Inclusive development has become a popular development mantra across the globe, at least from the perspective of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Emphasis has therefore been placed on the need for Governments across the world to initiate development interventions that seek to incorporate the real needs of their citizens in a sustainable manner. In line with this, the ruling party for the 2017-2021 term of Ghana unraveled its commitment to pursue a development agenda that seeks to create the right partnerships and development synergy with other countries, especially the developed economies instead of the ‘so-called’ popular traditional dependency relationships that exist between developing and developed countries—where the developed countries continuously give aid to the developing ones, which in the long run, undermines all-inclusive growth and development. The new pathway popularly spearheaded as “Ghana Beyond Aid” is expected to support development initiatives that empower local actors [individuals, institutions] to make effective and efficient use and allocation of resources in a manner that meet the needs of Ghanaians without any form
of hegemonic influence from other countries.
The central proposition is to bring the real needs of the people to the fore so that state bodies can respond to them in a comprehensive manner to ensure that “no one is left behind” in the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this development regime, decentralisation undeniably becomes the requisite path, as the strengthening of local government institutions will ensure that development services really reach every citizen in the country.
To this effect, the first point of call is to assess the financial proficiency of local government institutions, and to establish how financial resources can best be dispensed in a manner that meets the divergent needs of local members. Empirical studies have confirmed the over-reliance of local government institutions on external packages for development, which in itself defeats the very aim of the new development pathway Ghana is pursuing now.
The focus should therefore be on the need for local government institutions in Ghana to be self-sustaining—that is, generate the commensurate financial resources and utilise them effectively and efficiently for local development. It is ascertained in the empirical studies on local government systems in Ghana that the over-reliance of local government institutions tends to discourage them from generating their own-resources (IGF) for development that is in the best interest of the constituents.
Currently, there are vast studies on revenue management at the local government level of Ghana that can inform policy actions; however, the expenditure side has received very limited empirical studies to complement the efforts on local revenue management to inform concrete policy actions. This project then seeks, to assess the expenditure regime of local government institutions in Ghana, especially in relation to own revenue generation in order to ensure that such institutions deliver services that are in the best interest of their constituents.
The project is aimed at three main objectives to enhance accountability and transparency in the expenditure of local government authorities; to increase citizens’ participation in project and programme selection, design and implementation, and to improve citizens’ demand for accountability on the use of local revenues for development. In order to achieve the objectives, the project used a framework that entailed ;
[i] the identification of key actors who are involved and/have extensive knowledge and understanding on local government expenditure in Ghana (stakeholder mapping),
[ii] strategic selection of sample districts (15 MMDAs) based on the distance of MMDAs from regional capitals, the regional development belt, the FOAT score of the MMDAs, the status of the MMDAs (metropolitans, municipalities, districts) and records of expenditure mismanagement as reported by the Auditor General;
[iii] design of data collection instruments; and [iv] data collection involving data from local government officials and citizens including the poor, women, the aged and the disabled. The 15 MMDAs were Bawku Municipality, Bodi District, Central Gonja District, Kintampo North District, Krachi West District, Kumasi Metropolitan, Kumbungu District, Nkwanta South District, Offinso North District, Prestea Huni Valley Municipality, Sekondi Takoradi Metropolitan, Sawla-Tuna-Kalba Ditrict, Sene East District, Tamale Metropolitan and Techiman North District. The focal period for analysis was the 2014-2017 planning period since it is the most recent period of plans completed by the MMDAs. The analysis however has implications and insight into the current planning period 2018-2021 to inform current local revenue and expenditure management.
The findings from all the MMDAs, though divergent to certain extent revealing peculiarity of revenue and expenditure anomalies of each selected MMDA, they generally indicated a similar situation of limitations in accountability and transparency in the management of local expenditure despite the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) in place.
Local participation in expenditure planning and development projects was generally low, caused by the failure of local authorities to engage their constituents, but also, the deficiencies in the current sub-district structures (the Assembly and Unit Committee members) as well as the adamant attitude of greater number of citizens including key local members such as traditional authorities, opinion leaders and religious leaders to get involved.
This has made the demand-side accountability which serves as the basis for enhancing accountability, very weak. As a result, Internally Generated Funds (IGFs) are generally utilised in a manner that has no direct and positive relationship with service delivery. Other issues worth noting were the mismatch between the District Medium Term Development Plans (DMTPs) and Annual Progress Reports (APRs) of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs); and the District Medium Term Development Plans (DMTPs), Annual Progress Reports (APRs), Composite budgets of MMDAs and Audit Reports having different figures for revenues and expenditure for the same period. Based on the findings gathered, the study proposed a conceptualised theory of change for local expenditure management by MMDAs in Ghana that ensures effective participation, comprehensive understanding of local members in budgeting and as well, ensures efficiency in the use of revenues for all-inclusive growth and development. The theory of change was used as the model to drive advocacy for change for the management of revenues by MMDAs in Ghana.