Assessment report

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Government Accountability Improves Trust” (GAIT)
Presented to the U.S. Agency for International Development

Democracy and Governance Program

Accra, Ghana

Kwesi Appiah

Robert J. Groelsema

Avril Kudzi

Ted Lawrence

Elsie Menorkpor

Louis A. Picard (Team Leader)

December 8, 2003
Public Administration Service

438 4th Street NE

Washington, DC USA


Phone: 202-546-5880

Fax: 202-546-7888

The team wishes to acknowledge the support of officials in the Government of Ghana in Accra and in the nine districts visited. The cooperation of civil society organizations and civic unions was essential to the completion of our work. The team also thanks the U.S. Agency for International Development, other development partners and development cooperants. The views reflected in this document are those of the assessment team alone and not the U.S. Government.

Table of Contents
1. Executive Summary 1
2. An Overview of Findings 3
2.1. GAIT Achievements 3

2.2. Issues 4

2.3. Prospective Recommendations 5

3. Background to Current Activities 12

3.1. An Overview of Objectives 12

3.2. Background 12

3.3. Decentralization 14

3.4. Program Background 17

3.5. The Current Program 19
4. The Assessment Report 22
4.1. Timeframe and Methodology 22

4.2. Deliverables 25

5. A Retrospective Examination of CLUSA/GAIT Activities 26
5.1. The GAIT Methodology 26

5.2. GAIT Achievements 31

5.3. Issues and Concerns 33

5.4. Decentralized Governance 36

5.5. Civil Society 40

5.6. CLUSA/GAIT 41

6. Prospective Recommendations 45
6.1. Overview 45

6.2. Strategic Objectives 48


Acronyms i

Persons Consulted iii

References x

Scope of Work xiii

Inception Report xix

Interview Instruments xxxi

1. Executive Summary1

1.1. Between October 20 and December 1, 2003 a six person team carried out an assessment of the current USAID Democracy and Governance efforts in Ghana. The assessment team sought, overall, to determine the nature of the impact and the effectiveness of the GAIT Program2 as implemented by the Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA). There were three components of the activity. The USAID Mission in Ghana intended to utilize information generated by this assessment to equip it to (1) evaluate the GAIT program’s (2001-2003) impact; (2) establish baselines and targets for the next three years of its Democracy and Governance strategic objectives (SOs) and (3) sharpen its strategic focus for its new country strategic plan (CSP) 2004-2010.

1.2. The overall goal of GAIT has been to promote a partnership between district assemblies and civil society in Ghana. The cornerstone of CLUSA’s activity has been the selection of facilitators for each target district and support for establishment of civic unions which link together primary civil society organizations (CSOs) at the district level. CLUSA has sought to assist district assembly officials and members and to assure them that civic unions would be non-confrontational and supportive and would focus on CSO goals for the deepening of respect for citizen rights and responsibilities.
1.3. The assessment team has found that the level of discourse on associational life is higher in the GAIT districts than in the non-GAIT control districts the assessment team visited and an awareness of civic rights and responsibilities is being created. The role of the facilitators in sensitizing and publicizing the process has been critical. Overall, the GAIT program has made a very good start in the districts where they are working. The new aspiring civic unions are beginning to have an impact on community life and a level of trust has started to develop between civil society and district government.

1.4. It is the view of this assessment team that the goals defined by USAID Ghana in its 2004-2010 Country Strategy report and in its current implementation documents are appropriate, realistic and, based upon the GAIT experience, can be implemented. Governance and advocacy strategies need to be sharpened through a needs assessment process which is built into the activity. Measurement of impacts should be built into the activity itself on a realistic cost basis. Between 2004 and 2010, USAID intends to provide a broad spectrum of support to civil society and local government in selected districts throughout Ghana. The purpose is to increase the capacity to sustain and improve deliberative democratic processes. Activities in the post-GAIT period will include a series of awareness building activities, combined with capacity building support for civil societies in order that they can network with and lobby district government. Training and the provision of technical assistance for district government is needed in areas of revenue generation, budgeting, strategic planning and cross-sector support, particularly in the education sector.

