Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Examining the Sub-Structures of Ghana's Local Government System under the Decentralization Program: Performance and Prospects

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Examining the Sub-Structures of Ghana's Local Government System under the Decentralization Program: Performance and Prospects

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Effective governance through transformed local government systems is central to accelerated socio-economic transformation and improved conditions of the deprived and vulnerable (Olowu, 2012). This is because sound governance provides the congenial atmosphere and also generates the needed drive which ensures that leaders entrusted with providing direction and program implementation support remain focused on executing their management responsibilities. This enables society to make visible progress toward the attainment of its desired goals. Accelerated development and equitable distribution of resources require that decision making power and control are ceded to agencies that engage in close collaboration and direct engagements with the people. Close and regular contacts as well as effective collaboration with local communities ensure that their needs are properly identified and adequately reflected in socio-economic development programs. Speedy resolution of urgent local problems and bottlenecks that unduly delay development processes also requires that actors closest to the scene are entrusted with the skills, resources and decision making power to enable them to act in a timely manner and as expected.

One of the most effective means for ensuring equitable distribution of development benefits such that communities located in the remotest corners of the country are positively impacted upon, is decentralization. Decentralized systems provide local governments with the authority and wherewithal for promoting responsive governance through which local initiatives, community plans and self-help endeavors of the people can be supported, coordinated and linked up with national efforts for sustained development. Decentralization can simply be described as the process of transferring responsibility for administration, planning, management and decision making from central government and headquarters of organizations to lower levels to ensure efficiency in service delivery and optimal resource allocation. Rondineli, (1981, cited in Khan, 2011) provides a more comprehensive definition of decentralization, which he states as involving the "transfer of responsibility for planning, management and resource raising and allocation from the central government and its agencies to: (a) the field units of central government ministries or agencies, (b) subordinate units or levels of government, (c) semiautonomous public authorities or corporations, (d) area wide, regional or functional authorities, or (e) nongovernmental private or voluntary organizations".

Since the 1980s, decentralization has been touted and diligently promoted as a panacea for solving problems such as slowed administration and ineffective governance in developing countries, hence it has been the main focus of public policy transformation in Sub-Saharan African countries including Ghana (Awortwi, 2011; Mohan, 1996; Olowu, 2012; Sumberg and Okali, 2006). In addition to efficiency in public service delivery, decentralization leads to better local participation in decision making, transparency, openness and accountability in governance (Andersson, 2004; Batterbury and Fernando, 2006; Bene et al., 2009; Chapman et al., 2002; OfeiAboagye, 2004). Generally, decentralized systems of administration and governance promote increased participation of people in decision making (Olowu, 2012).

In many ways, decentralization should also lead to upgraded community involvement in decision making since it entails the transfer of capacities and responsibilities to local level structures through which communities could participate meaningfully in decision making and other governance processes, and thereby make substantial contributions to development activities. It should also generate better local capacity for planning through the use of bottom-up planning approaches. Ultimately, these should empower lower level structures to enable them to plan and assist their communities to maximize gains from sectoral interventions and thereby realize their development aspirations. …

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