A referendum to amend the Constitution to allow for the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) is expected to run alongside the district level elections in September 2019.
The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama, who made this known in Accra yesterday, said the Electoral Commission (EC) would decide the specific date for the elections.
She explained that the referendum would seek to amend Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution to allow for the election of MMDCES, a demand which has been endorsed by most of the political parties, as well as civil society organisations.
Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution, which is an entrenched provision, states that “Subject to the provisions of this Article, a political party is free to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas, social and economic programmes of a national character; and sponsor candidates for election to any public office other than the district assemblies or lower local government units”.
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Hajia Mahama, who was speaking at a workshop to sensitise professional bodies to the road map for the election of MMDCEs, said a draft bill for amendment of the article had been approved by the Cabinet and sent to the Speaker of Parliament who had also sent it to the Council of State for advice.
She said when approved through the referendum, the bill would be sent back to Parliament for passage and assented to by the President.
Per the Constitution, she stated that the amendment needed 40 per cent of the persons entitled to vote in Ghana and 75 per cent of the turnout needed to vote in favour of the bill to make the amendment.
Additionally, she said, other legal and consequential frameworks and policies would be amended to ensure that all procedures were within the laws and regulations of the country.
After the amendment, Hajia Mahama said the first batch of MMDCEs would be elected in September 2021, after which a nationwide capacity building and change management programme for leadership would be held for the local assemblies.
Although the current mode of appointment of MMDCEs has been in existence since 1988, the arrangement had not promoted the required good governance, local democracy and accountability that the people yearned for.
Hajia Mahama said while promoting democracy by affording the local people the opportunity to choose their own leaders, MMDCEs would, among other things, be more responsive and directly accountable to the people.
“The elections will make the MMDCEs take their work very seriously and ensure that public administration was done due diligence”, she stated.
Although some concerns such as undermining by opposition political parties appear eminent, she said some of the disadvantages could be minimised through consequential amendments in the existing laws.
She said the sensitisation meetings, which formed part of the roadmap of the election of the MMDCEs, was to educate the public on the nature, policy direction, as well as the form of decentralisation in Ghana.
She urged Ghanaians to come out in their numbers to vote during the referendum to ensure that the MMDCEs were elected and urged the media to help in educating the public on the processes.
Some participants in the workshop commended the government for the initiative and expressed the hope that competent people would be elected as MMDCEs.
The Country Manager of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Suppliers, Ms Stella Aku Addo, commended the government for the move saying “it will make the MMDCEs more accountable and vigilant’.
For her part, the President of the Institute of Internal Auditors, Ms Juliet Aboagye–Wiafe, said Ghana needed competent people who would bring development to the people and not persons clouded by “popularity stunts” that usually played out with the selection of Members of Parliament.