1.5. The primary focus of the next phase of Democracy and Governance should continue to be on support for civil society. To what extent should the next generation USAID also support local government structures and local government officials, including capacity building for district government officials? In part the answer to this depends upon government and donor priorities and the coordination of these efforts. The view in this report is that, as in GAIT, focus should be on those structures and processes where government and civil society interaction, cooperation and policy dialogue are likely to occur.
2. An Overview of Findings

2.1. GAIT Achievements
2.1.1. Overall, the GAIT program has made a very good start in the districts where it is working. However, the gains realized are fragile, and if no effort is made to maintain links to existing GAIT districts in the coming strategy period, these gains could be lost with the civic unions (CUs) dissolving in most districts. A more realistic period of engagement needs to be thought through that allows for phased withdrawal as districts meet certain benchmarks.
2.1.2. Specific achievements under GAIT include:

  1. There is an increased awareness of government policy and government processes after training has occurred. A major difference over the last three years is that in a number of districts the district assembly (DA) is better able to engage with civil society.

  1. The civic union is a vehicle that can meaningfully engage the DA. One of the effects of GAIT has been a better understanding of the way to access district assemblies. Before the establishment of CUs, it was not clear to civil society leaders as to how to approach the DA.

  1. CLUSA carried out a baseline survey in July 2001 and every six months surveyed civil society organizations (CSOs) in order to determine the extent to which GAIT activities were able to meet their objectives. It is clear that they have carried out a significant number of activities, though the data is less than clear as to how that impact is measured.

  1. Support for town meetings and other efforts at information sharing and question and answer sessions involving DAs are empowering events. An increased level of trust has developed within district assemblies about the goals of civic unions. Trust has also increased between civil society and district government. This has led to increased revenue generation, improved service delivery, prompter payment of user fees, and more transparency and accountability overall.

  1. Facilitators have clearly had at least a short term impact on civil society capacity to engage district government. In at least one GAIT district, a counterpart to the facilitator, a district assembly GAIT officer has (informally at least) been identified by the District Chief Executive (DCE) as a point of contact thus in the short run institutionalizing civic union-district assembly relationships during the CLUSA/GAIT period.

  1. Organizational development and training activities have been made available to both civil society organizations and district assemblies at district, and to a limited extent, sub-district levels. Those interviewed have a positive view of these activities.

  1. Some district assembly officials have noted that a major benefit from GAIT is that communities have come to better understand the rules and regulations and limitations of government. The GAIT program also has allowed the DA to interact (to a limited extent) with sub-district (area and zonal) structures on the ground.

  1. CSO advocacy activities with the district assembly have started in a number of the original (first generation) GAIT districts. GAIT has been able to involve a number of organizations in dialogue with DA officials in order to raise concerns about local government and develop channels that can be used to ensure that civil society views are heard.

2.1.3. Overall, during the three years of GAIT activity, there has been increased sensitivity to and understanding of the need for advocacy and public, non-profit and private partnership cooperation on the part of both civil society and statutory bodies at the district level.

2.2. Issues
2.2.1. Under GAIT, CLUSA’s methodology is incremental. However, the end-goal of their activities is not entirely clear. What should the civic unions look like at the end of GAIT? What are the sustainability issues that they will face? This uncertainty makes it difficult to think about “graduation” or even a phased withdrawal. CLUSA needs to make clear its end of activity status, its “end game,” as it approaches the third year mark of its three and a half year GAIT cooperative agreement.

