding that even before the 1992 Constitution was promulgated, the system had started in 1987 and 1988 under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) military government.

“I think the time is long enough since we started the system. Indeed, we have operated the system long to start looking at how it has functioned and where it can function better. So this reform is very important for our development,” he emphasised.

On the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs), he said revisiting the issue was critical since majority of the people in the survey conducted by the CDD-Ghana thought that “because the MMDCEs are not elected by the people they (MMDCEs) are not accountable to them. They think that they were appointed by the President”

“So long as they are loyal and dedicated to the President, whether they are working well within the districts or not is not important. Nobody in the district can hold them to account and this why the people are beginning to talk about the fact that they want to elect their own chief executives so that they can account to them,” he said.

Consensus

Ahead of bringing back the issue, Mr Jonah said the time had come for all those who disagreed with the mode of election of MMDCEs to sit down and discuss it with a view to finding a common ground for its smooth implementation.

“Unless we talk to one another, we cannot carry out this very vital reform which all of us think is necessary. Consensus building is the purpose of sitting down as there is still room for the two parties – the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to see how best they can bridge the differences between them”.