Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Senior Lecturer of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Mr Kwamina Ahwoi, has proposed the scraping of Members of Parliament’s (MPs) share of the District Assembly’s Common Fund (DACF).
He has instead asked for its replacement a separate fund that would be captured in the budget.
These proposals, he said, were some of the measures that would devolve governance from the centre to local areas and make everyone part of the management of, and sharing in the systems and resources of development.
He made the proposal at a symposium on “Resourcing District Assemblies for Effective Local Governance” at the 59th New Year School in Accra.
Mr Ahwoi stressed the need for this in response to an earlier submission by Mr Maxwell K. Jumah, a Deputy Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, that MPs’ interest in their share of the DACF determined their participation in approving the formula for the distribution of funds for development purposes, as prescribed by the 1992 Constitution .
According to the minister, it was a political reality that if the MPs’ share of the DACF was tampered with, they could use tactics, such as absenting themselves from parliament so that no quorum could be obtained for discussions on the formula and subsequent legislation.
This submission prompted the Chairman of the Local Government Council, Nana Boakye-Danquah, to sternly tell the minister: “you are blackmailing us”. There were general exclamations of agreement to this by the participants.
Nana Boakye-Danquah went on to tell the minister that parliamentarians were not development agents, hence, the development of districts was not part of their jurisdiction and they, therefore, had no right to hold the country to ransom because of their share of the funds.
Developing his idea further, Mr Ahwoi, said the creation of a separate fund for MPs under the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs or the Parliamentary Services would help stop the power struggle between district chief executives and MPs.
He questioned the constitutionality of the allocation of a percentage of the funds to MPs, saying “the Constitution only requires Parliament to approve the formula for disbursement; the disbursement themselves are to go to the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs). By dictating the beneficiaries of the disbursement other than the MMDAs, Parliament has gone beyond approval to disbursement.”
Mr Ahwoi also challenged the constitutionality of disbursement to the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment (MLGRDE), the Regional Coordinating Councils (RCC) and the Common Fund Administrator, describing the action as “doubtful.”
Other doubtful ways in which the DACF was being operated, according to him, were the calculation of the constitutional minimum of five per cent of the total national revenue as the DACF, the timeliness of the release of the funds and the central government guidelines on the utilisation of the DACF.
He pointed out that the constitutional prescription of the quantum of the DACF being at least five per cent of the country’s revenue had normally hovered around four per cent.
“Unfortunately the allocations have never been challenged and, therefore, the Minister of Finance has never had to defend the amount allocated in the budget to the DACF,” he said.
In addition, Mr Ahwoi said the constitutional charge made it mandatory for payments of the funds to supersede all other payments, including statutory and discretionary payments.
On the central government guidelines on the DACF, he conceded that the guidelines at the inception of the decentralisation process in 1988 were supposed to be a transitional mechanism in devolving power to the local level to ensure continuity in some projects of the central government at that level.
He said that had not been clearly stated and the guidelines had remained and was now one of the sore points in effective decentralisation.
He said it was time to also scrap the guidelines of the use of the DACF from the law and make local constituents the decision-making factor in the use of the funds.
On the recent increase of the DACF from five per cent to 7.5 per cent, Mr Ahwoi wanted to know whether the decision was based on the simultaneous transfer of functions.
He pointed out that a fundamental principle in fiscal decentralisation was for “finances to follow functions,” explaining this to mean that whenever a function was transferred to MMDAs, the finances with which that function was being performed when it was a central activity had to be transferred with it.
He, therefore, suggested a national revenue generation and sharing study that would enable a more scientifically-based decision to be taken on the appropriate central-local government revenue sharing system.
When he took his turn, Nana Boakye-Danquah proposed the use of the 20th year of the decentralisation process in Ghana that would fall in June, next year, as a time for the review of the process.
He said resourcing district assemblies that were the highest political, legislative, executive and rating authorities in their areas of jurisdiction was at the core of an effective decentralisation process.
He added that the legislation on the decentralisation process showed without doubt that district assemblies were established on the concept of devolution of power, resources and also the enabling environment; however, power relations were still skewed in favour of central level institutions.
Nana Boakye-Danquah was of the view that too many central directives and instructions to district assemblies arose out of this unequal and unaligned power relation.
He said this unequal power relation had to be confronted and dealt with by cutting the umbilical cords of district assemblies linked to central systems, the professionalisation of local government training, and the resourcing of the Local Government Service Council which is charged with all human resource issues of the Local Government Service, among other things.
Mr Jumah, in his submissions, said the establishment of the Local Government Service by Act 656 had far reaching implications in resourcing district assemblies, as challenges of staffing would be redressed, retaining the requisite human resource for the effective functioning of the assemblies.

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