If you speak to real local government expects they will tell you that electing the District/Municipal Chief executive is not the solution. This issue of election and appointment by the president has been dominated by people with less knowledge of the local government process and politicians.
The question we must ask ourselves is that what are the problems associated with the President appointing local government Chief Executives and can electing the Chief Executives mitigate that shortfalls.
The local government act which is yet to be fully implemented would give local authorities more powers on Revenue collection, Education, Health, Waste Management and Investment. When you Decentralise, it increases the responsibilities of the local government workers and the elected/appointed assembly members. What is important at this stage is building the capacity of existing staff and member, and finding ways of attracting quality and people with high skills to the local government system. These are the primary issues we must confront. The assembly is not a one man show hence it is more important to improve and strengthen the structures within it first.
Now let’s look at the issue of the President appointing D/M Chief Executives versus electing them. The arguments made against the President appointing Local Government Chief Executives are more of a personal interest than in the interest of the nation. Issues like Chief Executives may act in the President’s interest rather than the local interest is remote and may be difficult to justify. The issue of job insecurity hence DCE’s acting in a manner not in the interest of the people is also difficult to proof. It is clear that most of the arguments made against the President’s appointment may not be supported by sufficient evidence. It will make more sense if the evidence made are directly related to issues that are inimical to the local people and the nation. The issue of antagonism between the Chief Executive and the Local MP has also made headlines.
What will electing Local Government Chief Executives achieve?
a. It is obvious that that the threat by Chief Executives to topple their MP’s may reduce significantly.
b. Incompetent D/M Chief Executives cannot be removed for four years. Do not be deceived by clauses to remove executive before election, they are practically ineffective.
c. Increase the level of corruption in the assemblies as elected officers attempt to cover their campaign expenditure and finding jobs for their donors.
d. Popular and rich but not necessarily competent residents may be elected.
e. The decentralization agenda may be defeated as elected officers pursue own agenda not the national agenda.
f. Rich business men may support cronies to win election in exchange for contracts.
It is important we distinguish between the administrators and the policy makers. The elected policy makers are the representatives of the local people and their role must be coordinated well so that they achieve their objectives. There must be division of labour. Policy makers should make policies and task the administrators to execute the policy. The administrators must be professional competent in their field of expertise including the Chief Executive. The policy makers must be organize such that they are able to appoint a competent person to execute their policies.
The organisation of the policy makers must include the assembly, committees, and leaders. Leaders here must include leader of the entire Local Government Authority who the Chief Executive is accountable to and the presiding member who organizes assembly business. Local governments must be run as a business by a competent person and local governments must aim at being self sufficient.
Unfortunately the two options in the constitution review proposal of the President appointing and Election of Chief Executives would not achieve any positive impact. If we want to move forward as a Country we must have a second thought and discuss this issue openly.
By Isaac Nai
Ghana Integrity Initiative