Pay greater attention to unit committees, MMDAs urged

Accra, Dec. 30, GNA – A local government expert has called on Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to motivate Zonal and Unit Committees to enable them to strengthen Ghana’s decentralization process.

Mr Frederick Agyarko Oduro, Assistant Head of Department – Local Government Administration at the Institute of Local Government Studies, said this when he addressed members of the Social Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (SPEFA) group at Adentan during their first quarter forum last Wednesday.

He expressed worry that these committees, which constituted important components of local government administration, were not receiving the necessary support and motivation to function effectively.

Mr Oduro, who spoke on the Local government System, with particular emphasis on decentralization, said empowering Unit Committees in particular would enable them to participate in the prioritization, implementation and monitoring of government programmes and projects.

The local government system, Act 462, he noted, was made up of Regional Coordinating Councils and four-tier metropolitan and three-tier Municipal/District Assemblies, Urban/Town and Area/Zonal Councils and Unit Committees.

Touching on the structures and roles of these bodies, Mr Oduro drew attention to service delivery standards that specified the minimum level of expected services in terms of quality, process, time and cost to be delivered to its clients.

These standards, he said, were based on unique circumstances of a district or community, including the description and benefits clients were entitled to receive, and specific delivery targets for key aspects of service, among many others.

Mr Oduro said there was the need for members of unit and zonal committees and larger society to be bold to approach assembly members who are representatives of their electoral areas mandated to interact with their constituencies at regular intervals.

He asked members of communities to talk to the client service units of metropolitan and Municipal Assemblies which receive complaints and address them.

They must again organize and attend town hall meetings which are open to everyone in a town or community where they can express their opinions, present ideas and ask questions for duty beaters, elected officials and political candidates to respond to them.

Responding to issues of poor sanitation, illegal structures, poor service delivery and education, Mr Oduro stressed the need for all members of society to seek redress through laid down mechanisms.

‘You need to monitor the work of the assembly and to see to it that it delivers services efficiently,’ he stressed, adding that the assembly is expected to offer certain minimum standards, especially with regard to projects, procurement of building permits, birth and death certificates.

During discussion, the SPEFA members asked questions bordering on over-politicization of the district assemblies, near demise of the Unit Committee system, use of drain water to cultivate vegetables, lack of enforcement of laws or by-laws, youth unemployment, and erection of illegal structures.

‘You have a responsibility to report issues to the appropriate authorities. If somebody makes too much noise in your vicinity, you must report them. We must start complaining on issues that bother us all; we should all help our local government system,’ Mr Oduro said.

‘Please, don’t stop complaining; we as a people fear to go to court but if the assembly is adamant, we should go to court. Let us use the complaint and court system to halt all unhealthy practices. You must go to the Presiding Officer’s office and complain; even if you can’t write, someone will do it for you,’ he said.

Madam Nora Ollennu, Chief Executive Officer of Intervention Forum (IF), and focal person for the Adentan District Citizens Monitoring Committee (DCMC), in her First Quarter SPEFA report, dwelt on the need to build a learning community.

She also called for the need to attend SPEFA forums and town hall meetings to acquaint themselves with the local government system and service delivery standards.

Madam Ollennu , who is also the focal person for the Adentan DCMC, dwelt on growth and change which she said was something that must reflect in the lives of the people.

She referred to SPEFA theme of Knowledge, Wisdom and Money, saying they all spurred growth, adding that, without one of these, the three could not make any meaningful impact.

SPEFA, she said, sought to strengthen local government accountability mechanisms to ensure information flow between citizens and public officials, and raise awareness of the public on their rights to be involved in the development process as well as to establish an empowered body of citizens able to make justifiable choices and demands and forward same to the right doorsteps.

She also spoke at length on the good indicators of a good SPEFA forum and urged for full citizen participation to be able to fully meet the needs of the communities.

‘We empower you to know your rights. We have the tools to empower you to move; we are giving you the information; we are showing you the way and we offer you the platform.’

Madam Ollennu said SPEFA, through its forums and town hall meetings, imparted knowledge to its members but expressed regret that information did not seep to the groups constituting SPEFA, and called for attitudinal change to make progress.

GNA


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