Local Governance in Ghana: Practitioners Call for Improved Capacity for Effective Citizens’ Engagement Through Media

Some leaders and officials of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies in Northern Ghana have underscored the importance of the media, especially local-based radio stations, in effectively engaging the citizens on local development and local governance processes.

They however expressed worry about the inadequate capacity among local assembly officials to maximise the potential of local-based radio stations as effective platforms for information disclosure and citizens’ engagement.

This came to light at a stakeholder evaluation meeting on “Promoting information disclosure and citizens’ participation in local governance processes” organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in Tamale.

The meeting brought together chief executive officers, public relations officers, information officers and district co-ordinating directors, radio stations and some community based organisations to reflect on ways local assemblies can improve engagement with citizens in the local governance processes.

It formed part of activities under the MFWA’s project “Promoting Participatory and Accountable local governance through professional media and community dialogues in Northern Ghana” implemented with funding support from the Canadian High Commission in Ghana.  The project built the capacity of three radio stations in three districts in the northern region of Ghana to create radio platforms that facilitated regular engagements between local assembly authorities and citizens.

About 40 programmes termed “Time with the Assembly” were produced on the selected radio stations. The “State of the District” radio broadcasts also saw District Chief Executives featuring on air to discuss how the district fared over a period, the gaps and way forward while responding to questions from citizens via phone-ins and Whatsapp. Community forums organised, augmented the radio programmes as local assembly officials interacted face-to-face with community members on development concerns.

Chief Executives and Officials of Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies, journalists and representatives of CBOs at the stakeholders forum.

Participants at the stakeholder evaluation meeting noted that the regular platforms created on local-based radio stations helped to educate the public on the work of the local assembly, the budget cycle, sources of funding and expenditure, medium term development plan among others.

“The local governance radio programmes help to gauge community concerns and consider the necessary options for addressing them; People now appreciate us better”  – PRO for Savelugu-Nanton Municipal Assembly, Mustapha Ahmed.

“The concept is very good. It helped to clear misconception about the Assembly; Our people now have a better understanding of Assembly’s budget cycle; issues of project roll over and financial management within the Assembly; DCE himself participated in the state of the district radio broadcast and that was good for the people” – District Coordinating Director of West Mamprusi, Andrews Mensah

The MFWA’s Programme Manager for Media, Democracy and Development, Abigail Larbi Odei said the objective of this intervention is that citizens have increased platforms to frequently hear from local assembly officials on what is happening in their localities, ask questions about local developments and get the assembly officials to respond and be more accountable to the people of their stewardship.

She added that “it is refreshing that we are beginning to see the usefulness of these governance dialogue platforms as evidenced in the feedback from radio stations, local assemblies and stakeholders at this evaluation meeting and hope that such platforms would be sustained.

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