Three local government experts have call for the strengthening of the Sub-District Structures (SDSs) of the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), as part of efforts to deepen Ghana's democratic decentralisation process.
The local government experts, who made the call, include Mr Jonathan Azasoo, Deputy Director, National Development Planning Commission; Professor Emmanuel Kojo Sakyi, University of Ghana Business School and Mr Andrews Bediako, Administrative Officer, National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana.
The trio was of the view that in order for the SDSs (Town Councils, Area Councils and Unit Committees) to be able to function more effectively as expected of them, there was the need to strengthen their revenue generation capacity.
According to them, the revenue generation areas that were ceded by some MMDAs to SDSs were usually the no go areas or hard to collect revenue areas.
The trio made the call during a round-table on "Strengthening the SDSs in a Reformed Decentralised Local Government System in Ghana" in Accra.
The roundtable, which was organised by the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), examined the role and performance of the SDSs from 1993 to date and how they could be made functional and effective in a reformed decentralised local government system.
It sought to address questions such as: Why were the SDSs established and how effective have they been? How can LI 1967 of 2010 be operationalised in the face of its resolution of many of the technical problems associated with LI 1589 of 1994?
Mr Azasoo in his contributions said most zonal councils do not have the committees in place and where the committees exist, they do not meet regularly as expected.
He said most sub-structures were unable to hold meetings as expected due to lack of money whilst some do not have offices, logistics and equipment to hold meetings.
He also mentioned interference of some traditional authorities in the functionality of the SDSs and political interference in their works.
On his part, Prof Sakyi said challenges facing the SDSs were the lack of understanding of the operational processes of the assemblies, the lack of salaries and other incentives for assembly members and the absence of political party presence in the district assembly system/elections made MMDAs unattractive to many people.
On the way forward, Prof Sakyi recommended that the central government should consider increasing the percentage of funds in the national revenue to be set aside for local governments.
"Other countries are doing that; Kenya in its 2017/2018 fiscal year transferred 15 per cent of national revenue to county governments and South Africa in 2016/2017 fiscal year gave 41.1 per cent of national revenue to municipal governments. Ghana can try 10 per cent of national revenue," he said.
Mr Bediako said the District Assemblies Common Fund was not common; hence, the need for the various MMDAs to intensify their internal generation funds (IGFs), where they could have more resources to implement their development agenda.
"We believe that when the SDSs work and work effectively, the decentralisation and the policy of sending governance to the local people, will benefit them."
Prof Joseph Atsu Ayee of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana and a Senior Research Fellow at the IDEG, who hosted the panel discussion, said the sustainability of strengthening the SDSs was crucial to Ghana's local government decentralisation process.
He said LI 1967 had not been operationalised, because of political, financial, attitudinal and behavior challenges.
He said there was the need for Ghanaians to look at how they could move away from this sense of fatalism to a sense of optimistic.
"And I always believe that, Ghana is still a centralised state in spite of decentralisation for 31 years," he stated.
Mrs Karen Shormeh Sai, Director Resource Mobilisation and Programme, IDEG, said the outcome of the roundtable would go a long way to contribute to the debate on the SDSs and their relevance in decentralised local governance.