The Parliament of Ghana has finally passed into law, the Local Governance Bill which harmonizes five existing legislation on local governance to ensure achievement of the national decentralization objectives. The new law is a one-stop legal document on all local governance matters.
The introduction of decentralization and local governance in Ghana in 1988 and its attendant reforms in the years that followed led to the enactment of pieces of legislations which were rolled out in piece meal and some of which have become obsolete with time. The multiplicity of legislations has also made it practically difficult if not impossible for practitioners to apply these laws on daily basis.
To address these bottlenecks, the Local Governance Bill synchronizes critical component of the provisions of Article 240 in the 1992 Republican Constitution namely fiscal decentralization (Acts 455, 462 and 658); political decentralization (Act 462); decentralized planning (Act 480) and administrative decentralization (Act 656). It allows for easy access to legislations on decentralization and local governance and removes the inconsistencies and contradiction which hitherto plagued the previous legislations.
Highlights of the Bill includes; an emphasis on popular participation; establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Co-ordinating Committee (IMCC) on Decentralization for the implementation and driving of decentralization programme; inclusion of the Ghana Health Service, Ghana Education Service and the Departments of Fisheries, Forestry and Game and Wildlife in the list of decentralized departments; and amendment of Acts 462 and 656 to reflect current developments, ie establishment of the Local Government Service and the commencement of Decentralized Departments as Departments of the District Assemblies.
Major policy changes by the Bill includes; reduction in the number of Executive committee members of Assemblies from one third of the Assembly to include the DCE as chairperson and 5 chairpersons of statutory committees; Head of the Local Government Service made Secretary of the Local Government Service Council; appointment of staff of the LGS and Departments of MMDAs to be done by the Head of the LGS as an interim measure but ultimately DAs will have the power to ‘hire’ and ‘fire’ their staff; DAs to be the primary recipients of Internal Audit reports; RCCs provided defined responsibilities and corresponding sources of revenue; RCCs to review MMDA’s bye-laws to ensure consistency with national legislations; relaxation of bye-laws gazette before enforcement; and the restriction of the President’s power to dissolve a DA by an Executive Instrument among others.