Introduction and Background

This study examines the politics of basic service delivery in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) in Ghana. In this connection, the study seeks to identify the various actors involved and the major roles they play in the management of waste and the issuance of building permit and the accountability mechanisms in place in the AMA. In addition, the study assesses the sectoral differences in the governance of waste management and issuance of building permit and highlights the opportunities and recommendations for strengthening the governance of waste management and building permit services in the AMA. This study complements the existing political economy and development literature by deepening understanding on the modalities of governance of basic services in the public sector. This may thereby inform public policymakers and practitioners to strengthen the delivery system of basic services and/or stimulate developing countries governments’ efforts at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The chapter begins with a brief background of the study, followed by a description of the problem statement, the study objectives, research questions and the significance of the study. In addition, it outlines the scope of the study and a brief arrangement of chapters of the entire study.

The constraints of poor service delivery outcomes and performances in many developing worlds including Africa are attributed in part to the absence of resources (Kimenyi 2013). For instance, to provide social services like education and health, one needs equipment as well as supplies. Trained teachers, textbooks and classrooms are very essential in the provision of quality education. Similarly, trained medical personnel, quality drugs and prescription or diagnosis equipment are very key in the delivery of health services. However, scholars argue that in order

to minimize the gap between resource and service delivery outcomes and ensure value for money, there is the need to internalize governance in service delivery practices and processes (Kimenyi 2013). In other words, service delivery is poor in many African countries because accountability is equally poor.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2008) suggests that effective service delivery is achieved by governments universally where there are accountability mechanisms between citizens and their leaders. It has been argued by the International Growth Centre (IGC) that citizens of many low-income countries depend extensively on the state for the provision of basic services either because of the inability of the market to provide them or extreme poverty (IGC 2017). A post-Millennium Summit report (2014) by the World Bank underscored the significance of accountability in achieving effective and efficient service delivery.

The World Bank’s accountability framework has dominated scholarly debates and development thinking and has also shaped the understanding of scholars, practitioners and policy makers on service delivery in recent years (ESID 2014). This framework is important for two main reasons: first, it emphasizes the dominant role of politics in the accountability processes, and, second, it concentrates on top-down hierarchical and participatory paradigms (ESID 2014).

In a recent publication, Lieberman (2015) remained convinced that the World Bank’s 2004 World Development Report titled “Making Services Work for Poor People” has stimulated global debate on the unfortunate situation of the poor in low and middle-income countries with respect to inadequate delivery of education, health, water and sanitation, and electricity services. He therefore continues to reiterate global focus on accountability as the basic and foundational unit of service provision and access (Lieberman 2015).

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) regards basic services as being dependent upon the broader governance environment (ODI 2013). For this reason, it concluded that any analysis of the politics of service delivery must first and foremost place emphasis on the incentives of various relevant actors and must also take into consideration the strategies to address the specific features of the context that gave rise to those incentives in the first place (ODI 2013).

Similarly, Batley and Mcloughlin argues that politics is largely considered as central to the performance of public services, nevertheless, few research exists that distinguishes between services in explaining these effects (Batley and Mcloughlin 2015). Any effort to understand and compare the politics of different services should be dependent on a framework- designed to incorporate the nature of the good, type of market failure, tasks involved in delivery and demand for a service- hitherto considered broadly as economic and managerial concerns (Batley and Mcloughlin 2015).

Apart from the post-Millennium Summit researches conducted by the World Bank, other multilateral, bilateral, development institutes and think tank groups and agencies have also devoted substantial attention on studying the significance of governance for achieving sustainable development. The term governance defies a single definition. However, in all these definitions there is a common thread that runs through them. The common denominator central  to governance discourse is improved public accountability. Accountability is important in promoting governance and reducing ineffective delivery of public services. Governance may be understood as the “manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development” (World Bank 1992:1). Post-2000 has witnessed major policy directions in the development and aid literature on the significant trends and patterns of governance. Some of these policy directions have direct consequences on the capacity

of the state to fashion out strategies and processes that are geared towards sustainable development as well as the building of public trust in public sector institutions.

