Opinions Sat, 18 Jul 2009

What The Government Can Do To Make The District Assemblies Develop

- - The law breaker must be made to pay for his offence.

Now that democracy is gradually gaining ground in Ghana, governments need to empower District Assemblies to build what the writer will call the permanent institutions for effective governance. These institutions are to be permanent because even thought governments goes governments come they will remain the same. The writer has identified the following four main areas as some of the permanent institutions of governance the country require in generating more money and accelerating development; Governance must be properly decentralised, All the Town and Country Planning Departments at the district level must capture their roads and housing properties onto a data base, The District Assemblies, the Regional Ministries and the Presidency must be connected to the internet and Our laws must be effectively enforced.

You will agree with me that currently decentralisation is not working properly in Ghana. One such evident was the recent power struggle display between the Greater Accra Regional Minister Hon Armah Ashietey and Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE) Dr. Alfred Vanderpuije over the decongestion of Accra. This issue has for some time now continues to make headline news in most of the Ghanaian media including Joy FM and Ghanaweb. On the 18th June 2009, it came in the news and I read on Joy FM website that the Daily Graphic quoted the Regional Minister as saying that the decongestion exercise has social, political and financial implications, and that there was the need to do proper planning before the exercise could finally takes off. It went further and the Minister claimed that he was not aware of the exercise, even though he admitted holding an earlier meeting with officials of the assembly on how they should go about the exercise in a humane manner, long before the MCE was confirmed by the assembly. As a result, the Regional Minister instructed the Metropolitan Chief Executive to suspend the decongestion exercise until recently when it was started all over again. I think this type of administration must be condemned in its totality since it has the potential of destroying our democracy. The regional ministries must be made to decentralise as soon as possible.

Unless the ongoing decentralisation process is made efficient, we will be unable to succeed in initiating and implementing any of our programmes or policies at the district level. The need for an efficient decentralisation process is high because the leadership at the District level must be empowered to take responsibility make their own decisions and be accountable for them. This style of governance if made efficient will bring about government policies and programmes closer to the people and vice versa. By decentralising, governance will not only be broken into smaller sizes for an effective and efficient planning and management but will also improve the equitable distribution of the national resources whilst making it possible for all Districts to develop at the same time. The right institution will reduce the Regional Ministries to administrative monitoring and reporting channels through which information can be communicated between the Seat of Government and the District Assemblies and that will save government some money (Less staff needed at the regional offices, less salaries to be paid).

It is often said that ‘’he that fail to plan, plan to fail’’. In this regards, the Town and Country Planning section of the District Assemblies need to do an effective planning. To achieve the effective planning, all our roads must be named, all housing properties numbered and all towns and villages coded. It will also be very necessary to create the electronic data for these districts and make all information necessary accessible on the internet. This information must be updated as the town expands and continuously improved. The followings are some of the ways we stand to benefit if our cities are planned, with the roads and housing properties data-based: A. The locations of all properties will be easily searchable and accessible for fighting crime. B. All commercial properties (roads and housing) can easily be identified for maximum taxing and revenue improvement. It means that all businesses can only be allowed to operate in/from a permanent structure for easy identification and maximum taxing. C. Delivery postal services can then be made efficient (e.g. Election by post made possible). D. Improved planning. E. Reduced land disputes. F. Unauthorised structures will be prevented etc.

Whilst all the departments are being decentralised the new public sector must do something to move away from handling hard paper documents to soft documents if possible to save time and money. The District Assemblies, the Regional Ministries and the Presidency must be connected to the internet. Even though not all documents can be administered soft due to their authentic features, there are others that can. For example I should be able to download a driving licence application form from the DVLA website on the internet and apply for my driving test at Adidome District DVLA office. We may have to also have the hard copy available should the costumer request for one for lack of access to internet or for others reasons. In other wards, if the Presidency, all Regional Departments and the District Assemblies have websites and are connected to the internet, an improved permanent channel of communication will be established for speedy administration of government works. The internet facility is very important because it will help open government to the rest of the world for serious business.

As far as the writer is concern the District Assemblies already have some good laws, but our main problem is enforcing these laws. You will agree with me that, one such example was how the AMA and the KMA’s made several attempt to implement their law/s by moving unauthorised structures and people from hawking their streets but failed. There is no doubt about the fact that sometimes the city authorities who are paid by the tax-payer to enforce these laws are being remote-control by their political leaders, as you can see in the above AMA decongestion example or are themselves corrupt and unable to apply the law. We can only be successful if the District Assemblies are empowered to enforce their own laws and made to account for their stewardship. To enforce the law, we must make sure that any one who chose to break the law must pay for his offence. The Assembly’s staffs that are to enforce the law must be well motivated. In some cases, such staffs are paid based on commission (the more punishment tickets you issued to offenders the more commission you are paid). For parking offences for example, the assembly need to contract company/s that will have their own staff to issue the tickets. Once the offender pays for his offence, the assembly will pay the company its due commission. It could be done monthly or based on a pattern agreed between the parties involve. The understanding of this type of punishment is that, if you choose to make your city dirty then you must pay someone to clean it up for you.

Godwin Kaleshie

T: 0044 (0)781 392 1202 gkaleshie@yahoo.com

Columnist: Kaleshie, Godwin