2.2.2. Reporting under GAIT is somewhat problematic. Reports, such as the CLUSA baseline data results, give many numbers and list many activities, but there is not enough available information in terms of background and analysis. An important activity management issue is the amount of information collected under GAIT and the nature of the reporting responsibilities. Reporting requirements need to be clear and balanced. In the preparation of reports there are two extremes: the mere listing of activities on the one hand and the production of large research style reports on the other. There are both minimal standards and a maximum overload beyond which material cannot be absorbed. Unanalyzed lists of activities are difficult for those not involved in the process to follow. CLUSA needs to work on the way that it analyses and reports on its activities. In future, measurement of impacts should be built into the activity itself on a realistic cost basis.

2.2.3. There are two sustainability issues that predominate with regard to the CLUSA methodology. First there is the issue of the facilitators who provide strong leadership and a high energy level. In the short run they are good value for money. In the long run it is doubtful that the facilitators’ role can be maintained after the end of USAID support.
2.2.4. More broadly the institutionalization of new civic union structures is a sustainability issue. CLUSA does provide modest matching funds for the development of income generation activities for civic unions. This strategy should be encouraged and continued to be utilized, though again this will have implications in terms of post-program sustainability. Donors might be encouraged to see CUs as potential grantees or as contractors for services at the district level.
2.3. Prospective Recommendations
This section is organized to fit within the framework of USAID’s strategic objectives (SOs). There is considerable overlap in the recommendations, however, and where there is a nexus between government and civil society these issues are noted earlier rather than later.
2.3.1. Enhanced responsiveness of key governance institutions to citizens at the national level (SO 5 – Intermediate Result 1).3 The goal here is to link up district and sub-district institutions with national governance processes. Under GAIT there have been examples of support for activities that connect district activists to their Members of Parliament (MPs) through visits to Parliament and other efforts to link MPs to their districts. Under this category, where feasible and of high priority, we recommend that these activities be continued and that efforts be intensified to:

  1. Increase engagement of MPs in district assemblies where they are statutory members and to engage both MPs and regional representatives at the district level.

  1. Link capacity building at national and district levels, including decentralized planning through regional and national development conferences, National Advocacy Committee on Good Governance (NACOG), etc. which would include MPs, DAs and national and district level NGO opinion makers.

  1. Provide support for annual meetings between MPs and district representatives perhaps in town meeting sessions.

  1. Sponsor candidate debates during the 2004 and 2006 elections.

  1. Seek greater involvement of DA members and staff in educational support matters.

  1. Work with MPs to increase community involvement on health and economic mobilization activities.

  1. Consideration might be given to sharing this report with other donors for use of a donor retreat on support for decentralized governance and civil society in Ghana.

2.3.2. Strengthened district assembly capacity for democratic governance (SO 5 – Intermediate Result 2). There are a number of specific prospective areas of support to consider in the next phase of decentralized governance and civil society activities. These are:

  1. Examine the extent to which the next generation of activity (post-GAIT) might provide some support for sub-unit statutory and non-statutory structures on a pilot basis, in terms of human and material capacity, as part of a self-help, bottom up strategy. If post-Gait activity is targeted at 25-30 districts then the answer is no. Activities should not be targeted at the sub-district level. If significantly fewer districts are targeted some sub-district activity may be advisable. Some districts are further along in terms of their thinking about sub-district structures.

  1. Given the inability of a community to sustain activity after “graduation,” a three year time frame may not be reasonable for support to civic unions. One suggestion is to develop a strategy of phased withdrawal of the GAIT districts over a longer period rather than an abrupt ending of support.

  1. Governance and advocacy strategies need to be sharpened. To what extent should next generation USAID support focus on supporting and utilizing local government structures, accessing local government officials, including capacity building for district government officials? The view in this report is that, as in GAIT, primary focus should be on those structures and processes where government and civil society interaction, cooperation and policy dialogue are likely to occur.

  1. Heavy emphasis should be, where feasible, to link USAID efforts into the broader context of decentralization and civil society efforts in Ghana. The future cooperant should be encouraged to engage closely with other development partners engaged in this sector.

  1. Where appropriate, there should be a focus on mediation and conflict resolution techniques vis-à-vis the interface between district assemblies and civil society.