Despite the significant attention paid to developing the political and administrative capacity of public sector agencies in developing countries over the last five decades, there is increasing evidence that these investments have not led to improved and sustained policy formulation and implementation performance (Cohen 1993). For instance, the Word Bank’s report on governance opines that extreme poverty is still prevalent in 1 billion people or 14 percent of the world’s population (World Bank 2017). This report goes further to argue that despite the fact that substantial gains have been realized over the past 45 years, developing countries still fall many years behind the rate of development with developed countries. For instance, Sierra Leone’s child mortality rate under 5 years corresponds to Portugal’s rate 58 years ago (World Bank 2017). Similarly, individuals within countries who occupy the bottom of the income distribution, orderly lag behind those at the top. For instance, India’s poorest 20 percent population is averagely 25 years behind the wealthiest 20 percent (World Bank 2017).

To this end, the World Bank concludes that tackling the myriad of challenges and problems facing today’s developing countries – such as unemployment, poor service delivery, violence, slowing growth, corruption, and the sustainable management of natural resources – calls for an integrated approach by which state and non-state actors and players collaborate to design and implement policies and programs. This is the broader sense in which the World Bank has used the concept of governance (World Bank 2017).

There is therefore the need to understand governance and effective basic service provision and collaboration between state and non-state actors, on the one hand, and beneficiary/customer or communities, on the other. This is significant in the facilitation of collective efficiency that can

come about through joint action and accountability as people/agencies become entangled in networks of users, suppliers, consumers and producers (Milward and Provan 2000).

This study examines how accountability mechanisms can be strengthened to achieve effective service delivery in the public sector of the West African State of Ghana using the provision of waste management and building permit services in a local government unit as a case study. The two major empirical questions raised in this study are: first, the degree at which basic  services are delivered by actors/agents (policymakers, service providers and citizens) and whether they operate independently or are influenced by the accountability mechanisms; and second, how effective is the mode of delivery of these basic services for the case of waste management and building permit in Ghana.

            Problem Statement

Waste management and building permit are distinct public services that are largely provided by the metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies (MMDAs) in Ghana under the supervision of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD). The 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution confers wide range of powers and responsibilities on MMDAs in their defined geographical boundaries with as many as 86 functions being transferred to them (Ayee 1996). This assertion by Ayee is widely supported by the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936) which mandates MMDAs to perform political, administrative, legal and financial functions.

However, the low level of human and financial resources, especially, with respect to the provision of public services like waste management and the issuance of building permits, and the lack of accountability mechanisms are but some of the constraints that have characterized the multiplicity of functions, structure and operations of MMDAs in Ghana. Therefore, some

strategies and mechanisms put in place by MMDAs to overcome these constraints include, privatization, contracting-out, out-sourcing and public private partnerships (PPPs) to provide services to citizens. The consciousness that multiple non-state actors can be involved in the provision and management of public services has engineered a global paradigm shift in policies and practices from a single state actor or player (government) to many non-state actors and players (governance). Unfortunately, most of these non-state actors (private agencies and for- profit organizations) and community-based organizations (CBOs) are incentivized by their profit maximization philosophy which in most cases does not seek the interest of citizens. This therefore, resonates discussions about accountability in public service delivery.

Many studies conducted on building permits processes, procedures and challenges in Ghana (Agyeman et. al. 2015; Agyeman et. al. 2016; Amadu 2014; Botchway et. al. 2014; Hammah and Ibrahim 2014; Somiah 2014) identify the inability of district assemblies (DAs) to issue permits within the stipulated three months period as a result of accountability failures in the processes. In examining the processes and procedures for the application and issuance of building permits in the metropolitan cities of Accra and Kumasi, Amadu (2014) found that, applicants had to wait for over six months before getting feedback on their building permits applications in Accra and Kumasi. The delays according to Agyeman et. al. (2016) and Botchway et. al. (2014) serve as a precursor on the one hand for the issuance of false permits by so called middlemen and on the other, the mushrooming of unauthorized structures by some land owners and developers because of the problem of land insecurity which forces them to initiate projects in order to safeguard lands which had already cost them large amount of money.

Similarly, a cursory examination of studies on waste management in the rapidly urbanizing cities in Ghana underscored the significance of accountability in ensuring quality sanitation services.

