A Call to Decentralize and give power to Towns and Districts.
By: Kwaku A. Danso
The police in every civilized modern nation should be an institution for the enforcement of laws and order and policemen should be considered respected members of society. In Ghana the reverse seems to be the case. Police seem to lack respect because they are poor or look poor, and they in turn make matters worse by not fighting enough for their salaries and benefits, but rather set up barriers in towns and highways collecting bribes. In the last few years some were even accused or reported of involvement in drug trafficking cases. What makes it worse is a government that seems not to care!
The article posted on Ghanaweb of March 16, 2010 by one Kwame Serebour of Atwima Koforidua titled “Police Service lack Accommodation and Vehicles” is another disclosure that Ghana government has broken down. A failed state is described as one where police and security break down, crimes cannot be investigated and punished, ethics break down, services are meager or poorly delivered, and government fails to serve the public. In the article, the author wrote:
“While Police Officers posted to other Regions in Ghana sleep in Hotels for lack of adequate accommodations the Service is in dare need of vehicles for their security routine operations in the country. The Ashanti regional police commander, DCOP Patrick Timbillah, disclosed this gloomy situation in an interview with during the official visit of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Paul Tawiah Quaye.” (Serebour, K., Ghanaweb 2010, March 16)
Many observers and writers have commented that Ghana government has become a haven of greed, selfishness and disgrace where politicians borrow money to bribe delegates to get party nominations, and badly corrupting our young democracy. Once elected, they plan and think of only deals and corrupt practices to pay off the loans. It is a shame that in the last 18 years of relative stable democratic administration since 1992, the honorable members of parliament have voted themselves interest-free loans to purchase vehicles for themselves, and taken money from public coffers as free grants of money for their accommodation. In the 2009 administration of President Mills, the first order of business for the members of Parliament and the Ministers was to take from the public coffers amounts of $50,000 each for their vehicles, and another $30,000 for their housing. Huge investment in government real estate such as the popular Job 600 office had been neglected for four decades after Nkrumah was overthrown.
Nobody is suggesting that members of parliament should live in poverty or have to use their own money to obtain accommodation in the capital city while serving their constituents. However, the secrecy around the salaries of MPs, the president and members of the Executive branch and Ministers, coupled with the use of the most expensive vehicles in the world that retail for $75,000 to $100,0000 in Ghana over the years led to a total lack of trust between them and the people of Ghana. This has led to the public conjectures, and given rise to the unfortunate lack of trust for Ghanaian politicians and comments that politicians are thieves. In the mean time the men and women who risk their lives to protect the members of the society including tourists, are paid at minimum wage of less than $2 per day, and some living ten people in two-room flats houses with dormitory-type shared bathrooms, or no housing at all as the article depicts. This writer has witnessed this unfortunate information as his own niece is a police officer at the level of Inspector.
I have submitted this as part of my recommendation to President Mills in 2009, and I make it here again. Perhaps the only solution is to adapt the form of societal management that has been practiced in America for the last 200 or more years. The United States consists of 50 states, each of which has a Governor elected by the people, and divided into Counties or Districts each with a Board of directors and commissioners, elected by the people in different towns. The towns or cities also elect their Mayor or Chief executive, and members of the city council. Democracy, if it is to work well, must start from the people at the bottom of the ladder who will elect people to represent their needs. This is the city council and the district council. Another person is elected for the national Parliament as we have now. Political power, as such should starts from the bottom, and not from the top.
HISTORICALLY - It is interesting to note that historically the colonial masters had divided the nation of Ghana into districts each with a DC or district Commissioner, who had police and magistrate courts serving under him, and he himself reporting to the governor of the Gold Coast. The reason given why the first premier Kwame Nkrumah centralized the administration of the new Ghana was because of the very poor distribution of wealth, resources and educational skills in the nation. Thanks to the push for equalized distribution of resources for the last half century, the people of the Northern Ghana have created adequate educated people to manage their own districts and towns and regions.
The recommendation therefore, is for an amendment or change in the 1992 constitution that will relieve the President from the heavy burden and responsibility of nomination or electing of every single district chief executive (DCE) and Regional or Metro Chief executive to serve under him. It must be noted that the constitution also makes the president responsible for the appointment of more than 1,000 government agencies and departments, including the police, the army, the ports and harbors, educational institutions, and other agencies including his own direct Ministers of state. Anybody with management experience will notice right away one of the reasons why Ghana seems not to be working.
In the dilemma of management the former president Kufuor created more than 150 Ministers and Deputies with no clear budget as to their salaries, benefits and offices. This included a Minister in his own office of the President. Whiles forgiving the lack of managerial experience of the leaders in the first generation of post-independent Ghana, one cannot excuse the inability to add and subtract numbers and live within our means and a reasonable budget. How can a small country of Ghana have more Ministers of State than the United States of America! This has led to a situation of chaos where corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds meant for public projects such as Water, Electricity, Roads, energy, Communications, and even Presidential palaces have not been effectively managed. Hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign loans and grants have not been disbursed or applied and accountability is missing. It is virtually impossible for the president to manage all sectors of the nation, and provide the needs of more than 2,000 constituencies and direct subordinates.
This writer strongly recommends to the President to seriously consider full decentralization as done in the USA and many Western nations, and have the constitution amended to have towns, cities, districts and regions elect their own mayors or chief executive and Board who will be paid by the people in the area. This will include the police, courts system and school system that serves the city /district. The sad situation where rich towns like Abetifi and Pepease in the Kwahu area lack water supply, or famous Achimota school with a sewage leakage has become a fiasco and dilemma, could be avoided if the residents in the town or sub-metro Abetifi, Pepease, and Achimota respectively, were held responsible for their own schools, water systems. Funding comes from budgeted property taxes. Ghana has trained our people for half a century now. It is left to the politicians to advertise for needed human resources and employ them from around the world to manage our towns and cities and nation as others have done. There are consultants who can assist in setting up the initial planning, management and budget. We do not need to run to the World Bank for a billion dollar loan to do this. Consulting service can be provided by many of our own people scattered around the world who have relevant experience.
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso Engineering and Management Services President, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc (NGO) and Moderator, GLU Forum