Thursday, July 9, 2015

Stop Flouting Standing Orders-GDCA To MMDAs

It has emerged that, many metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in Ghana are not fully complying with requirements in the model standing orders (MSOs) enshrined in the Local Government Act of 1993, Act 462. 

Responding to a questionnaire during a survey conducted in 2014 by the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA), it came to light that majority of respondents had low awareness on the frequency and types of Assembly meetings as required by the MSOs. 

“A small percentage of the respondents (7%) were aware of “requested meetings” whilst “ordinary meetings” was the most widely known among the respondents (30%)”, lead researcher Paul Osei-Kufour, said at the launch of the report in Tamale recently.

According to Mr. Osei-Kufour who is also Programs Manager, CDD-Ghana Tamale Office, the survey revealed that, half of respondents (83%) interviewed indicated that MMDAs did not adhere to the mandatory period of notice required for summoning Assembly members to ordinary and requested meetings of the Assembly.  

The survey, he said, also found out that notice of MMDA meetings were not published in newspapers and local radio stations as required by the MSOs. “None of the MMDAs interviewed was found to have published notice of its meetings in the newspapers”, he stated.

Dubbed: “Decentralisation in Ghana; Survey on The Model Standing Orders Of District, Municipal And Metropolitan Assemblies”, the survey was conducted in 25 districts nationwide by GDCA with funding support from DANIDA and STAR-Ghana.

Executive Director of GDCA Alhaji Osman Abdel-Rahman, said the survey sought to examine the extent of MMDAs compliance with the requirements in the MSOs regulating the conduct of District Assembly meetings in Ghana. Adding, it was also to assess the degree of stakeholders’ knowledge and awareness on the MSOs; as well as to provide recommendations to enhance citizens’ oversight and monitoring of the conduct of District Assembly meetings. 

The team of researchers, he said, administered a set of three questions including: (a) what is the level of awareness and knowledge on the MSOs of MMDAs?; (b) what is the degree of MMDAs compliance with key provisions in the MSOs regulating the conduct of District Assembly meetings in Ghana?; and (c) what recommendations can be made to enhance citizens participation in the District Assembly process in Ghana? 

MSOs provides for various types and meetings to be conducted by MMDAs including notification of meeting, service of notice, quorum for a meeting, election functions and removal of a presiding member and district chief executives, motions, questions, raising of point of order, adjournment, rules of debate, minutes and translations of standing orders, among others.

There are basically five types of meetings that are supposed to be held in every Assembly. The five basic meetings are: inaugural meetings, ordinary meetings, requested meetings, special meetings and emergency meetings. 

Furthermore, it emerged that, in almost all of the MMDAs, minutes of meetings of MMDAs reached Assembly members when the next summons were being submitted. “Out of the respondents who confirmed receiving minutes after attending Assembly meetings, most of them (49) indicated that they received the minutes two (2) months/beyond 8 weeks after Assembly meetings”, Mr. Osei-Kufour noted.

He further pointed out that, a large majority of respondents (71%) stated that their MMDAs had not fixed the fee for the public to pay to obtain copies of minutes of meetings of the Assembly contrary to the provisions in the MSOs.  

While recommending that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) strictly enforce the fixing of fees for the public to pay to obtain copies of minutes of Assembly meetings, the report also said, “at best, this provision could be expunged in view of the fact that the parliamentary Hansard is free and not for sale”.

The report also recommended that “MLGRD should consider placing time limits on preparation and circulation of minutes of Assembly meetings to the Assembly members” in view of the significance of the minutes of MMDAs at the local level. 

Civil Society Organisations, the media and the MLGRD have also been asked to deepen public education and sensitisation on the MSOs as it places obligations on MMDAs whilst enhancing social accountability.

The report further urged the MLGRD to make announcement of MMDAs meetings in widely circulated newspapers and local radio stations mandatory as against the persuasive clause in the MSOs so that the public is well informed and is able to track District Assembly meetings at the local level.

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