Authors : Afia Zakiya, Timeyin Uwejamomere
Affiliated organization : Water Aid
Site of publication : washmatters.wateraid.org
Type of publication : Discussion paper
Date of publication : July 2016
The local government system and decentralization in Ghana
Local Government Administrations (LGAs) or Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) are central to the WASH governance system in Ghana. However, deeper issues and blockages to the successful operations of district governments and achievement of the constitutional mandate for MMDAs to implement decentralisation exist, despite sector reforms dating back to 1984.
Ghana is a constitutional democracy with two spheres of government – central and local. The central Government coordinates internal relationships with and between the local assemblies through ten administrative regions, each headed by a regional minister appointed by the president.
Findings on sector performance related to decentralisation and WASH delivery
The 2014 review confirmed another initial assumption: there is a key difference in the approach to and the actual implementation of decentralised WASH service delivery between rural and urban districts. Hence, research findings question whether it is possible to incentivise districts to develop five-year WASH plans as part of the criteria for awarding the district and/or urban development funds.
Decentralisation requires upward and downward accountability, which are currently not strong in the sector. Empowering citizens for social accountability is a key requirement for sustainability, and may improve transparent services delivery by district assemblies
Granted that the WASH district water and sanitation team (DWST) structures for rural districts are in place by policy, a mix of institutional arrangements exist side by side. A major gap in the implementation of decentralisation is inadequate personnel and staff: the DWSTs are supposed to have an Engineer, an Environmental Health Officer and a Community Development Officer, but this is not usually the case.
There is an understanding among stakeholders that the district assemblies should lead WASH services delivery. District assemblies are aware that they are the centre for local governance and development. However, awareness about their capabilities and use of power as key drivers of change in development is low.
This leaves a dilemma – do you devolve the functions to local assemblies to enable them to learn by doing and thereby develop the required capacities, or do you first build the capacity of district assembly staff, to enable them to assume the function when devolved?
At the central level, there are a few sector coordination mechanisms. These include the water and sanitation sector working groups and a national-level learning alliance platform. However at the district level, there are no sub-committees on WASH, and District Inter-Agency Coordinating Committees on Sanitation were not functional due to funding issues.
Funding for LGAs come from three main sources:
- Common fund – direct departmental transfers to MMDAs. The District Assemblies’ Common Fund (DACF), established by the constitution, has a provision that not less than 5% of the total revenues of Ghana are paid into it for use in district assemblies’ development (capital) works.
- District development fund and urban development fund – provide substantial grants available to MMDAs based on performance
- Internally generate funds – funds generated by MMDAs from rates and collections.
The review found that most districts do not really allocate funding and budget lines to WASH and WASH is not prioritised in the use of internally generated funds by district assemblies.
Decentralisation requires upward and downward accountability, which are currently not strong in the sector. Empowering citizens for social accountability is a key requirement for sustainability, and may improve transparent services delivery by district assemblies.
There is an understanding among stakeholders that the district assemblies should lead WASH services delivery. District assemblies are aware that they are the centre for local governance and development. However, awareness about their capabilities and use of power as key drivers of change in development is low
Analysis and recommendations
District assemblies are generally aware of their value and centrality to service provision. What is missing is their power and influence to fully secure and devolve the right level of financial resources and get the right staff capacity to enable them to take leadership of WASH sector operations. There is also the issue of ideas – key actors or institutions may not actually believe in decentralisation, especially fiscal decentralisation.
The organisation of a national sector conference on the decentralisation of WASH services delivery may be necessary to jumpstart creation of a consensus roadmap for the sector to deliver universal services to now strengthen the decentralisation process and establish full WASH departments at the MMDAs.
Besides, most key stakeholders are not aware of the level of community engagement and prioritisation between MMDAs and communities on WASH services. WaterAid invites the Government of Ghana to:
- Strengthen local governments to provide the leadership for frontline state and non-state institutions and actors to deliver services at scale, and to improve their competences and performance in coordination.
- Consider strengthening the local government training institute to provide local assemblies with the necessary training to develop the leadership skills local authorities need to achieve universal services.
About the funding issue, WaterAid calls on development partners, who, collectively, have brought most of the sector finances at consistent levels of 70–80% for the past years to achieve WASH goals, to:
- Ensure their development finance strengthens local governments as duty bearers.
Proactively work with and within Government of Ghana development priorities, at the national level, to unblock sector bottlenecks that prohibit sector strengthening and effectiveness.
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