Regional and Local Government
Before the changes in regional and local administration under the PNDC, Ghana had a highly centralized government structure in which local people and communities were little involved in decision making. Local government services were poor and depended largely on funds and personnel provided by the national government in Accra. Since the 31st December 1981 Revolution, however, local government has increasingly benefited from the decentralization of government ministries and from the establishment of district assemblies in 1989.
Ghana is divided into ten administrative regions, each headed by a regional secretary. The ten regions and their regional capitals are: Greater Accra Region (Accra), Eastern Region (Koforidua), Central Region (Cape Coast), Western Region (SekondiTakoradi ), Volta Region (Ho), Ashanti Region (Kumasi), Brong-Ahafo Region (Sunyani), Northern Region (Tamale), Upper East Region (Bolgatanga), and Upper West Region (Wa). After taking power, the PNDC launched a decentralization plan in December 1982 designed to restructure government machinery to promote democracy and greater efficiency. The plan proposed a three-tier system of local government to replace the four-tier system established in 1978.
This early decentralization plan, however, was not implemented. Instead, interim management committees were organized to manage the affairs of the district councils. PNDC district secretaries were appointed chairmen of their respective district councils and were responsible for day-to-day administration. Membership of the interim management committees normally consisted of respected citizens of the district, such as chiefs, headmasters, retired administrators, and teachers. At the lowest levels, local government remained in the hands of village, town, or area development committees; PDCs; and chiefs and their traditional councils, who still wielded considerable influence in most rural areas.
On July 1, 1987, the PNDC launched a three-tier system of local government. The principal innovations of the new system included creating 110 administrative districts to replace the sixty-five districts that had existed before and changing the name District Council to District Assembly. The District Assembly was to be the highest political and administrative authority in each district, with deliberative, executive, and legislative powers; it was responsible for creation of the two lower-level tiers, town or area councils and unit committees, within its jurisdiction.
The membership of the District Assembly included a district secretary appointed by the PNDC. Two-thirds of the members were directly elected by universal adult suffrage on a non-partisan basis; the other third were appointed by the PNDC from the district in consultation with traditional authorities and various associations. Appointed members held office for a maximum of two consecutive terms, that is six years. Elections to the District Assembly were to be held every three years (the 1992 constitution provided for a four-year term and reduced the number of appointed members from one-third to no more than thirty percent of the total membership). The District Assembly was made responsible for the overall development of the district.
A 1990 law ensured that people at the grass-roots level had the opportunity to help make decisions that affected them regardless of their education or socio-economic backgrounds, so long as they were eighteen years or older and were customarily residents of the district. Finally, in each of the ten regions, a Regional Coordinating Council was established consisting of the regional secretary, the deputies of the regional secretaries acting as exofficio members, all district secretaries in the region, and all presiding members of the district assemblies in the region. The 1992 constitution added at least two chiefs to the membership of each council. The functions of the council included the formulation and the coordination of programs through consultation with district assemblies in the region. The council was responsible for harmonizing these programs with national development policies and priorities, and for monitoring, implementing, and evaluating programs and projects within the region.
A local government law passed in 1991 created thirteen submetropolitan district councils and fifty-eight town or area councils under three metropolitan assemblies; 108 zonal councils under four municipal assemblies; and thirty-four urban, 250 town, and 626 area councils under 103 district assemblies. In addition, 16,000 unit committees were established under metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies throughout the country. (District assemblies, of which there are 110, are designated metropolitan and municipal assemblies in metropolitan centers and major cities.) No Urban Council, Zonal Council, or Town Council or Unit Committee has the power to levy any taxes without the approval of the relevant assembly.
The functions of urban, zonal, and town councils include assuming the functions of the former town and village development committees and assisting any person authorized by the assembly to collect revenues due the assembly. In addition, the councils organize annual congresses of the people within their respective jurisdictions to discuss economic development and to raise contributions to fund such development. Membership in urban, zonal, or town councils and in unit committees consists of both elected and appointed people from within the respective jurisdiction.
Each of the ten regions is administered from the regional headquarters or capital by a regional secretary, who is the regional political and administrative head. The regional secretary is supported by metropolitan and municipal secretaries and their metropolitan and municipal assemblies as well as by district secretaries and the district assemblies they head. At the regional headquarters, the regional secretary is assisted by a Regional Consultative Council and a Regional Coordinating Council, both chaired by the regional secretary. The number of administrative districts within regions varies, the Ashanti Region having the most--eighteen, and the Greater Accra Region and the Upper West Region having the fewest--five. The establishment of a district assembly in each region ensured that, with the local people in control of their own affairs, no part of the country would be neglected.
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