The delay of the inauguration of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies until today, was as a result of the aborted March elections following a court case over the legitimacy of the elections as a whole. Meanwhile, the Nkoranza North and South Districts could not take part in the inauguration, as elections could not be held there, for legal reasons.
Lower Manya Krobo District Assembly, whose term of office has not yet expired, was obviously exempted. Though belated, the inauguration of the Assemblies, has given way to the election of Presiding Members and the establishment of Sub-Committees which would go a long way to make the Assemblies fully functional and, thus, be in a position to effectively run all the statutory businesses that go to give meaning to the essence of establishing the District Assembly Concept.
As usual, photo exhibitions were mounted in some of the Districts to showcase their achievements so far, and investment opportunities that are aimed at attracting private partnerships towards the acceleration of development efforts at the Metropolitan, Municipal and District levels.
That brings to mind the question of whether the Assemblies have lived up to their expectations since the first inaugural ceremonies, as far back as 1988, that is, 27 years ago. With devolution of power and authority from the centre to the doorsteps of the people, it could be frankly stated that, much more could have been done over the years but for the myriad of challenges that confront the Assemblies.
Delays in the release of the District Assembly Common Fund, the controversy of whether the Chief Executives still be appointed by the President or elected by the people, needless politicization, especially during Assembly elections and the, refusal of experienced public servants to relocate from urban to rural communities. Other challenges the relevance of government appointees, and the non-commitment of various regimes to be politically bold enough to fully ensure the complete decentralization of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies for the Assemblies to be effectively functional in promoting their development agenda - with little or no interference from the nation's capital, Accra.
In fact, it is the belief of a school of thought that, not until the power and authority of Ministries are reduced to mere Secretariats as envisaged with the inception of the District Assembly concept; and also not until much importance is attached to the functions of Assembly Members by reducing substantially the emphasis and grandeur surrounding the National Parliamentary system, the Assemblies will continue to be institutions left in the pages of books. Furthermore, one of the greatest challenges of the District Assembly concept has often been the calibre and quality of the Chief Executives appointed to steer the affairs of the Assemblies.
There is no doubt that a lot of such men and women have performed creditably, to the admiration of the people and government they served; but regrettably, a lot more have used the Assemblies to pursue their personal agenda, especially by eyeing the Parliamentary seats within their jurisdiction. Yet on record of public perception, some of them have created a wedge between their offices and traditional authorities who should have been natural partners of growth and development of their communities.
Despite all these challenges, the success so far chalked up with our unique concept of governance at the local levels has become a centre of attraction to other African countries. That is a good signal that, if we put all our arms to the wheel and become fully committed to the tenets of the District Assembly concept, we will be able to pull the chestnut out of the blazing fire.
Luckily for us as a nation, the District Assembly concept is non-partisan. The good people of this country must therefore stand up and resist any attempts to extend the woes of the partisan political practice at the national level to the districts, in order to preserve in our communities, the little dignity that we have with the commonality of purpose to development.
To stand still in death; and to look back is defeatist. We have no option but to look forward and assure ourselves that the District Assembly system is the most viable way of not merely sending power and authority to the grassroots, but surely guaranteeing the participation of the masses in their own governance and development.
BY: OSEI PIESIE-ANTO, A POLITICAL ANALYST.