  1. There should be support for civic and public involvement in budget development and review processes at the district level. Revenues are said to be reviewed by the Budget and finance sub-committees and the Executive Committee, not the substantive statutory committees or civil society organizations. Developing a specific plan for targeting transparency and the deliberative process in terms of planning and budgets will need to address this issue.

  1. Consideration should be given to the development of a specific sub-component of activity dedicated to the dissemination of information to and input from civil society. Focus should be on the proposed devolved composite budget process. Ultimately this budget is to include both district assembly activities and the deconcentrated budgets of government departments such as agriculture, health and education. The composite budget has not yet been implemented and even the timing of various budget cycles remains different. Efforts to support the development of the composite budget process should be consistent with Ministry of Finance existing guidelines. This could include specific program development work on best practice revenue generation systems, data collection, and the nature of user fees. T his should include the establishment and maintenance of DA census database, including financial service delivery and revenue collection.

  1. Accountability is based upon access to information. The media appears to be underutilized here. There is currently little opportunity for citizens or civil society groups to access information about the operations of district government. The post-GAIT cooperant should develop cost-effective ways to support information dissemination within district government including an exploration of the prospects for local government “one stop shops” for information dissemination to ensure public involvement on the nature of the budget, planning and tendering processes. This might include simple publications in civic union information centers in support of the new Freedom of Information Bill moving through parliament. A simplified information dissemination system could be part of a civic union office function.

  1. Training and organization activity will need continued support. Technical skills remain very low at the district level in both district governments and civil society. Capacity needs include technical skills in non-profit management, basic business principles, basic accounting, contracts and tendering principles. During the post-GAIT activity, the cooperant should target capacity building in areas of local government administration which bridge and support district assembly and civil society interactions. Training support should be considered (based on a realistic needs analysis) in the following areas:

    • Civic union strategic planning activities, community interactive planning, public-private collaboration and simple rapid appraisal techniques, organizational development for district assemblies in local government administration including local government finance, training for committees and staff of DAs, including the dissemination of information, task based research and analysis, the role of the committee in the budget making process, committee response to community, leadership training, and information dissemination;

    • Program and project monitoring and evaluation, project design and proposal writing;

    • Grants management, proposal development, tendering and contracting out;

    • Information dissemination including the dissemination of information, task based research and impact analysis; and

    • Technical support for those responsible for contracting out on the tendering process and on the functions of tender boards including support for transparency of the contracting out process.

  1. An important district assembly target should be the finance and administration and other statutory sub-committees. Workshops and technical support on the role of sub-committees in gathering information, investigation and information transfer should be considered as well as support to involve civil society in the budget review process;

  1. Explore the idea of U.S. Peace Corps volunteer assignments to civic unions to serve as technical assistance agents (e.g. for database management), as mobilization agents, providers of technical assistance support for organizational development activities and proposal writing.

  1. Provide support for project design and implementation with national service persons or others to work with and perhaps to replace facilitators (as a bridging mechanism) as part of a GAIT or post-GAIT phased withdrawal;

  1. Consideration should be given for support of an activity to better incorporate women into district government structures.

2.3.3. Improved sectoral advocacy performance (SO 5 – Intermediate Result 3). Focus here is likely to be on the health, economic growth and agricultural development sectors. Possible areas of support include:

  1. To the extent feasible, given the limited availability of computers, joint training activities on database management, budget, planning, interactive technology skills, and monitoring and evaluation for sector specialists should be made available to operational managers of intermediate and primary level civil society organizations as well as for district assembly officials and technical staff of DAs.

  1. Continued support for the use of public forums for members and officials of district assemblies and the civic unions and their partnership activities.

  1. Continued support for community wide civic engagement activities such as town hall and other public meetings. These are essential building blocks to democratic governance including the involvement of women in civic engagement activities.

