Long before decentralization became a buzzword and fashionable in some countries in the 1980s, Ghana’s search for, and attempts to take government closer to the people had been well noted and documented. In the late 1980s however, the Government of Ghana, initiated several legal and policy reforms that sought to bring climax to the long- standing dream of realizing a truly decentralized system. The new reforms establishes the Local Assemblies as the highest legislative, political and administrative authorities. After about three decades of implementing the new system, questions remain as to whether Ghana’s decentralization is an exercise of rhetorics or reality. The questions that the researcher explored included: What administrative capacity do the Assemblies possess to plan, make and implement decisions to fulfil their core mandate, and do they have the discretion to manage their staff in a way that could best serve the interests of the people? Other questions were: Do the Assemblies possess the financial capacity as well as the autonomy to effectively carry out their decentralized functions as specified and envisaged by policy? Were Departments of the Assemblies, including the sub- structures fully decentralized and performing their roles, responsibilities and functions as specified by law? Are the decisions in the Medium Term Development Plans, Budgets and other programmes of the Assemblies and decentralized departments those of the local people and their representatives? The final questions are: Are the Assemblies accountable to the people? What concerns do key actors, other than the government, have about the nation’s administrative decentralization and local accountability programme? Focusing the studies on three Assemblies, the researcher applied the interpretive paradigm with the constructivist view of social reality and the case study approach of seeking knowledge from the natural settings of the Assemblies. Participants in the studies, who also constituted the key actors in the decentralized

system included Presiding Members and elected Assembly members, Directors of sub metropolitan District Councils, and executives of Town, Area, Zonal and Urban Councils. The rest were executives of Unit Committees, Coordinating Directors, Development Planning Officers, Finance Officers, MMDCEs, Internal Auditors, Local Government Inspectors and Heads of Decentralized Departments. Using interview guides, focused group discussions and detached observation methods, the researcher collected qualitative data from respondents in their natural setting at their communities, Assembly meetings, and Unit Committee levels. The researcher found, among others that, after three decades of implementing the most current decentralization system of the country, some of the key departments of the Assemblies including education, youth and sports, health and agriculture were still operating as deconcentrated bodies with only little supervision by the Assembly over them. Also, with the exception of two of the three sub-metropolitan District Councils of the TMA, all the Town, Area, Zonal, Urban Councils and Unit Committees within the three case study districts were inactive. In addition, the study established that some of the projects and programmes contained in the development plans and budgets of the Assemblies could either not be implemented at all or lagged far behind schedule due to three main factors. These are the inability of the Assemblies to mobilize sufficient internal revenue, failure of the DACF Secretariat to release funds on time to the former and central government engaging in unsolicited procurement of goods and services for the Assemblies, which led to huge deductions from the DACF allocations meant for the Assemblies. In addition, the Assemblies were found to be unaccountable to even the local legislature, much less to the people as required by law. The researcher also found that although almost all the structures within the Assemblies such as the General Assembly, Sub- committees and the Executive Committees were in existence , most of the important

decisions of the Assemblies were taken by the local executive under the direction of central government bodies and the ruling political party. The researcher has described the prevailing situation at the Assemblies, among others, as local centralization, a phenomenon that was possible largely with the active assistance by central government and the ruling political party for the purpose of protecting the subjective interests of government officials, party leaders and members as well as, of course, the local executives. The researcher concludes, inter alia, that Ghana’s decentralization in its current form is an exercise more of rhetorics than real since there is considerable gap between the existing policies and actual practice. To address the current challenges and also close the gap between policy and practice, the researcher recommends, among others, that the constitutional provisions which mandate the President of the Republic to appoint Chief Executives for MMDA’s should be amended to make room for popular election of MMDAs. Similarly, the researcher recommends that the appointment of 30% government appointees to the Assemblies must also be stopped.


