A Public Financial Management and Local Government expert has hailed the Government’s 2021 Budget and Economic Policy Statement for making provisions for Decentralisation.

Dr Eric Oduro Osae, noted that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), had now being renamed the Ministry of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development (MLGD&RD), adding that the Government had allocated a budget of ¢1.6 billion in 2021 for Decentralisation activities.

He described the 2021 Budget on Local Governance and Decentralisation as a modest budget and that it took into consideration the Constitutional requirements for Decentralisation and Local Governance under Chapter 20 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

He said specifically, the strength of the budget as far as Decentralisation and Local Government was concern was that it had increased the budgetary allocation to the business of Decentralisation by about 41.9 per cent (from ¢1.1 billion in the 2020 budget to ¢1.6 in the 2021 budget).

“For the first time the budget has given recognition to the Decentralisation, because Decentralisation has been added to the name of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development,” Dr Osae stated in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra.

“And that is what the constitution requires. In fact, when you look at Chapter 20 of the 1992 Constitution, the heading has always been Decentralization and Local Governance but since we ushered the fourth Republic, no (past) government has mustered the courage to give the name Decentralization to the Ministry,” he said.

“So, for the budget to give the name Decentralization to the Ministry and continue to allocate a budget for that, means that they (government) are committed to Decentralization within the context of the Constitution.”

Dr Osae, who is also the Director of the Internal Audit Agency of Ghana, said regional re-organization and development budget had been routed through the MLGD&RD to support the implementation of projects and programmes in the new regions.

He said the new direction required that the MLGD&RD became the sector Ministry facilitating the effective implementation of Decentralization in Ghana; adding that cross sectorial nature of Decentralization necessitated the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Decentralisation (IMCC).

On the strengths of the 2021 Budget with regards to Local Governance and Decentralisation, Dr Osae mentioned that it “takes account of the New Decentralization Policy and Strategy (2020-2024).”

He said the Budget continued to recognize key Local Government and Decentralisation institutions such as Districts’ Assemblies Common Fund (DACF), the Births and Deaths Registry and the Department of Parks and Gardens.

He said it also recognized the ministerial realignment by transferring the activities of the Ministry of Regional Reorganization and Development to the MLGD&RD.

He said the budget recognized for the first time the financial activities of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) on the national Accounts among others.

Concerning outstanding Decentralisation issues, Dr Osae cited the absence of a budget line for Decentralisation in the main budget and disjointed or uncoordinated efforts at establishing the total quantum for development partner support to decentralization and local governance in Ghana

Others are the absence of a scientific basis to establish the cost of functions transferred to subnational Governments and expired Intergovernmental Fiscal Framework (IGFF) and Intergovernmental Transfer System (IGT) system to ensure adequate, timely and reliable transfer of funds to subnational Governments for development.

He also mentioned weak legal framework to support Subnational borrowing and Accounting by MMDAs, weak legal framework to support subnational control systems, and the delay in decentralising Education and Health in synch with the Constitutional Standard for Decentralization.

Dr Osae said the Budget had no provision for consensus building on the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) to complete political Decentralisation in Ghana.

Another is the non-clarification of the role of MMDAs in the implementation of Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) for the Local Governments and operators within the Local Economy in a Post Covid-19 period to resuscitate the Local Economy.

He said there was no provision in the budget for the role of Traditional Authorities and Assembly members in local level development.

He urged Parliament, especially the Select Committee on Local Government and Decentralisation to engage the sector Minister on the way forward as far as practically operationalising Decentralisation in the country was concerned.