  1. Consideration should be given to allowing non-tendering civil society representation on tendering boards. This would require statutory changes which might be introduced either by government or through a private member bill.

2.3.4. Increased community advocacy for and contribution to quality education (SO 8 – Intermediate Result 4). The focus here is likely to be on community groups. These groups, and in particular the Parent-Teacher Associations, and School Management Committees, have a handbook which is well organized and clearly presented. Training in the use of this handbook should be continued. Specific proposed support activities include:

  1. Support for strengthened civil society participation in District Education Oversight Committees (DEOCs) particularly involvement in the budget prioritization and approval process.

  1. Education uses a rapid appraisal method called SPAM or School Performance Appraisal Meetings to draw up School Performance Improvement Plans. This is an area which should receive continued support during the post-GAIT period.

  1. Exploration of the utility of District Education Planning Teams (DEPT) and DEOC oversight support and how it can be linked to social services and (where they exist) education sub-committees of the DA. This should be part of a needs analysis for the community involvement in the education sector which should be carried out as part of the next phase of activities in 2004.

  1. Targeted for support should be DEOC, DEPT and interactions among key education stakeholders including support for the district assembly oversight processes in the education sector where they exist.

  1. Involvement of civil society organizations in DEPT, DEOC and Department of Education (DOE) deliberations and monitoring and evaluation activities.

  1. Support for School Management Committees in terms of oversight and policy debate.

  1. Support for civic education engagement in the schools possibly involving the National Council for Civic Education or the National Advocacy Committee on Good Governance (NACOG).

3. Background to Current Activities

3.1. An Overview of Objectives

3.1.1. USAID/Ghana is preparing to launch a new country strategic plan (CSP) for the period 2004-2010. Among the key cross-cutting themes in this CSP are decentralization and the role of civil society, local government in Ghana’s social, economic, and political development and the potential for integrating USAID’s education sector community based efforts into its Democracy and Governance activities.
3.1.2. An important partner in this effort has been the Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA), which since February 1, 2001 has implemented the Government Accountability Improves Trust Program (GAIT). During the design of the CSP, the Mission expressed its interest in an assessment of GAIT.
3.1.3. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Ghana assembled a six person team (an assessment team) to assess its civil society/local government strengthening program--GAIT begun in February 2001.4 The team worked between October 20 and December 1, 2003, three weeks of which were in-country from October 26 to November 15.
3.1.4. In addition to a retrospective analysis of GAIT, the team was mandated to assess the continued validity of the strategies underlying USAID’s previously conducted and ongoing activities in the civil society and local governance area. The findings and recommendations of this assessment are designed to help the Mission plan its future assistance in this area.
3.2. Background

3.2.1. Throughout its history as a centralized state, in the colonial and post-colonial era, Ghana functioned as a centralized administrative state. Both during the colonial and in the post-colonial periods, education, health, infrastructure development and tax collection were primarily central government concerns. Local treasuries and administrative staff for traditional authorities and councils came late in the colonial period. When it created elected district councils in 1948, central government nominated up to one third of the councilors to ensure traditional and moderate representation. This was a pattern which continued into the independence period and down until the present day.

3.2.2. Ghana during the colonial period had three separate historical, institutionalized patterns of governance. These were:

  1. In the South, direct rule in the former colony area. Traditional leaders were used as government agents.

  1. In the Central area (Ashanti), parallel rule with a strong hierarchical monarchy. There had been only limited colonial interference here.

  1. In the North, indirect rule. Colonial administrators introduced administrative, judicial and financial structures early within traditional administrations.

3.2.3. The issue, as the Gold Coast approached independence, was the potential for federal or at least devolved regional and district structures demanded by the central Ashanti area, a demand rejected by Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana. The immediate local governance concern was the control of local fees due traditional leaders. As a result of the failure to create devolved local government, Ghana has been characterized by a highly centralized political system for the past 45 years.

