The Ghana Strengthening Accountability Mechanism (GSAM) initiative has made a significant contribution to encouraging accountable governance, which has sped up local development.
Dan Botwe, the Minister of Local Government, Decentralization, and Rural Development, who made this claim, noted that the eight years of GSAM implementation with support from USAID had been advantageous for the nation, particularly the lessons learned to strengthen democracy and good governance at the local level.
Mr Botwe, in a speech read on his behalf at public accountability conference in Accra last Wednesday, said the GSAM had strengthened the capacity of civil society to advocate, monitor and investigate efforts of primary actors, particularly metropolitan, municipal, district assemblies (MMDAs) to ensure sustainable, accountable and inclusive delivery of quality services to citizens.
The conference was part of the eighth-year activities of the USAID-supported Ghana Strengthening GSAM activity designed to deepen and sustain responsive and accountable governance at the local level.
The rationale for GSAM activity was to address inadequate citizens’ engagement in local governance processes, increase access to information on MMDAs development processes, deal with real or perceived corruption due to weak oversight and poor service delivery.
The interventions from GSAM, the minister said, had contributed to improving the responsiveness of MMDAs to citizens’ demands and efficiency in the management and implementation of development projects in communities, working in close collaboration with key stakeholders.
Commending USAID for the initiative, Mr Botwe said: “We are, therefore, interested in consolidating the gains made with regard to the management interventions that have generated positive results relating to accountability and transparency practices in the MMDAs.”
The Deputy Chief of Party for GSAM, Samuel Boateng, said key lessons learnt from the project included the fact that there was a need for mixed communication methods to reach citizens with needed information.
He noted that prior to the GSAM activity, MMDAs relied mainly on assembly and unit committee members, traditional authorities and some opinion leaders to provide information to citizens on capital projects.
However, many citizens remained poorly informed about capital projects because these leaders mostly did not relay such information to citizens.
Other lessons were that the MMDAs had less control of centrally-funded projects. He explained that MMDAs had little control over projects that were implemented by the central government and as a result exercise weak oversight of these projects.
He said the impact of GSAM had been positive, revealing that 51 per cent of 880 community priority needs identified with GSAM support were integrated and budgeted for in the 2022-2025 Medium-Term Development Plans (MTDPs) in 50 districts.
The Chairperson for Star Ghana Foundation, Dr Esther Ofei Aboagye, said interventions such as the GSAM provided civil society organisations (CSOs) opportunities to initiate action, collect data, build capacities, engage district-level authorities and back communities to exact accountability.
The mission director of USAID, Kimberly Rosen, said a USAID-commissioned impact evaluation of the GSAM activity revealed that citizen action with the support of local CSOs had improved consultation between citizens and their respective local governments on infrastructure development.