Decentralizing governance in Accra

Laura Puttkamer, Accra Community Manager
Accra, 1 September 2016

A new project in Ghana is designed to make democracy real by making it more effective and more transparent through decentralization at its core. One example of decentralization in Ghana is the Local Government Capacity Support Project (LGCSP), through which city assemblies in the country benefit from trainings, general support, and a grant for investment and service delivery. Both very small and large cities, like Accra, are included in this LGCS Project. It was started in 2011 by the Ghanaian Government and is funded by a World Bank performance-based grant. Forty-six local governments participate in the project with the intention to increase awareness of how to improve financial management and the project implementation among their officials. Accra is one of the municipalities taking part.

The first component is to strengthen the fiscal framework. Since municipal finance administration has long been insufficient in cities like Accra, the Ministry of Finance attempts to establish a more transparent and predictable finance framework for local officials. By creating some easily understandable templates, budget and audit information are now accessible to citizens. Apparently, since introducing these templates the interest in municipal finance has risen, although the opportunity to participate in budgeting processes has not fully developed.

Secondly, a decentralisation of urban service provision is underway. Cities can benefit from the Urban Development Grant for social infrastructural projects, such as educational or health infrastructure, markets, water, or sanitation. In addition, capacity buildings and trainings of municipal officers in the areas of development planning, management and provision are supported.

The third and fourth project components focus on stimulating public demand for more accountability in local governance. One example is the opportunity to know about the municipality’s budget, which is part of this initiative and is also supported by the media.

In 2015, a detailed citizens’ perception survey on local government public financial management and urban services was published on the LGCSP website. This showed that there still is a lot to be done towards satisfying citizens. Most didn’t know their key officials, were not satisfied with responses to enquiries, and didn’t think that municipal officials would listen to them. However, many citizens have already participated actively in planning meetings, especially in the Accra Metropolitan Association.

Overall, it seems that not only Accra, but 45 other municipalities (and their citizens!) in Ghana are benefitting from this attempt to decentralise local governance and make it more transparent. On its way towards collective management and democratic governance, Ghana’s LGSC Project can serve as an inspiration for other governments.

Photo Credit: LGCSP, MediaNetwork Training

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