1. 1 Background and Introduction to Ghana’s Decentralization

Since its maiden appearance in social and political discourse in the 1820s, and becoming a subject of much concern for Alexis de Tocqueville and Pierre – Joseph Proudhon in the middle of the 1880s (Schmidt, 2007), decentralization has become a subject of great interest to many from diverse backgrounds for varied reasons.

Furniss (1974:958-959) in Rees and Hossain (2010) observed thus:

“Decentralization is rapidly replacing God, country and motherhood in popular favour, the popularity of decentralization was due in part to its adoption by people from across the political spectrum including the revolutionary left, the utopian left, the reformist right, and the status quo right: All major shades of opinion seem to ascribe to decentralization’s great powers of social and or moral regeneration.The counterpoint “centralization” is associated with most of the evils of the modern polity: delay, red tape, constraints on individual initiative, restraint of spontaneity”.

Similarly, Bardhan (2002) observed that the potential benefits of decentralization had attracted a diverse range of supporters from free-market economists who tend to emphasize the benefits of reducing the power of the overextended or predatory state, to social thinkers who are both anti-market and anti-centralized state, and who energetically support assignment of control to local self-governing communities.

The source of the popular appeal of decentralization may lie mainly in the fact that it provides some way out of the negative social, economic, political and administrative consequences inherent in the concentration of power, decision making and resources in the hands of a few within the body politic. In the 1980s in particular, many countries,

especially in the developing world, subscribed to decentralization reforms. “Since the 1980s decentralization and

Globalization are major topics in politics in most European and developing countries”(World Bank, 2001; BIZA, 1980).

In the context of the foregoing, it may not be difficult for one to understand the motivations of the general wind of decentralization that had blown over many developing countries including those in Africa and Ghana during the 1980s. Commenting on this trend, Cummings (2002) stated that decentralization had become a “revolutionary megatrend” in the 1980s. Conyers (1983; Ribot, 2002) referred to it as “latest fashion”, while the United Nations Development Programme (1999) described the phenomenon as a “trend”.

Although the 1980s witnessed a unique global interest in decentralization, Ghana’s decentralization programme begun over a century and a half ago before it became a global trend and fashion. Schmidt (2007) for example asserts, “Ghana is unique among developing countries in the longevity of its decentralized government which was formally acknowledged in 1878″(p.22). Even before this time, in 1859, under the British colonial government, the Municipal Ordinance Act was passed which created municipalities for the coastal areas of the Gold Coast. Also, in 1943, a new Ordinance set up elected town councils for Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi – Takoradi and Cape Coast”. In 1953, the Municipal Councils Ordinance was passed, only to be followed after independence, by the Local Government Act, 1961, Act 54 (Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLDRD), 1996).

Since these pioneering efforts, several other attempts to develop decentralization were made before and after the country attained political independence in 1957. Despite the strong suggestions the assertions that Ghana’s quest for decentralized governance begun even before most of the so-called economically advanced nations did, the results of all these efforts to decentralize never met the expectations of the Ghanaian. The popular dissatisfaction with the state of local government led to the establishment of several Commissions and Committees of enquiry that were tasked with the search for answers to Ghana’s decentralization aspirations. In a report compiled by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (1996) ”the reports of these bodies made conclusive recommendations for the devolution of central administrative authority to the local levels”. Foremost among the commissions and committees of enquiry were the Watson Committee (1949); Sir Coussey Committee (1949); Sir Sydney Philipson (1951); Sir Frederick Bourne (1955) and the Greenwood Commission (1957). The others include the Regional Constitution Commission (1957), the Akuffo-Addo Commission (1966); the Mills Odoi Commission of 1967 and the Constituent Assembly (1969). The reports concluded among others that: “in spite of the far reaching nature of the recommendations, most of which were accepted, attempts at decentralization could not materialize until 1974”. Some of the weaknesses identified with the previous models of decentralization were: undue centralization of decision-making powers, lack of accountability and participation of the local populace in governance, undue allegiance of local officials to their head offices rather than to the districts they were working in, and lack of electoral legitimacy of local representatives, among others.

