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Title: Decentralised local governance and community development : empirical perspectives from Northern Ghana
Author: Sanyare, Francis Nangbeviel
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2013
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The efficacy of decentralised local governance to transform rural communities into vibrant modern communities has often been highlighted. The Constitution of Ghana lends a strong hand to decentralised local governance as key to achieving rural development and poverty reduction. Achieving the above is however premised on the basis that local authorities would function effectively; promote effective community participation; and are functionally autonomous. However, some conceptual and practical challenges appear to limit the achievement of the stated benefits of local governance in Ghana. This thesis seeks to examine the nature of local governance and how its function translates into rural community development. It responds to pertinent questions central to Ghana’s decentralisation. It questions the local community development initiatives implemented by local government institutions, by exploring perspectives on the usefulness of these initiatives to local communities. Further it explores how the participation of local communities is engaged in executing these initiatives; and thirdly, it investigates institutional capacities to effectively carry out the decentralised community development initiatives. The thesis sought answers by conducting in-depth and semi-structured interviews with 134 participants drawn from 32 local communities within three District Assemblies, and a variety of stakeholders including key local government actors, individuals, and groups from three Districts in Northern Ghana. The thesis argues that political, administrative and systemic deficits challenge effective local government function in Ghana. For instance, recent evidence points to the fact that regimes since December 2000 dwell on political gerrymandering to bolster their political fortunes, which further weaken existing local governments rather than facilitate their effective and efficient function. Further that, local governments are observed to work within a chaotic community development environment where initial development strategies where overly influenced by exogenous forces, which made them unrealistic to rural community development. Again, the findings suggests a history of decentralised local governance full of a continual tinkering and halfhearted implementation of the decentralisation process since colonial times. This is mostly to achieve well orchestrated political goals. This historical legacy stifles local governments’ capacities over time and also leaves mostly ineffective structures replete with opportunities for political favour and rent seeking behaviours. Evidently however, this has tendered to percolate present day systems and processes where local political elites seek to, and prosecute the political agenda of the national government instead of dealing with local needs. On the development strategies implemented by local governments, a penchant tendency to transplant national development plans as local development strategies on central governments’ insistence was discovered. Though a contradiction to the laid down local government development planning and implementation process, local governments follow through with this practice. Further, a historical legacy of powerful external multi-lateral stakeholders’ grips or influence of the local development agenda appears a paramount reason for the above, and this in real terms leads to a de-emphasises of home grown local development strategies. The implication is that unrealistic rural community development strategies perpetuate. This further leads to noted planning incongruence at the local level. Aside this, there is also an overbearing local political and administrative interferences, and manipulations which leads further to a ‘filtering’ of development strategies to meet national politically motivated strategies or interests. This notwithstanding, local communities have strong faith in local governments as viable community development agents. The findings further suggest local governments’ acknowledgement of the critical roles of active community participation in the local community development agenda. Yet again they struggle to apply the national development planning Act 1994, (Act 480), which holds the greatest promise to directly translate to effective participation. In the least, local governments preferred to consult and inform local community members. In the same vain, central governments some times implement community development initiatives within local government jurisdictions without consulting them. A chief factor which appears to work against direct local level influence of the development planning process is the existence of penurious institutions at the local level. Consequently an exercise of tokenism is thus promoted to satisfy requirements for effective local community participation. In most cases ultimate development decisions are taken by the management and political leadership and not in direct consultation with local communities. Notwithstanding the above, it appears that local governments’ institutional capacities to effectively deliver on their mandate appear potentiated when viewed from the extent of supporting legal and institutional frameworks which gives credence to local governance. Local governments possess a powerful list of constitutionally sanctioned guiding frameworks which should necessarily inure to their smooth operation. Ironically there are noted deliberate systemic and political processes which tend to constraint this smooth function. In the least central government deliberately keeps a functionally dependent relationship with local governments. One direct result of the subjection of local government within this perpetual highly dependent functional relationship is a continual blurring of roles. Local governments appear to be perpetually subjugated to functional obscurity by central governments through incomplete decentralisation, strained internal relationships, and unhealthy ‘politicking’ between District Assembly members and administrative staff to say the least. Although most decentralised departments appear to have competent technical staff, their function is limited because of numerical insufficiency as well as limited material and logistical support.
Supervisor: Rees, Chris; Hossain, Farhad Sponsor: Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Decentralisation ; Local governance ; Community development ; Participation ; Northern Ghana