Per the local governance concept being implemented by Ghana as a country , it is constitutionally mandatory for all the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to ensure that all citizens participate on the on- ingoing development of the 2017-2021 Medium Term Development Plan( MTDP).
Participation here means what? And what is the importance of Participation in the decentralization concept? Participation in the Decentralization concept means adequate citizens’ involvement in and influence over local governance. It is undeniable fact that participation enhances civic consciousness and political maturity.
.Modes of Participation
There are various ways through which citizens participate in local governance and influence the decision-making process. These include:
Participation in elections (voice) and referenda, Community or Town Hall Meetings, Public education and communication campaigns, Public Meetings or Public Hearing called by Assembly Members or the District Assembly.
Public hearings may be on the discussions of the District Assembly local development plan or strategies for revenue mobilization, MTDP , Pre-budget consultations between Local Government and citizenry in order to ensure that the priority needs of the community are captured in the budget and the development plans . Also included is Community level or organized group meetings that target the membership of a particular interest group. Examples could be business associations, market women, drivers and dress makers.
Participation may also involve information-sharing, consultation, service access, programme inputting, election, representation, association and collaboration.
Participation gives the citizens the opportunity and power to engage in discussions and contribute to the decision-making process.
Participation must seek to involve the target groups concerned with the issues and activities under consideration. There are key players who should be involved in the decision-making process. These include traditional authorities, private sector, Members of Parliament, Civil Society Organizations and citizens. Essentially, development activities are undertaken to ensure that the living conditions of citizens are improved.
The ongoing development of the MTDP by the MMDAs throughout the country is a classic example of this. The MMDAs are expected to solicit the aspirations and views of stakeholders including traditional authorities, the women and youth groups, the elderly and the opinion leaders not excluding the Persons With Disabilities concerning development so that it could serve a blue print for development.
Legal Provisions for Participation
It very important to state that Citizens’ participation in the decision-making process has been guaranteed by various legal provisions. The 1992 Constitution stipulates how the state should engage citizens and how citizens should be involved in the decision-making process.
The 1992 Constitution Article 1 of the 1st chapter of the Constitution affirms that the “sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in the Constitution”.
Also the Chapter 20 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana stipulates that “to ensure accountability of Local Government authorities, people in particular Local Government areas shall, as far as practicable, be afforded the opportunity to participate effectively in their governance”.
The Local Government Act provides for members of the District Assembly to consult with their electorates before and after Assembly meetings, as well as the participatory revocation of the mandate of an Assembly Member. Other LIs provide for the active participation of citizens in the sub-district structures.
Additionally, the National Development Planning (System) Act provides for a decentralized participatory planning and budgeting.
These and other articles give citizens the right to express themselves freely and participate in the decision-making process of the nation, both at the national or local level without restrictions.
Also there are legal provisions such as the Assembly Members consulting the people before and after meetings, the participatory planning space and the avenue for complaints are clear indications that the participation is dear to the decentralization programme of Ghana.
CDD-Ghana, RISE-Ghana complement’s Efforts of MMDAs
Despite these constitutional provisions, most of the MMDAs as a result of resource and logistical constraints are unable to perform these roles to perfection. One of the Non-Governmental Organizations that is complementing the efforts of the most of the MMDAs to perform the assigned constitutional mandate role is the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).
Currently the CDD-Ghana is partnering with local partners in organizing 100 durbars in 20 districts across the country as part of its project to get more citizens to participate and appreciate the on-going discussions on the MTDP.
For instance In the Upper East Region, the NGO had partnered with the Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment-Ghana (RISE-Ghana) to organize five (5) of such durbars across the Kassena –Nnankana West District.
The project, dubbed: “Promoting Social Accountability through Citizens Participation in Local Governance in Ghana,” is being implemented by CDD-Ghana and its local partners and sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Mr Paul Osei-Kuffuor, the Programmes Manager of CDD-Ghana in charge of the Northern Zone, who disclosed this during one of such community durbar organized by RISE-Ghana in the Agandaa Community at Kandiga in the Kassena-Nankana West District, stated that whilst a number of such durbars had taken place in many parts of the country organized by CDD-Ghana , others were ongoing .
Mr Osei-Kuffuor said a cardinal principle of CDD-Ghana was to empower the citizenry to participate effectively in the decision–making process at the decentralized levels to promote all-inclusiveness and open society in attaining optimum development results.
He said it was based on those principles that all groups of persons including Persons with Disabilities, women, the youth, opinion leaders and elders were invited to be part of the community durbars to make an input.
The organized events is also providing platforms for budget and planning officers to collate the contributions into their MTDP as well as to enable citizens to ask critical questions from duty bearers about development projects and progress.
Mr Umar Mohammed, the Assistant Director of the Kassena-Nankana West District, who stood in for the District Chief Executive, Clement Dandori, at the durbar orgainsed at the Agandaa Community , said the District was one of the largest in the Region with 132 communities making up 11 area councils.
He admitted that it would have been very difficult for the Assembly to collate all the views and aspirations of the citizens to be input into the MTDP without the support of CDD-Ghana and commended it for helping the Assembly to create the platform for the citizens to participate and share ideas.
The Budget Officer, Mr Seidu Soalihu, who took the community members through the Planning and Budgeting processes of the Assembly and the highlight of the 2017 Kassena-Nankana West Assembly’s Action Plan and Budget, told them that apart from the community durbars, the Assembly would also organise town hall meetings and public hearings to validate inputs gathered as part of preparation towards developing the MTDP and encourage the people to always participate in the process.
Mr Awal Ahmed Kariama, the Executive Director of RISE-Ghana, said his outfit, was grateful to CDD-Ghana and OSIWA through which it has formed and is working with the District Education Committee, organizing five of such community durbars across the District.
He concluded by stressing that the high level of attendance and participation was a clear indication that citizens were now becoming aware of the need to actively participate in the decision-making process in the decentralization concept.
Whilst lauding the efforts of CDD-Ghana and its partners including RISE-Ghana for complementing the efforts of the MMDAs, there is the urgent need for the programme to be spread across all the Districts in country to help make the MTDP and for that matter the operationalization of the decentralization concept more concrete.
A GNA Feature by Samuel Adadi Akapule