The Okyenhene and President of the Eastern Regional House of Chiefs, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, has declared his support for the amendment of article 55(3) of the Constitution which will provide the choice for Ghanaians to contest for local government offices on partisan basis.
In a statement signed by Dan M. Ofori Atta, State Secretary of the Akyem Abuakwa State, it said Osagyefuo welcomes the amendment with the understanding that it limits the executive authority of the President and thus provide the needed space for greater citizen participation in governance.
The Okyenhene said political parties are established and recognized public platforms that shapes, plans and evolve strategies and ideas for social economic development, and cannot be excluded in the crucial area of local government.
Checks and balances
“Political party participation in local government politics is practiced all over the world and Ghana cannot remain an exception,” the statement said.
The Okyenhene stated that under the current system, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) are appointed by a partisan President who also by unchecked discretion chooses a third of the membership of the Assembly.
He indicated that due to the overwhelming powers in the hands of the president, people who are rejected when they contest for Parliamentary elections are through ‘back door tactics of central government imposed’ on the people as MMDCEs.
Citing examples of a three time rejected NDC candidate in the Abuakwa South Constituency, the late Simon Asirifi, who was later appointed the East Akyem Municipal Chief Executive and the ruling New Patriotic party’s placing of its defeated parliamentary candidates in the Volta Region as MDCES, he indicated that this situation is unacceptable and incompatible with the objectives of inclusive and transparent local government system; a key factor to the furtherance of the goal of national development and progress.
He stated that the amendment of Article 55(3) is not far reaching adding that there will be need for broader legal and administrative reforms to ensure the financial independence of local governments, particularly with regards to the administration of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF).
“The current situation where contracts and projects are concluded in Accra and funded through the DACF without the consent of the local authorities poses the gravest challenge to the decentralization programme,” he added.
The Okyenhene commended the Government for the bold initiative to amend Article 55(3) of the Constitution describing the move as a positive step in the uphill task of total decentralization.
“It is Osagyefuo’s stance that calls from certain quarters urging the good people of Ghana to vote against the amendment of the Constitution should be ignored. It is not founded on a well-considered understanding of the greater national interest” the statement concluded.
The Referendum seeks to amend Article 55 (3) to enable political parties to sponsor candidates for election to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and Lower Local Government Units.
Currently, the law, in Article 243 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, says District Chief Executives for the MMDAs are to be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the assembly present and voting at the meeting.