Because of the failures in the establishment of an acceptable form of decentralized system of government, the Rawlings’ government, in 1982, embarked upon a new programme of decentralization for the country, which, like its predecessors, purported

to devolve powers, functions and resources down to the countryside. The key features of the current system included the devolution of decision-making and implementation powers and functions of central government to locally elected assemblies who would now be responsible for the development of their locality. These were to ensure that local governments would become participatory, inclusive, democratic, accountable, responsible and responsive to the needs of the people in the locality. According to Ahwoi (2010), the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) formally declared its commitment to decentralisation based on its political slogan of ”Power to the People” with which it had ushered in the revolution of 31st December, 1982. ”This commitment marked the transformation of the slogan into an administrative concept of decentralisation” (p.35). With the aim of transferring power, responsibilities and resources from the control of central government and its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) , the newly-created decentralized local government institutions and departments were to assume new powers and responsibilities with the necessary financial and human resources to perform most of the functions which were hitherto performed by central government departments.

To demonstrate further the nation’s new zeal and commitment to decentralization, the Fourth Republican Constitution (1992) devoted Chapter 20 to decentralization and local government. It states, among others, that Ghana shall be decentralized as far as possible with the Assemblies serving as the highest political, administrative, legislative and executive body in the locality. Parliament was also mandated to ensure, through the passage of relevant laws, to transfer adequate powers, functions, responsibilities and resources to local governments to initiate, plan, coordinate, manage and execute policies in respect of all matters affecting the people. In line with the new powers, all central government departments, agencies and hence staff, must come under the

‘effective control of local authorities’ to whom they must also be accountable. To achieve such local control and accountability, local authorities themselves were mandated to provide opportunity for local citizens to participate effectively in their governance. (Act 240, clause 2a-e, Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992; Act 462, Local government Act, 1993). For example, Act 462 (1993) provides as follows: ‘Subject to this Act, a district Assembly shall exercise political, and administrative authority in the district, provide guidance, and give direction to and supervise all other administrative authorities in the district (Section 10, clause 1).

Furthermore, under the Local Government Service Act, 2003, Act 656, and LI 1961(2009), the assemblies were empowered to oversee all departments of Ministries and Agencies within their jurisdictional area. The Departments were to be called Departments of the District Assemblies. As such, the plans, budgets and all other activities of the departments were to be integrated into those of the Assembly through the Composite Budget and Integrated Planning system. Heads of department were required to, among others, be answerable to the Assemblies through the District Coordinating Directors (DCDs) and the District Chief Executives( DCEs); submit quarterly reports to the Assemblies and also be responsible for the implementation of the decisions of the Assemblies( Sections 22, clause 2;Section 24 clauses a and b). To complete and also strengthen the nation’s administrative decentralization programme, Town, Area, Urban Zonal Councils and Unit Committees were reconstituted and empowered by Legislative Instrument (LI) 1967 to perform delegated functions assigned to them by the Assemblies.

Finally, in 2010, the Government of Ghana once again developed a comprehensive decentralization policy titled: Accelerating Decentralization and Local Governance for

National Development. The policy, which also made provisions for monitoring and evaluating progress of Ghana’s decentralization, sought among others, to clarify the conceptual orientation of Ghana’s model of decentralization as well as provide a four- year action plan ‘for a truly devolved local government system in response to the aspirations of Ghanaians‘. The policy emphasises again that ‘the District Assembly is set up as a body corporate with legal personality which can sue and be sued and which can acquire and dispose of assets and other property’. They also have powers to make bye -laws, make and implement decisions, exact taxes and oversee all departments within the local jurisdiction (Government of Ghana, Decentralization Policy Framework, 2010).

