Dr Nana Ato Arthur, the Head of the Office of the Local Government Service (LGS), has spelt out his plans and strategies to make Ghana’s decentralization process more vibrant and efficient to propel the development of the country.
He said strengthening the developing planning units of the Regional Coordinating Councils and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) is crucial for the collection of reliable data to ensure effective planning and budgeting.
Dr Ato Arthur made this known in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
He said so much is expected from staff of MMDAs and promised that building the capacity of staff would be his priority.
Dr Ato Arthur said his outfit would encourage the sharing of skills/knowledge by assemblies as they have varied capacities to help promote best practices in their various offices to ensure balanced development in the country’s 216 MMDAs.
He said there is the need to use Information Communication Technology (ICT) to improve the Internally Generated Fund (IGF) of MMDAs, adding that, majority of the assemblies relied on the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) for development, which was quite inadequate.
Dr Ato Arthur said the 2016 report on the performance of MMDAs, revealed that the best 20 assemblies have an average of 33 per cent of their revenue coming from the IGF and the worst performing assemblies contributed less than three per cent of the total revenue from the IGF in relation to the DACF and other government grants.
Thus, he said, part of his vision is to use ICT to facilitate and develop a Digital Mapping System to assist in the identification of rating properties within a particular assembly and use professionally trained revenue collectors to collect more revenue to improve on the IGF.
The Head of Service also identified sanitation as one of the core mandates of the MMDAs saying he would seek to build the capacity of assemblies to improve on sanitation in the various MMDAs.
Dr Ato Arthur said the LGS would enhance the capacity of Environmental Health and Sanitation Officers to ensure that they carry out their responsibilities for improved sanitation in the MMDAs.
Challenges of the Service
Dr Ato Arthur said the major challenge of the LGS just like many other public institutions is the inadequate financial resources to support the effective delivery of their mandate of securing effective administration and management in the country.
He said the LGS needed funds to offer motivational packages as well as regular training for its staff for them to embark on knowledge upgrading.
Dr Ato Arthur said the refusal of staff to adhere to postings from one assembly to another by the Head of Service was also a challenge as well as staff lateness to work, especially in the rural areas where lateness to work seems to be a normal routine.
“In this regard, the Head of Service is insisting on the use of electronic biometric clocking system in every assembly where staff would clock in when they report and exit at work”.
He also noted with concern, the challenge of some service staff with fake certificates, adding that, “the LGS under my watch would crop out officers with fake certificates”.
As a start, he said, the LGS has ordered all professionals of the Service, to submit their certificate for verification and authentication by the requisite awarding institutions.
Dr Ato Arthur said some individuals who faked their grades with the aim of cheating the system would be placed where they belong.
“Some staff are purporting that I have come to witch-hunt them, but this is rather to ensure that the right things are done in the service for the effective delivery of its mandate in developing the country as well as ensuring that the service remains a professional service”
Contribution of LGS to Decentralization
Dr Ato Arthur said the LGS contributes immensely to the decentralization agenda of the country.
“The LGS is responsible for securing the effective administration and management of decentralized systems in the country,” he said.
Dr Ato Arthur said there are three aspects of decentralization, namely political, administrative and fiscal decentralization, which must be well coordinated to ensure effectiveness.
He said the political decentralization, includes policies and directives of government, which are handled by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and other ministries.
“The administrative decentralization [spells out] the implementation of directives and policies by government, and has become a tool for local development whilst fiscal decentralization seeks to ensure that financial resources gets to the MMDAs.”
Dr Ato Arthur said the LGS has been positioned as the driver of local development and this is a reflection of the service’s motto: decentralization, democracy and development (the 3Ds).
Attainment of Ghana’s Decentralization
Dr Ato Arthur said decentralization is a process and not an event and there is the need to work on a number of areas to ensure the smooth operationalization of the process.
“Some of the areas that need to be looked at include the trial for local electoral system, public access to information and consultative meetings by the local actors.”
He said these mechanisms were to ensure political accountability of government, adding that, “Political accountability of local government still remained an unfinished business in Ghana’s decentralization system”.
On the local electoral system, the Head of Service fully support the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCES) as proposed by the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo.
He said there is the need for the publication of DACF releases to ensure that members of the public are privy to the information and would be enabled to pose the needed questions.
However, Dr Ato Arthur stated that the quick releases of the DACF, depends on good planning.
The Local Government Expert said the administrator of the Common Fund must be able to come up with time lines as indicated by the President of the Republic to ensure that funds were released at specific times.
View on Local Government Reforms
Dr Ato Arthur said the establishment of the Office of the Head of the LGS was a significant aspect in the reformation of local governance in the country.
The Head of Service said research has revealed that decentralization has become a development tool in many African countries including Ghana and it has to be sustained.