For example, studies on the impacts, issues and experiences with waste management in Ghana (Samwine et. al. 2017; Quartey et. al. 2015; Addaney and Oppong 2015; Amoah and Kosoe 2014; puopiel 2010) bemoan the low levels of accountability in waste management services. Chronicling the issues responsible for solid waste management in the urban cities of Tamale and Wa and drawing experiences from these cities, Puopiel (2010) and Amoah and Kosoe (2014) propose a comprehensive approach that fuses accountability and institutional structures in order to improve inefficiencies in waste management.

In the same vein, Quartey et. al. (2015) and Samwine et. al. (2017) examine the impacts of plastic and solid waste disposal in Accra, and concluded that improved accountability may ensure effective environmental management of sanitation services in the country. Addaney and Oppong (2015) revealed that, despite the fact that actors are motivated to achieve high levels of commitment with respect to sustainable waste management services, the low level of accountability coupled with the lack of technical and financial wherewithal of these actors hampers their services.

From the foregoing discussions, it is recognized that, within the framework of an all- encompassing decentralized public service delivery, it is expected that the management and provision of basic services at the local level will be accountable as conceived by governments, practitioners, scholars and development partners. Considering the above expectations on one hand, and the ineffective and poor delivery of basic services in the country on the other, the issue is whether accountability in public institutions has the potential to strengthen the delivery of basic services.

Unfortunately, there is inadequate literature on the role of actors and their incentives in basic service delivery in Ghana. This study aims at filling this gap. Studies on service delivery in

Ghana were limited to public perceptions (Braimah et. al. 2014; Yoada et. al. 2014) and the extent of access (IEA Ghana 2017; Ganle et. al. 2015; Ryan and Adank 2010; Agyepong 1999) on the delivery of these services. The limited knowledge in this area of research provides sufficient motivation for this case study focusing mainly on intersectoral analysis between waste management and building permit services in Ghana, the actors and their incentives.

This study examines the politics of service delivery in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) using the delivery of waste management and building permits as case studies. The focus on these services is not to establish any specific link but rather because of their direct public health, environmental and costs implications on citizens. Specifically, it discusses the role of the actors and their incentives in the provision of the two services in the AMA and how accountability is either strengthened or compromised. This will deepen the understanding on service delivery and how accountability can be improved at the local level.


The hypothesis which underpins this study is that accountability in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly has been strengthened by the delivery of waste management and building permit services. In other words, the larger the role and interests of actors in waste management and building permit services, the more accountability is improved in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.

General Objective

The general objective of the study is to examine how accountability in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly has been strengthened by the delivery of waste management and building permit services.

            Specific Objectives

Specifically, the study seeks to address the following objectives:

  1. To identify the various actors, their roles and incentives in the delivery of waste management and building permit in the AMA;
  2. To assess the accountability mechanisms in the delivery of waste management and building permit in the AMA;
  3. To analyse the sectoral differences in the delivery of waste management and building permit in the AMA and the consequences for service delivery; and
  4. To suggest or recommend feasible institutional and policy options for improving and strengthening the delivery of waste management and building permit in the AMA.

            Research Questions

The burden of this study is to identify how accountability in the AMA has been strengthened by the delivery of waste management and building permit services. In this vein, the following specific questions are posed for interrogation:

  1. Who are the actors and what are their roles and incentives in the delivery of waste management and building permit in the AMA?
  2. What are the accountability mechanisms in the delivery of waste management and building permit in the AMA?
  3. What are the differences between waste management and building permit delivery and what are their consequences on service provision in the AMA?
  4. How can the challenges of waste management and building permit delivery be addressed for improved service delivery in the AMA?

            Location of the Study in Political Science

The study falls under Comparative Politics, a sub-field of Political Science with specific emphasis on the politics of service delivery including waste management and building permit in local governance units in Ghana, using the AMA as a case study.

            Significance of the study

This study is significant on two grounds. First, the study complements the frontiers of knowledge in political economy and service delivery by identifying the main actors, their roles and incentives and how they contribute either positively or negatively to promoting accountability such as demands from citizens in service delivery.

Second, the policy recommendations of the study may be useful to policymakers undertaking service delivery and officials of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs). This is likely to improve the quality of public services being delivered at the local level in Ghana.