While the foregoing initiatives may be commendable, one may still want to know whether these efforts and numerous constitutional and legal provisions have resulted in strengthening decentralized institutions by enhancing actual local discretion and control over decisions and accountability of local executives to the people.

1. 2 Statement of the Problem

Since the institutionalization of modern forms of decentralized local governments in Africa and Ghana, particularly after the mid. 80s, scholars from around the world have investigated the nature, depth and state of decentralization in Ghana and Africa in general. Some of the investigations included Ayee (2012) on the Political Economy of the Creation of Districts in Ghana; Amakye (2012) on Community Participation in Local Economic Development in Ghana; Akudugu, Fielmua and Akugri (2012) on Grassroots Participation in Local Governance in Bawku East and Adams (2012) on the debate on the mode of appointment of District Chief Executives in Ghana. Others included Moques, Benin and Godsway (2011) on the Effects of External Grants on

District Assemblies; Ahwoi (2010) on Ghana’s Decentralization Policy; Chireh (2010) on the problem of different Interpretations of the Country’s Decentralization policy; Taabazuing (2010) on the Participation of Chiefs in the Decentralization Process and, Offei Aboagye (2009) on the Challenge of Decentralization in Ghana. Crawford and Gordon (2009) focused their investigations on the Politics of Decentralization in Ghana; Debrah (2008) on the state of Accountability of some assemblies in Ghana; Hoffmann and Metzroth (2010) on the Political Economy of Decentralization in Africa; Ribot, Lund and Treue (2010) on Democratic Decentralization in Africa in general and Wunsch (2008) on the failure of decentralization in Africa.

While the above studies provided a wealth of knowledge about various aspects of the state of Ghana’s decentralization, gaps still exist in other aspects of Ghana’s local government and decentralization system. Firstly, most of the studies focused on general and broad issues of decentralization both in Ghana and in Africa. That is, most of them endeavoured to cover all the components of decentralization such as the political, administrative, fiscal decentralization, citizens’ participation and accountability all together within the same study. By handling all the components together, most of the studies could not have dealt very deeply into each one of the issues studied. In addition, while other studies tried to focus on limited aspects of decentralization such as political decentralization, fiscal decentralization, participation and accountability, those that covered administrative decentralization were very few. Furthermore, almost all the studies carried out stopped at the district assemblies’ level as units of analysis, leaving out the substructures such as the Sub Metropolitan District Councils, Town, Area, Zonal Councils and Unit Committees. Among other concerns, there is little knowledge about the true state of Ghana’s administrative decentralization as well as the decentralized sub structures regarding whether they are actually performing the functions that were

assigned to them. Again, some of the studies being referred to were based on secondary data and desk studies with only a few being of primary research. Lastly, and most importantly, the majority of the studies were conducted using single case studies of rural districts leaving out the Metropolitan and Municipal Assemblies. To fill some of these gaps, the researcher undertook the current study focusing on the state of Ghana’s Administrative Decentralization and Accountability of administrators to the people at the local level in the context of relevant current policies using multiple case studies. Among others, the study specifically focused on the current state of decentralization of the departments of the Assemblies, the personnel available to plan and implement policies, the discretion and autonomy possessed by them to take and implement decisions in the interest of local residents and whether all decentralized bodies, including Area Councils and Unit Committees, were operational and were also accountable to local people.

In the study that follows, the researcher argues, among others that, notwithstanding the plethora of legal and policy provisions which sought to transfer power, resources and discretion over decision-making from central government bodies to local people and decentralized institutions, central government bodies and local bureaucrats are still in firm control of power and key decisions of the Assemblies whereas local decentralized institutions and representatives remain neglected and powerless. The mismatch between the rhetorics and realities of Ghana’s decentralization is largely due to the dividends of power, which those benefiting from the status quo did not want to lose.

