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TRADITIONAL COUNCILS AND DISTRICT ASSEMBLIES AS PARTNERS IN DEVELOPMENT –
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPRENCY
The institution of chieftaincy was the main political authority that was responsible for social organization and the development of the communities in Africa during the pre-colonial time. During the period of colonization, these institutions were assimilated into the colonial governance structure and used to meet the objectives of the colonial government. After independence the central government authority led by the elected representatives at the different levels of authority within the new state continued to live side-by-side the indigenous political authority (the TAs) headed by the chiefs in the localities. The 1992 Fourth Republic Constitution officially recognized the institution as part of the governance structure of the modern state but however relegated its role to addressing customary issues and maintaining peace at the local level. Today, there is empirical evidence that, at least 96% of ordinary Ghanaians (both rural and urban) still believe and depend on the Traditional Authority (TA) system for organizing their lives. Indeed, the traditional authority remains the de facto governance system as the new Ghanaian state and its institutions have still not penetrated into the bulk of the population. This largely demonstrates that the Traditional Authority (TA) system is an important component of the overall governance system particularly in rural Ghana. The Traditional Authority system runs as a parallel system starting from the Traditional Councils at the lowest levels to Regional Houses and a National House of Chiefs at the National level.
There is however empirical evidence that, today, many government officials and ordinary citizens have some doubts about the institution in relation to their accountability and transparency to their people. For example, many people in the traditional areas as well as government officials think that some of our Chiefs are not transparent in their dealings with their people as well as public officials. There are many chiefs who do not inform their people about the amount of royalties they receive for the development of their traditional areas and do not inform them about how such monies are spent. There are others who think the houses of Chiefs do not address issues of concern to them and have not put in place any mechanisms for informing their people about the issues they discus in the houses. Government officials in particular recognize the importance of Nananom as important partners for development at the district and community levels, they are however not sure to what level they can hold Chiefs accountable if they allocated public funds to them to support their development activities. They also have the fear that if the development role of Nananom is given official recognition and given public financial support, nananom might be so strong that loyalty to the DCE as the representative of the President at the District level will be divided.
These perceptions not with standing, the overwhelming view is that chiefs still enjoy a high level of legitimacy and relevance in the Ghanaian populace. This assertion is supported by the findings of the African Peer Review in Ghana which concluded that there is a strong consensus on the relevance of the chieftaincy institution and specifically recognizes the critical role of traditional chieftaincy institutions in conflict prevention, management and resolution particularly at lower (regional, municipal, metropolitan and district) levels of government. The report indicated that the TA system is particularly important in its potential to contribute significantly to strengthening Ghana’s decentralization system. Likewise, the Growth and Poverty Reduction strategy (GPRS II: 2006-2009) paper specifically acknowledges the role of chiefs as catalysts in development within and beyond their immediate communities. Above all, the creation of the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture by the Kufuor government to facilitate the development of the institution in order for it to take its rightful place in the governance of the nation largely demonstrates the relevance of the institution.
On the basis of these official positions and the experience from the long experience of KAS and CIKOD with TAs in Ghana, the two institutions intend to refocus their work with TAs at the lower levels – particularly the Traditional Councils where they are closest to the people – to facilitate integration or effective collaboration between them and the lower tiers of the District Assemblies.. This requires that the negative perceptions outlined above be addressed so as to build the trust between the two institutions as well as with the citizens. In this regard, KAS and CIKOD will organize a 2-day workshop in the Brong Ahafo Region that will provide the opportunity for all stakeholders to discus the issues raised above in a dispassionate way so as to come up with a concrete way forward for integrating the work of the two institutions especially at the lower levels.
2. GOAL OF THE WORKSHOP
The goal is to contribute to strengthening the trust and confidence between Traditional Councils and government officials, at the District Assembly level as well as between them and their people to enhance effective local level governance where the traditional and formal decentralized government structures are working in synergy.
3. EXPECTED OUTPUTS
At the end of the workshop the following concrete outputs are expected:
- A workshop report outlining the views of different stakeholders on the issue of transparency and accountability with respect to building trust between Traditional Councils and District Assemblies for joint effort at developing their communities.
- Specific recommendations on practical steps to take to improve transparency and accountability (political, social and economic) by Traditional Councils and the District Assemblies to each other and to their people.
- A communiqué outlining the official position of the Traditional Councils and District Assemblies in relation to strengthening the developmental role of Traditional Councils in the districts.
4. TARGET GROUP
Participants to the workshop would be Sub divisional chiefs and Queen mothers selected from Traditional Councils in three districts in the Brong Ahafo Region – Tain, Techiman and Wenchi Districts. Others would be District Chief Executives or their representatives from the three Districts, Registrars of the selected Traditional Councils and some selected NGOs operating in the three districts.
- Key note address on the theme - to be delivered by the Regional Minister
- “Integrating modern systems for political, social and economic accountability into the Traditional Council to enhance transparency – challenges and opportunities” to be delivered by a Chief.
- “Financing the Development activities of Traditional Councils from public funds – policy and management implications” to be delivered by a District Chief Executive or his/her representative.
- “Facilitating transparency and accountability in natural resources governance at the level of Traditional Councils – the experiences of NGOs” to be presented by RUDEYA.
6. VENUE AND DATE
The workshop will take place at the Dery Hotel in Techiman from the 12th of February till the 14th of February 2009.