Public Expectations in Local Governance? Unit Committees under Ghana’s Decentralised System (2017)

Effective democratic governance requires the existence of locally elected representatives with functions that revolve around issues that matter to the constituents, to which the state responds through public services delivery. This study set out to examine whether or not citizen expectations from locally elected representatives are in consonance with the functions that are assigned to them in national legislative instruments, using the Unit Committees, the base structure of Ghana’s decentralised system as a case for close examination. The study was conducted through qualitative semi-structured interviews, covering four districts in the central region of Ghana. Findings show that there are several points of dissonance or asymmetry regarding what local citizens expect from their representatives, the functions assigned by the national statutes, and what the local representatives have actually being doing at the local level. Fundamentally, local citizens expect their elected representatives to be involved in addressing pertinent public services delivery deficits, but statutory provisions allocate functions that many Unit Committees are not even aware of, or cannot simply perform in their current state. These disparities, coupled with lack of training, funding and disregard for the role of local representatives account for their largely comatose existence under Ghana’s decentralised system. To remedy this situation, greater space is required in the crafting of legislation to allow local realities to take centre stage in the functions assigned to locally elected representatives in local governance, and to establish a sustainable funding system to support their role.

Type of Work: