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Regional News Sun, 28 Mar 2004

Political leaders in VR discuss local government structures

Ho, March 27, GNA - A Dialogue of political Leaders in the Volta region on Friday concluded that there was an urgent need for the re-engineering of structures of the local government system so as to make the voices of the populace articulate in governance.

The Dialogue, attended by eight out of the twelve members of the region's Parliamentary Caucus, as well as District Chief Executives, Presiding Members, Chiefs, non-governmental organisations and representatives of donor agencies was at the instance of the Volta Regional Minister, Mr Kwasi Owusu-Yeboa.

They discussed ways of deepening the involvement of the people in policy implementation in the region, implementing and monitoring the GPRS at the local level, facilitating efficient utilisation of Funds available to the districts and the co-ordination of donor assistance to achieve effective and efficient resource mobilisation and management in programme implementation.

The Dialogue was under the theme: "Implementing the Ghana Poverty Reduction (GPRS) at the District Level: Strengthening the Links of Accountability",

Mr Kofi Attor, MP for Ho-Central, observed that decentralisation, which sought to give voice to the populace in governance through structures below the District Assemblies had still remained a concept.

He said a national discourse was therefore urgently needed to actualise the concept in ways that would make sufficient resources and information available through such structures as the Town, Area and Urban Councils, and Unit Committees to strengthen them to deliver.

Mr Attor observed that those structures have become dysfunctional because their personnel lacked the requisite knowledge, information and incentives to work with.

Mr Francis Kwaku, Presiding Member of the Ho District Assembly observed that Assembly members required the same level, if not more, of the resources available to MPs because the constituents expectations of the MPs and Assembly members were the same.

Mr Kwaku observed that like the MPs, Assembly members are expected by their constituents to show physical evidence of projects they have personally sponsored hence the need to fashion out a scheme similar to the MPs Common fund for Assembly members.

He said the inability of Assembly members to do so and the fact that they lacked the means by which they could maintain constant contacts with their electorate reduces their relevance to the people as their representatives.

This, he said, tended to adversely affect flow of information to and from the electorates and the Assemblies because the people most often are not receptive to requests by the Assemblymen to meet and discuss issues affecting them.

Mr Kwaku observed that it was unfortunate that utterances of some government officials tended to downgrade the status of the Assembly members as far as empowering them to be effective was concerned.

Mr Modestus Ahiable, MP for Ketu-North observed that even though the District Assemblies were empowered by Act 462 to determine their own level of allowances and conditions, that had not been practicable because of the weak financial positions of most Assemblies.

He assured the Assembly Members that MPs as members of the Assemblies, were equally concerned about the trying conditions under which they were functioning.

Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, Lecturer at the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon suggested that means should be explored to establish small community radios in the region to carry information to and from the people so as to enhance their participation in decision-making and implementation.

Dr Gadzekpo said whereas the people got information through the radio they could however not put their views across because it was not possible for them to use the same means to convey their reactions across in a planned and consistent manner. She said Community radios could address those deficiencies and empower the people to be active participants of national debates and how official decisions affect them. 27 Mar. 04

Source: GNA