The Progressive People’s Party (PPP) has this week charged the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government of unethical conduct in the disbursement of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF).
The Fund’s Administrator, has in a directive, ordered Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) to spend only 20% of their 2018 DACF allocation on development projects and running of the assemblies. The remaining 80% is to be spent on central government interventions such as School Feeding and Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo) programmes.
By law, 7.5% of the nation’s total tax income goes to the DACF for distribution among MMDAs. The remaining 92.5% is kept by central government to undertake its own operations. Again, by our constitutional arrangements, the nation is divided into districts, with each district constituting the basic unit of development. And it is the aggregation of the basic units that constitute the whole development at the national level.
With this background, the essence of fiscal decentralisation in Ghana is not in doubt. On paper, fiscal decentralisation is a key feature in our local government system; and translated in practice, it means disbursement of central government funds to the MMDAs must be based on an open and transparent formula approved by Parliament. And as a decentralised financial management system, it should feature:
(a) Transparency of allocation,
(b) Timeliness and predictability of the amounts available to local institutions for effective planning and implementation purposes, and
(c) Local autonomy of decision making on resource utilisation to give power back to the people to address peculiar local needs.
The distribution formula recently approved by Parliament and the subsequent directives from the President’s appointed Administrator of the DACF falls short of the law. Central government cannot decide for MMDAs where and how 80% of their budget must be applied. Unfortunately, MPs who are the representatives of the people failed to check the breach because their own share of the Common Fund was guaranteed, with a little more added to it for monitoring Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) projects.
It is interesting how the MMDCEs themselves, have also decided to remain silent even though they know the Assemblies are being robbed of development funds. The MMDCEs cannot complain of being shortchanged because they owe their appointment to the executive. And the executive has decided to control the Assemblies to the point of fiscal centralisation.
The election of MMDCEs is a key policy vision of the PPP. It is aimed at giving power back to the people at the local level for rapid development. Last month, the party took on the NPP administration calling on it to publish a road map to the election of MMDCEs when it was revealed that the elections would not happen in 2018, as the NPP promised in its 2016 election manifesto that brought it into power.
“Given the aggressive attempt by the executive to impose fiscal centralisation on our local government system through the backdoor, the PPP cannot wait any longer for the same executive that is taking undue advantage of the status quo, to implement the election of MMDCEs policy in its own sweet time. We take this opportunity to again, demand from the NPP administration, the clear road map to the election of MMDCEs, which we believe is the only genuine way to give power back to the people.” This PPP charge is legitimate and an eye opener for the electorate.
From all indications the NPP administration has breached all the three features of fiscal decentralisation leading to the conclusion that it is neither interested in giving power back to the people for development nor interested in meeting the developmental needs of the people at the local level, but rather interested taking the little power they have left away from them and centralisation local government. A move that must be condemned in no uncertain terms by all who wish to see rapid development in Ghana through the MMDAs as the basic units of development.
Following the development on the DACF front, many people are beginning to question the motives behind the NPP’s promise of election of MMDCEs in its 2916 manifesto. Well the conclusion is that, it was put there because majority of Ghanaians wanted MMDCEs elected and the NPP wanted those majority votes. If the NPP is not interested in giving any power back to the people as exhibited in their actions, why are they still promising to elect MMDCEs in 2021? Their conduct present believability problems!
The Last Uprising with William DOWOKPOR
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