            Scope of the Study

Geographically, the study was confined to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. The AMA was selected for a qualitative intersectoral comparative case study because of the following reasons:

  1. It has evidence of improper land use, planning and management which hinders the effective collection, transportation and disposal of sanitation and waste management services (Boadi and Kuitunen 2003). Furthermore, Accra has an estimated population of 1,665,086 citizens and a daily influx of 500,000 visitors which makes it one of the fastest growing cities in Africa (AMA 2014). The presence of these individuals adds to the waste production capacity of the AMA and

further constrains officials in their efforts to rid the AMA of filth. In addition, the discourse on waste management and building permit is more pronounced in Accra than other urban centers because of its central role in governance and economics and the multicultural environment it represents taking into account that about 80 percent of the population of Accra live in low income and high-density populated areas (Colan Consult 1998; cited in Boadi and Kuitunen 2003).

  • The Accra Metropolis is relatively attractive to high-calibre bureaucrats due to the availability of social amenities including good road networks, office spaces, decentralized departments, hospitals, banks, condominium apartments and hotels and other human resources ranging from career bureaucrats to professional assembly members who play key roles in the delivery of public services. According to Ayee and Crook (2003), close to 90 percent of elected District Assembly members in 1992 were professionals in various fields including engineering, electricals, business and consultancy. Currently, the AMA boasts of 140 assembly members (Fieldwork 2018). Therefore, it is important to examine how the roles and incentives of these actors strengthen or undermine accountability in waste management and building permit in the AMA;
    • The AMA is one of the largest Assemblies with severe public service delivery constraints in waste management and building permit (Fieldwork 2018). Considering the fact that, poor service delivery constraints may be explained in part due to the break down in accountability relationships among service providers, policymakers and beneficiaries/clients, the examination  of the roles and incentives of actors in the AMA can be used to measure how accountability relationships improve service delivery or otherwise;
  • Without empirical data, attempts to measure whether there has been any improvement in the waste management and building permit sectors will be largely based on perceptions and conceptions. Even though many studies have been conducted on waste management and building permit in Ghana, a few compares them using an intersectoral case study in the AMA;
    • It also works with quite a number of governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), private entities, development partners, experts and consultants to deliver public services. These actors, their roles and incentives are fundamental in strengthening or undermining accountability in public service delivery, especially, waste management and building permit; and,
    • The Urban Environmental and Sanitation Policy (UESP) which was implemented in 1999 mandates MMDAs to privatize about 80 percent of their sanitation and waste services and the AMA is one of the Metropolitan Assemblies which has responded to this directive as stipulated in the UESP document (Fieldwork 2018). Since waste management is one of the essential public services of the AMA, and building permit is another, and both services have direct public health, physical and environmental implications on citizens, it is therefore appropriate to compare the extent to which politics shapes the role and incentives of actors in their delivery. Additionally, it is also important to analyze how the similarities and differences in sectors, namely, waste management (public private partnership) and building permit (in-house delivery) impacts service delivery in the AMA.

The focus on waste management and building permit in this study is because of their direct public health, environmental and costs implications on citizens. The effective or ineffective delivery of these services can have impacts on the rapid urbanization, poverty reduction, growth and development in the country. In other words, the delivery of waste management and building

permit is fundamental to good health, rapid urbanization, poverty reduction and improved public services.

For example, the World Bank (2012, ix) contended that uncollected solid waste adds to flooding, air pollution and public health challenges including respiratory ailments, diarrhoea, dengue and yellow fever. Currently, solid waste costs citizens and their governments US$205.4 billion annually and this figure is projected to increase to US$375.5 billion in 2025 (World Bank 2012). Similarly, Botchway et. al. (2014) concluded that the advent of unplanned siting of building structures by unscrupulous developers and land owners in Ghana is partly attributed to the huge costs in acquiring land and the delays in the procedure for acquiring building permit. Therefore, the selection of waste management and building permit from amongst other essential services in the AMA is justified on the grounds that the public health and environmental impacts and costs of these services on the socio-economic growth and development of the country are enormous and overbearing. This study therefore aims to highlight strategies to maximize benefits and minimize the serious adverse impacts these two services have on public health and the environment in Ghana.