Some concerns have been raised about the poor performance of District Assemblies across the country. Some District facilities have been set by the Government of Ghana and other development partners due to these concerns raised. This is to aid in the performance of District Assemblies by virtue of financial assistance provided to them.
In order to track the performance of District Assemblies, it has to be viewed from a broader perspective where its roots originated from – the Local Government of Ghana. Studies showed that the Government of Ghana implemented a comprehensive decentralization process. This resulted in the creation of District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies; seen as parts of the higher authorities responsible for decision making and development at the lower level of government. (Diaw 1997) noted that Assemblies were responsible for the planning and coordination of all developmental activities within the district. What role do District Assemblies then play to enhance positive performance and developments in the Districts? According to the Government Act 1993 (Act 462), District Assemblies in Ghana shall;
- Be responsible for the overall development of the district.
- Formulate and execute plans, programmes and strategies for the effective mobilization of the resources necessary for overall development of the district.
- Promote and support productive activity and social development in the district.
- Initiate programmes for the development of basic infrastructure and provide municipal works and services in the district.
- Be responsible for the maintenance of security and public safety in the district… (Ahwoi 2010)
In tracking the performance of District Assemblies whose mandates are to effectively carry out their functions or responsibilities, the government set up the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) to provide financial resources to the District Assemblies. This has become their major source of revenue mobilization in order to enhance performance.
Concerns regarding decentralization have been raised despite these efforts. It boils down to the fact that Local Governments in Ghana have not entirely been able to deliver effective developmental projects to the Ghanaian citizenry. The Government has however made efforts to remove the obstacles that impede the effective performance of the District Assemblies across the country by formulating a new decentralization policy which is one major measure to help curb the challenges that District Assemblies face. Some of these policies seek to:
- Clarify the status, roles and relationship between levels of government and the different actors, and strengthen their participation and contribution to local governance.
- Improve the administrative and human resource capacity of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and other local government stakeholders to ensure quality service delivery.
- Facilitate economic growth, employment and income generation in order to promote household welfare and alleviate poverty.
- Improve funding and financial management of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
- Promote local democracy, participation and accountability through strong and more viable stakeholder involvement in local governance… (Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, 2010).
These policy measures however, had hardly been implemented so the government sought to introduce a financial mechanism to help induce the performance of District Assemblies in the country. The District Development Facility (DDF) was set up to provide financial incentives to the District Assemblies in order to motivate them to perform their functions. The objectives of the DDF are to:
- Mobilise additional financial resources for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.
- Provide incentive for performance for complying with Government of Ghana legal and regulatory framework.
- Establish a link between performance assessments and capacity building support.
- Ensure harmonized systems for investment funding and capacity support to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, 2012).
An important task to perform is enhancing the performance of District Assemblies. However, one needs to acknowledge the fact that measuring their performance rate is a daunting task; hence making their tracking quite difficult. It is however necessary to capture the views of local residents in every district across the country, using regulatory tools in order to clearly appreciate their perspective regarding the performance of District Assemblies. Transferring financial resources to District Assemblies do not necessarily serve as the solution to their performance challenges. This reason reiterates the assertions of Mogues and Benin (2012). They stated that the transfer of financial resources to local governments is often based on the assumption that these decentralized units have the capacity to effectively allocate these resources to competing socio-economic uses at the local level. These financial transfer of resources can also generate another set of performance challenge. Such external transfers are often poorly managed, which also prevent effective local revenue mobilization by the District Assemblies.
Some developmental tools being embraced include Decentralization and its local government which improve local level elections and participation in decision making. However, the performance of District Assemblies as agents of local development is something which needs more room for improvement since Government tend to create more District Assemblies across the country which leaves many rural communities lacking the basic necessities and facilities; schools, clinics, potable water and electricity among other things. The provision of financial support alone will not solve the problems of District Assemblies. Their efforts to improve upon their performance should go beyond the provision of these financial incentives.