President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo Tuesday said he was resolute in his conviction that Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) ought to be elected on partisan lines to improve the quality of local governance.
He said there was the need to deepen participatory democracy at the local level to enhance the country’s decentralisation process.
“I belong to the group that has always advocated for the direct popular election of chief executives on a party-political basis. I do not believe that there’s anything to fear about the direct election of the district chief executive,” he said.
“On the contrary, it should lead to the deepening of democracy and better accountability.”
Speaking in Accra at the opening of a four-day orientation programme for the recently appointed MMDCEs, the President said though government’s efforts to forge the active participation of political parties in district elections in 2019 through a referendum was truncated due to the lack of consensus by stakeholders, “my government and I will continue to work for a broad national consensus of this issue.”
He said the repeal of the entrenched provision of the Constitution in Article 55 Clause 3, which debars participation of political parties from decentralised local governance, should not be driven by partisan and party considerations.
“And should such a consensus be entertained for the repeal of Article, 55 Clause 3 of the Constitution and an agreement reached for political parties to participate in and sponsor candidates for election to metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies at any point, during my tenure of office, as President of the Republic, the matter will be brought back again, to the front burner of our public discourse for the necessary acts,” he said.
The President, before his election in 2017, stated his commitment to a radical shift in the status quo of the local government structure and said political parties should openly sponsor candidates for District Assembly Elections to enhance participatory democracy at the local level.
He expressed the belief that the situation where MMDCEs felt accountable to the appointing authority, rather than the people at the local level, was a democratic glitch that should be addressed.
A move to have a referendum in 2019 to amend an entrenched provision in Article 55 of the 1992 Constitution preventing the participation of political entities in the local governance process was truncated when the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, and many other stakeholders declined to go along with the process.
President Akufo-Addo congratulated the MMDCEs on their appointment and subsequent approval by their respective assemblies and urged them to justify the confidence reposed in them.
He told them that the best efforts of the Government would “be considerably undermined” if they do not perform creditably.
“The people of Ghana will see, feel and know that what they voted for has truly arrived if and when their chief executive manages to deliver on the promises of the Government,” he said, adding that they should build their capacity to be able to bring decentralisation to fruition.
The President told the MMDCEs to preside over the local economy and transform it through job creation because all the programmes initiated by government, since 2017, were geared towards the growth and transformation of the local economy.
He admonished the chief executives to familiarise themselves with all the initiatives of government in their localities and that “the argument that you are not aware of or are not responsible for government initiatives in your localities will not wash with me.”
“I will sound a note of caution here, all government initiatives at the local level come within your purview whether you initiated them or not. You are to familiarise yourself with everything, whether of your making or not.”
“The chief executive, who's indifferent or unaware of government activities in his or her area is not a suitable chief executive.”
President Akufo-Addo urged the MMDCEs to take advantage of the flagship programmes like the One District, One factory, One-Village-One Dam, and the Planting for Food and Jobs to develop their localities.
Whilst encouraging them to work to increase internally generated funds, he gave the assurance that government would ensure that the common fund allocations were regular and on time.
However, the MMDCEs, he said, would not make progress if all development programmes were solely dependent on the relatively modest sums from the common fund allocation.
“But at the same time, please apply your common fund judiciously towards the execution of planned and approved projects. It is not for recurrent expenditure and should not be misused or abused,” he said.
The President urged them to quickly restructure the financial operational system and targets of their assemblies to take advantage of the new initiatives by government to promote accelerated economic growth.
“You must also ensure that the assemblies’ function effectively and efficiently, especially in the substructures, avoid getting involved in unnecessary conflicts that will dent the image of the assembly and by extension conference. Rather work with your staff, deepen transparency and promote popular participation, and accountability at the local level.”
“These are the hallmarks for successful leadership, and the attainment of results….”
The President warned that he would not hesitate to disappoint any DCE who did not live up to expectation and urged them to declare their assets as required by law.
The programme is on the theme: “Effective Leadership for Local Economic Transformation and Improved Service Delivery in Ghana: The Role of MMDCEs.”