A research report has revealed that most Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) have failed to comply with regulations, laws and legislative frameworks governing financial management of the various districts.
They also flout the compliance of procurement regulations specified under the Public Procurement Act 2003 Act 663, leading to several irregularities such as mismanagement of funds meant for development.
“Cash irregularities were rampant, followed by procurement and contract irregularities, with tax irregularities being the least. It should be noted, however that some of these irregularities are caused by administrative or procedural blunders and not only through corrupt practices,” it said.
The research, which was conducted by SEND-Ghana, a Civil Society Organization, was launched on Monday in Accra.
The report on: “Managing Public Finance for Effective Local Development: The District Assemblies Common Fund in Perspective” was conducted in 48 MMDAs selected from four administrative regions of the country, namely Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Greater Accra.
It also accused the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) Secretariat of imposing themselves on the MMDAs through direct control over their finances, in spite of the various constitutional and statutory provisions on decentralization and the DACF guidelines.
According to the report, the two state bodies controlled the MMDAs by encroaching on their financial resources through “Statutory Deductions” and Non-Statutory Deductions,” including the reserve fund and mandatory expenditures incurred on behalf of assemblies based on the formula, and upon directives from MLGRD.
It cited instances where the Auditor General’s Report for 2009 to 2010 where monies paid to individuals, companies and agencies for the provision of services and supplies to various assemblies had not been executed or properly accounted for.
Professor Kwame Ninsin, Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance, reviewing the report, said those irregularities raised questions about efficiency of existing structures for ensuring transparency and demanding accountability.
He emphasized that there were abundance of bureaucratic structures at the MMDA level, but they were weak and ineffective.
He said if MMDAs were unable to demand accountability and transparency from the MLGRD and the Common Fund Secretariat despite the abundance of monitoring and evaluation structures, how could ordinary citizens who lacked basic structures for participating in MMDA processes demand accountability and transparency from their respective MMDAs.
Prof. Ninsin said the report admitted that the majority of the respondents (about 76 per cent) did not have access to budget information, and they depended on their assembly members for their source of relevant information; yet most of the assembly members lacked basic information about the budget.
He said unless this problem was addressed, the original purpose of the assemblies as the instrument of self-government and development would remain a vanishing dream.
“I insist, however that success in ensuring efficient management, transparency and accountability in management of the DACF hangs critically on the establishment of strong structures at the various MMDAs level for citizens participation,” he said.
Baba Jamal Ahmed, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, said most of the things were true and correct, but some consultations might have corrected few misconceptions.
He said the deductions were not bad, but the processes and the way it was done stressing that there was the need to look at it and find a suitable solution.
The deputy minister said the ministry had taken steps to solve the problem and commended SEND-Ghana for paying attention to developmental issues, an area where most people shunned.
He noted that some deductions were very crucial for the districts, especially purchase of bulldozers, but others that could be organized at the district levels were not necessary.
Baba Jamal said capacity of personnel was identified as a major problem for the MMDAs, adding that they were embarking on a massive recruitment to fill those gaps, and urged all to take interest in MMDAs and things that would bring development into the country.
Mr Claude Maerten, Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to Ghana, said the EU in 2011, took a deliberate decision to fund four civil society organizations including SEND-Ghana to the tune of about three million Euros for the promotion of social accountability at the sub-national level.
“We have been following with keen interest the progress of implementation of activities by these four organizations,” he said.
He said the launch of the report was a clear demonstration of the commitment and capacity of Ghanaian civil society organizations to play their expected roles in expanding the frontiers of decentralization and giving meaning to the demand for transparency and accountability in the management of public finance.
Mr Siapha Kamara, Chief Executive Officer, SEND West Africa, said SEND holds the view that educating the public, especially the poor, about social issues and giving them training to hold government accountable was the sure way for the country’s democracy.
He said they followed up on all their reports to get feedback from the various institutions, adding that there would be district, regional and national durbars to solicit feedback.