3.2.4. Throughout the years that followed independence, there was no agreed upon definition of decentralization, and no common vision of a desirable end-state for decentralized government evolved. Historically, prior to 1985, most civil society organizations became disengaged from the state. The informal sector grew rapidly in the early 1980s, as the economic crisis deepened and drove Ghanaians to subsistence agriculture. Related self-provision activities stimulated a large scale “exit” from the formal economic sector and from governmental controls. Thousands of primary associations came to dominate associational life with trading networks coming to dominate in both rural and urban Ghana. Twenty-five years later, many, if not most CSOs are likely to remain disengaged from the state system for some time. Civil society organizations are important since many Ghanaians continue to place more faith in informal NGO networks than in official government channels.

3.2.5. Structural adjustment programs brought Ghana 5% growth during much of the 1980s and then slowed down after 1992. Free market economics was balanced by populist and anti-western rhetoric during the early part of this period. Ethnic tensions remained high through the 1990s, particularly in parts of the Northern section of the country.

3.2.6. By the early 1990s, the government austerity program was in trouble as the country approached elections. The economy was in decline and inflation was up. Foreign investment had declined. However, stock market gains had remained high. Capital gains and real production, on the other hand, were low. Privatization continued and by the mid-1990s the country’s gold mines had been privatized and internationalized. In the last few years Ghana has enjoyed only modest economic growth.
3.2.7. For more than thirty years Ghana was characterized by periods of one party rule, weak civilian regimes and multiple military interventions. It was only after 1992 that Ghana began to move towards democratic governance. Following the 2000 elections, Ghanaians began to consolidate their democracy through responsive and decentralized political institutions.
3.3. Decentralization
3.3.1. Since 1992, Ghanaians both in and out of government have discussed decentralization policies. To critics, support for decentralization in Ghana has been more vigorous in word than in deed. To those less critical, the decentralization exercise has been designed to be incremental, and based on the capacity of district authorities to take on new responsibilities. The Government of Ghana (GOG) says that it is concerned that there be adequate qualified personnel in place at all levels of government at the end of the decentralization process.

3.3.2. As part of the decentralization process, Ghana has identified the creation of a Local Government Service and a capacity building process that will strengthen district government, the establishment of a district level composite budget process that is transparent and participatory, the development of and institutionalization of arrangements for decentralized program implementation and the development of processes for partnership between district government and civil society organizations in the development planning process.

3.3.3. Several issues remain crucial to decentralization governance in Ghana. The first involves the creation of the Local Government Service and operationalization of the Secretariat. This will, as one district assembly member noted, “dramatically change the district government system. Then, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) will be able to better control (in support of district government) staff directly assigned to district assemblies….”

3.3.4. A second issue, related to the above, relates to deconcentration of responsibilities to several of Ghana’s line ministries and the concern both in the districts and in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development that there is a reluctance of national and regional level officials to accept the authority of district assemblies, DCEs and the District Coordinating Directors (DCDs). Decentralization from a sectoral perspective in reality has focused on administrative deconcentration rather than political devolution.
3.3.5. The third issue relates to the development of Composite Budgets. A composite budget is an integrated district budget system which synthesizes and harmonizes expenditure and revenue estimates of all the departments of the district assembly. The District Assembly Common Fund budgets need to be devolved to district assemblies and reviewed through the committee system of DAs. At the national level, there appears to be little interest in district level fiscal decentralization. All the central government control mechanisms are still in place. Nor are donors interested in this issue. While fiscal decentralization to district assemblies has been limited, districts have some funds where there is discretionary authority. These funds would allow for the introduction of decentralized budget systems. However, as yet district assemblies do not utilize the power and influence they have available to them.

3.3.6. Influence from the districts to the national government remains weak. Civic education is at a low level given the weakness of civic advocacy organizations. Decentralization in Ghana, as one district level respondent in local government put it, “is too much supply driven. Ghana governments, including the current one, have decided that this is a good way to go. However, decentralization may also increase the potential for corruption.” Some Ghanaian academic observers interviewed are not optimistic about the further institutionalization of decentralization as there is some resistance from within the civil service to political and even further administrative decentralization. In any event, there is unlikely to be much done before 2005, after the elections.