1.   3 General Objective of the Study

The overarching aim of the study is to contribute to understanding of the current state of Ghana’s administrative decentralization and local accountability in the context of

current policy objectives and the relevant legal framework. The approach would enable the researcher to provide a detaitaied description of what is actually happening within Ghana’s administrative decentralization; capture the experiences of key stakeholders and their interpretation of the current state of affairs among others.

            Research Questions

To achieve the general objective and purpose of the study, the researcher shall answer the following questions:

  1. What administrative capacity do the Assemblies possess to plan, make and implement decisions to fulfil their core mandate;
  2. Do the Assemblies have the discretion to manage their staff in a way that could best serve the interests of the local Assembly?
  3. Do the Assemblies possess the financial capacity and autonomy to carry out their decentralized functions as specified and envisaged by policy, and if not, what could be the reasons?
  4. Were the departments of the Assemblies, including the sub-structures, fully decentralized and performing their roles, responsibilities and functions as specified by law; and if not, what were the reasons?
  5. Were the Assemblies supervising and coordinating the plans, budgets and other programmes with those of the decentralized bodies in accordance with current policy. If yes, how was it done, and if no, what were the reasons?
  6. Do the main decisions as reflected in the Medium Term Development Plans, Budgets and other programmes of the Assemblies and decentralized departments reflect preferences of the local people and their representatives?
  • Were the Administrators of the Assemblies accountable to the people? If yes, how were they doing it, and if no, what reasons may account for it?
  • What were some of the major concerns of key actors about the nation’s administrative decentralization and local accountability programme?

            Significance of the Study

The result of the study has significance from different groups of stakeholders in local government and decentralization. While it may benefit policy makers and local government practitioners, its major area of contribution will be the expansion of theory and understanding in the field of decentralization and local government, especially in Ghana and Africa as a whole – countries that have recently emerged from military dictatorships. Theory building in the field of social science does not only take much longer time, but also, depends on the result of studies carried out across diverse social space. Though theories of decentralization and local government may exist, there always exists the need to confirm, refute or expand a particular theory. Furthermore, there is a need to incorporate the Ghanaian, African and other developing economies’ experience into such body of knowledge. The researcher hopes that a contribution in this direction would be made upon a successful completion of this study. Over all, such knowledge may be used for the improvement of the poor socio – economic condition of the Ghanaian – a condition that could be partly attributed to unsatisfactory local governance practices.

            Structure of the Thesis

The report emerging out of the study is organized into seven chapters. The first chapter contains the Introduction to the Study. The content here include the background to Ghana’s decentralization, State of the literature and Research gaps, Statement of the problem, general and specific objectives and research questions, relevance of the study,

the researcher’s philosophical and paradigmatic orientation and relevance of the study to societal and academic progress. Other issues covered include the theoretical framework for the study, reliability and validity of the study, ethical considerations and the researcher’s biographical disclosure.

In chapter two, the researcher focused on definition of key concepts in decentralization, a review of some theories of decentralization and the state of decentralization in Africa and Ghana. Specific topics reviewed include, among others, the concept of decentralization and local government, why nations embark upon decentralization and the arguments for and against decentralization. Others include the historical attempts on the part of Ghana in search of decentralization, the external and local factors that motivated Ghana’s decentralization and the Nation’s model and concept of decentralization. Chapter three is a layout of details of the methodology of the study and a brief introduction and basic information about the study areas. Among the sub topics in the chapter are the researcher’s approach to enquiry, selection of the study areas, data collection procedures and analysis as well as the analytical framework. The fourth chapter is devoted to a presentation of the evolution of Ghana’s decentralization, while chapter five contains the presentation of Ghana’s legal framework, the structure, policy objectives and functions of the current decentralized bodies. In chapter six, the researcher reports on the current realities of Ghana’s local government system and decentralization and local accountability in all three Assemblies constituting the case studies. Chapter seven, also the last one, is devoted to summary of the findings from all three case studies, Discussions, policy implications, conclusions, recommendations, future research areas and contribution to knowledge