The Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) and its partners have officially launched the Local Governance Practitioners' Forum (LGPF) in Accra.
ILGS, with the support of Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Decentralization (IMCC), Dutch Knowledge Platform on Inclusive Development, STAR Ghana and other development partners, is hosting the Local Governance Practitioners' Forum to use research and practice evidence to start a bubble-up approach in local governance.
The approach would involve diverse actors including; researchers, central and local policy makers, private sector enterprises, political parties, and the media, to share research experience to inform the design and effective implementation of democratic local governance reforms in Ghana.
It would bring both intellectual and research evidence to bear on policy discussions, promote new elite and grassroots consensus and build policy dialogue to make implementation effective.
Dr Nicholas Awortwi, Director of ILGS, speaking at the launch of the LGPF, noted that having dedicated revenue resources, and establishing a Local Government Service responsible for human resource management and development, were among achievements of Ghana's decentralization policy.
He said however, downward accountability was poor, thus, political heads and many heads of departments were accountable to the centre more than the local, and also little innovations took place in district assemblies to promote local development.
Dr Awortwi said the rational for setting LGPF included;, to provide the platform for evidence-based policy discourse, design and advocacy; and to create the fora for dialogue between central-local governance actors and among metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs).
Mr Osei Bonsu Amoah, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), who officially launched the Forum, also stated that Ghana was at a critical time in its national development.
He said after 30 years of implementation of Ghana's decentralization programme, it was important that MMDAs, which were the vehicles through which development was being delivered, were reinvented and made more responsive to the needs and expectations of the people they served.
The Deputy Minister pointed out that the policy direction of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto was intended to make that a reality and bring governance to the doorsteps of the people.
"It was for this reason President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, indicated his preparedness to cede some of his Constitutional prerogatives to the citizens through the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) on partisan basis".
Mr Salifu Mahama, Executive Secretary of IMMC said the Government policy on One District One Factory (1D1F), which was aimed at promoting local economic development amid other local potentials, should engage their attention as local government practitioners and partners to achieve sustainable development.
He said, thus the idea of a platform that would provide an inclusive space for diverse actors to access and engage intellectually and dialogue for consensus to inform policy backed by research evidence and practice, was a laudable one.
Mr Mahama, who doubles as the Chairman of LGPF, said the diverse range of actors at the forum, was intended to promote a deeper consensus on issues bothering on local democracy and local economic development.
Madam Teiko Sabah, Head of Programmes, STAR Ghana Foundation, recounted that with the recent local governance elections, the voter turnout was extremely low, an indication of how citizens participated in local governance.
She said that was the importance of the practitioners' forum, saying, "as practitioners ourselves we have to walk the talk to ensure that local governance includes all".