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AD23: Ghana’s decentralization: Locally centralized decision making ill serves its public

Mina Okuru and Daniel Armah-Attoh 10 Apr 2015 Ghana
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Key findings
  • MMDAs and local councillors appear to have failed to effectively operationalize the idea of giving voice to electorates, as more than seven of 10 Ghanaians say that their elected local councillors "never" or only "sometimes" listen to what ordinary people have to say (according to 71% of respondents) and that MMDAs largely do not inform constituents about their work programs (76%) and annual budgets (78%).
  • In addition to the failure of the system to give electorates a voice in local governance, four of five Ghanaians consider "some," "most," or "all" MMDA chief executives and local councillors to be corrupt (affirmed by 84% and 83% of respondents, respectively), and 62% say they trust MMDAs “just a little” or “not at all.”
  • Moreover, seven of 10 Ghanaians say MMDAs have failed in delivering on maintenance of local roads and marketplaces, and about six of 10 disapprove of the job performance of district chief executives and local government councilors.

Metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies (MMDAs), along with complementary sub-structures, are the major features of Ghana’s decentralized local government system initiated in the early 1990s. The core functions of MMDAs, as set out in the 1993 Local Government Act (Act 462), include ensuring the overall development of the district by a) preparing district development plans and budgets, b) initiating programs for the development of basic infrastructure, and c) providing municipal works and services in their jurisdictions.

In 2009, MMDA responsibilities were extended with the establishment of 16 new decentralized departments under their remit to support the local delivery of services, including a) managing public health/sanitation and environmental protection, b) maintaining roads and public transport, and c) planning and budgeting.

At the heart of Ghana’s decentralization is the idea of giving “voice” to citizens in local governance. A critical requirement of the Local Government Act is the regular interface between elected local government representatives and citizens. For instance, the law requires that elected councillors meet constituents before every meeting of the assembly and that they consult the electorate on issues to be discussed in the assembly, collate their views and proposals, and submit them to the assembly for consideration. In addition, elected councillors are expected to provide their constituents with feedback on the general decisions of the assembly and the actions taken to address their problems or concerns.

Mina Okuru

Mina Okuru previously served as the Afrobarometer communications coordinator for Anglophone West Africa.

Daniel Armah-Attoh

Daniel is the project manager for North and Anglophone West Africa