The African Development Programme has achieved another milestone as a convener of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the southern zone in relation to building citizens knowledge in Local Governance and particularly PFM.
The Ghana Civil Society Network on Public Financial Management (GCSN on PFM) is a group formed by Civil Society Organizations / Community-Based Organization to deepen Social Accountability and citizen’s knowledge on Public Financial Management. The Network held its second national conference to consolidate gains towards developing a strong platform that serves as a strong voice and partner in deepening fiscal decentralization and PFM in Ghana.
The conference which took place from 15th-16th December, 2016 at the Forest Hotel in Dodowa, was attended by diverse civil society groups from all the ten (10) administrative regions of the country. In all 44 civil society groups represented and are positioned to operate in 71 MMDAs. Notable among them were pressure groups, Non-Governmental Organizations, Community-Based Organization, the Media, Persons Living with Disability and Private Consultants.
Speaking at the meeting Mr Farouk Briamah, Interim Chairman of the network said the need for another civil society platform was to promote popular participation in local level decision making as stipulated in the New Local Governance Act 2016. He noted that citizen’s inclusion and direct active participation in local government agenda have been historically low in Ghana, particularly due to lack of information (effective use of essential information) and appreciation of tools and strategies to that effect.
He reiterated that CSOs should look closely were the weaknesses were and direct their actions as such. Some areas he noted to take advantage of were participation of citizens in bye laws on fee fixing, ICT platforms, town hall meetings, budget preparation and validation fora, procurements awards, and other announcements of public interest, visits of development project sites, rights of stakeholders for petition, public relations and complaints committee responsible for accessing information, chief executives stakeholders participation report, inclusion and integration of minorities and marginalized groups and budget templates.
Of key concern at the meeting was the election of interim executive members to represent the leadership of the network. The country was clustered into three zones, the southern zone comprised Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western regions. The middle belt comprised Eastern, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions. Finally the northern zone was made up of the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Region.
African Development Programmes’s Acting Executive Director Charles Othniel Abbey was elected for the Southern zone whilst Osman Kanton got elected for the Northen zone. In the Middle belt Ninsau K. Darku was elected. Three (3) experienced women development practitioners Mercy Quarshie, Joyce Cudjoe and Elizabeth Sarfo were elected to join the leadership and together with Farouk Briamah (Chairman) took the oath of office.
Evans Gyampoh from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) shared experiences on civil society networking and challenges associated with it. He advised the leadership to focus on capacity building of its members, internal financing as well as key management issues that are likely to pose as serious threats to the survival of the network.
Aborampah Mensah from the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD) also noted that inactive membership is something the leadership should look out for since it remains a key challenge that has killed most networks. He urged the leaders to develop operational measures to address and also put in some form of punitive measures in the future.
In her closing remarks Madam Fati Soale, Head of Social Accountability Unit of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development said it was a success that finally a Network of this nature exists. She was hopeful that the network serves the purpose of addressing the weaknesses in popular participation at the local level whiles achieving more success beyond the Social Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (SPEFA) project.