Head of Decentralisation Secretariat, Alhassan Kanu, has told Concord Times that they were contemplating on engaging all 19 Local Councils on how they should work closely with the central government to effectively implement austerity measures imposed by the latter, adding that the release announcing the measure did not spell out the role of councils.
“It is good that we engage the councils so that their administration can take the austerity measures seriously. The issue came up in our last meeting with the Local Council Finance Department at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and we are extensively discussing it. Definitely, the councils are going to be affected in one way or the other because they give out contracts and if government is now asking to pay contractors in the local currency, it would affect service delivery,” he said. “However, it is important to note that government is doing this based on the current financial difficulties.”
He emphasised the need for government to engage Local Councils so that they would in turn sensitise their inhabitants on the new financial measures.
Kanu said the impact of decentralised structures (Local Councils) on the delivery of pro-poor development, particularly the delivery of basic services and other opportunities for poor people, was very key.
“Local Councils are largely supported by donor funds and they also utilise revenue generated within their areas, but it is also important to note that they also get money from government,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government is yet to announce a clear cut policy on the roles and responsibilities of all the 19 Local Councils as to the new austerity measures put in place to ensure prudent financial management amidst acute economic challenges.
Just few weeks ago, a release from State House informed the public that the Ebola epidemic and the collapse of commodity prices, including iron ore, have had a negative impact on the economy, resulting to serious challenges which currently hinder effective implementation of the approved 2016 budget.
They pointed out that due to a significant decline in revenue, it was difficult to fulfill governments commitment to poverty-related programmes and the implementation of post-Ebola recovery priorities.
At an emergency cabinet meeting on 3rd October, 2016 government approved what it refers to ‘expenditure rationalisation’ or austerity measures to address the economic challenges.
This, after Cabinet approved a 30 percent cut in recurrent expenditures across the board, put on hold all new domestically financed capital projects and suppliers’ contracts, no new procurement of government vehicles, and a 50 percent cut in fuel allocations to all ministries, department and agencies, among several other measures, until the first quarter of 2017, earliest.