The situation would be better, if citizens were invited to the planning and budgeting meetings that set the agenda and expenditure for their local government’s Annual Action Plans and the Medium-Term Development Plans.
Citizens would feel a sense of ownership and appreciate investments made on activities and projects resulting from the wish lists from their engagements and not, projects that are foisted upon them.
Section 35 (6) of 1992 Constitution posits Ghana’s democracy as hinging on the popular participation of citizens “… in decision-making at every level in national life and in government”. Article 240 (2) of the Constitution also mandates local government authorities to provide avenues for citizen participation (or engagement) as a means of fostering accountability. The detailed expression of these constitutional provisions is captured in the Local Government Act 2016 (Act 936).
Oftentimes, civil society groups, which is a structured section of the citizens in Ghana, face challenges of getting the full buy-in of public officials to effectively implement intended projects. The most common challenge has been securing public officials’ responsiveness, commitment as well as willingness to share information. In the past, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) faced an unbearable challenge of obtaining basic public information from the Techiman Municipal District Assembly, with the District Chief Executive for Techiman Assembly attributing denials to; them being under the secrecy of oath and therefore, are restrained from sharing information requested.Following this experience, the GACC educated the local authorities on the citizens right to basic public information legal and policy requirements and their obligations as local authorities as indicated in Ghana’s Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2019 (Act 989) section 1 (2) requires that all public institutions must make it easy for the public to obtain information.
Following the public officials training with support from the Hewlett/AFIC funded intervention, the GACC engaged local authorities in the two project districts on the need to collaborate to enhance transparency and accountability in public contracting. The local authorities, just like any other public servant at the national level do not realize the need to disclose information, whether reactive or proactive and this is a set-back to development which also affects civil society advocacy work.
The local authorities further agreed and signed a Memorandum of Understanding which was an indication of commitment and willingness to share public contracting information with the community monitors to ensure smooth implementation and contract scrutiny.
The local authorities now understand their role in ensuring effective implementation of the contracts and to the end achieving collective results. This intervention has re-oriented the mindset and enhanced responsiveness of the local authorities in the Asante-Akim Central Municipal Assembly and the Techiman Municipal Assembly on disclosure of information. The success in enriched mindset on disclosure has helped in increased access to contract data.
There is improved reception in providing information to the community monitors. So far, the Assembly officials have shared 15 copies of contract data with the community monitors. Further, the health and education public officials engaged have, willingly shared information on 10 incomplete projects in the Techiman district and volunteered on embarking on the field visits with the community monitors. Reactions of the local authorities upon receipt of the contract monitoring report were gratifying. Following this exercise, public officials have expressed an increased awareness and appreciation of citizens and other stakeholders’ engagement in public procurement and contract implementation. They indicate that they are open to sharing information and receiving feedback, for it helps them effectively deliver services to the citizens.
“I am hopeful that, the report and recommendations will help the assembly to improve its projects and programs, especially considering the needs of its constituents” – Ms. Angela Kusi, Municipal Engineer, Asante-Akim Central Municipal Assembly.
“I commend the LANet for championing accountability issues and ensuring popular participation in the Assembly’s programs and projects over the years”-Mr. Owusu Ansah (The Municipal Coordinating Director, Asante-Akim Central Municipal Assembly.
The office of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) has been collaborative and supportive in realizing this project results. In August 2021, the PPA published on their website information on a contractor they blacklisted. For the past three (3) or more years, information on blacklisted contractors have not been published. However, through this project advocacy for disclosure of data on blacklisting of contractors who fail to deliver on contract terms to deter other poor performing contractors, the PPA has been proactive by disclosing the contractor with fake supplier registration certificate.
Faustina Djabatey, Communications Officer
Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition