Ministry of Local Govt. & Rural Dev. Nov. 1996
The earliest attempts at local administration during the colonial era were with the 355 native authorities, which centered around a chief or some unit of local royalty which was not well-defined. The native authorities were not democratic but were mere representatives (as they were hand-picked).
Their main interests were to help the British colonial government
- With limited involvement in local administration
- To administer law and order.
The Municipal Ordinance of 1859 established municipalities in the coastal towns of the Gold Coast. In 1943, a new Ordinance established elected town councils for Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Cape Coast. In 1953, the Municipal Councils Ordinance was passed. After independence, this was followed by the Local Government Act 54 of 1961. In all of these pieces of legislation, the distinction between central and local government institutions was maintained.
In terms of this distinction, there have always been two different machineries for the administration of Ghana: one based in the capital with branches at the local (district) level and another separate and district level, based in well-defined localities and referred to as local government. The central government bodies at the local level dealt with national matters. They also attracted the better qualified personnel in terms of management skills and professional expertise. These central government agencies had less clearly defined powers in terms of local responsibilities, but had a much better presence by reason of their de facto position as bodies of central government.
Decision-making took an unduly long time because these bodies had to refer decisions on most matters of any significance to a ministry in Accra, which – bogged down with matters of “national significance” – was unable to react quickly enough to problems referred from the local level, thus causing the tempo of activity to be slow. The local government bodies were vested with authority specifically for local matters, and had grown up alongside the central government agencies that operated at the local level. They were required to provide municipal services and amenities in their localities without regard to whether or not they had the resources to deliver. These bodies lacked personnel with the requisite skills and professional expertise.
Unable to raise funds to meet their obligations and attract able and competent officers, the local government bodies only succeeded in creating for themselves an unpleasant image, in most cases, of ineptitude and incompetence.