3.3.7. A fourth concern area relates to the development of partnerships between statutory and non-statutory bodies at district level. USAID since 1994 has been involved in the fourth program area of the National Decentralisation Action Plan, designed to promote the participation and deepen the association between district assemblies, civil society organizations, private sector organizations, faith based organizations and traditional authorities. The establishment of district level civic unions, supported by USAID, seeks to enjoin district officials and district assemblies to interact with civil society organizations and to enable sub-district structures to be based upon popular participation to better articulate community needs.
3.3.8. It is important to keep in mind that decentralization requires reforms at both the national and the district level. One problem often noted with regard to sub-national government in Ghana is that there is only limited authority and funding given to district statutory authorities by the national government. There are too many unfunded mandates. DAs only have exclusive authority in the areas of sanitation, trash removal and waste management. Other delegated responsibilities include some infrastructure development, regulation of economic activities and tax collection. On the other hand, though district level authority is inadequate, there is some room for district level decision making in district assemblies. This existing authority is underutilized by district government.

3.3.9. Overall, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is seen by close observers to be very weak but at the same time inflexible about devolution, demanding more than can currently be managed. Under decentralization, development programs are intended to be a shared responsibility between government, district assemblies, civil society organizations, the private sector and communities. There are not clearly defined separate spheres of responsibility. District government authority has not been clearly defined though it is assumed that they should have direct responsibility for infrastructure development, the provision of local public services (water, sanitation and waste removal), the regulation of local level economic activities and income generation.

3.3.10. What has been created in Ghana is a system of mini-parliaments which in theory have wide ranging authority over all aspects of government but in fact have actual distinct authority over almost none. What was required was a mode of decentralization which established specific discrete (not shared) responsibility for local government that ensures separate statutory authority over certain areas that is not shared between central and local government. Following from this, there needs to be resolution of the non-democratic pattern of appointing 30% of the DA members, the proscription of party identification at district level as well as having an appointed District Chief Executive. Overall, what is needed in Ghana, according to one advisor on decentralization, is government reform not promises of devolution.
3.4. Program Background
3.4.1. USAID support for decentralized governance and civil society evolved out of the STEP program (Supporting the Electoral Process Project). The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) began providing support for the electoral process in Ghana in 1994. On July 1, 1997 USAID, through its cooperant IFES, began support for “Enhancing Civil Society Effectiveness at the Local Level.” (ECSELL).
3.4.2. ECSELL’s objectives were to strengthen civil society at the grassroots, to increase civic advocacy, and improve the responsiveness of district assemblies to community needs. It had as its primary objectives to:

  1. Increase the capacity and effectiveness of civil society organizations to shape public policy within a more competitive political process

  1. Increase civic advocacy.

  1. Improve the responsiveness of district assemblies.

  1. A fourth objective was added prior to the 2000 elections: to improve the quality of political debates for parliamentary candidates contesting the year 2000 elections in 20 of Ghana’s parliamentary constituencies.

The ECSELL project worked in 20 districts throughout Ghana (2 districts in each of ten regions of the country) and employed a field team of 20 participant observers, as well as the Accra-based project staff, who conducted training sessions, organized auxiliary meetings, provided technical assistance to CSOs and local government, carried out extensive monitoring and evaluation, and administered a modest grants component.

3.4.3. The activities to achieve the above objectives were originally designed as a two-step process. First was a series of training workshops that took place between the end of 1997 and the end of 2000. The two-day workshops included training in the areas of:

  1. Structure and function of local government, the role of civil society in a democracy, and preparation for meeting CSO or local government counterparts.

  1. Attitudes and behaviors in support of democracy, team building and collaboration among CSOs, and an enabling environment to enhance CSO/DA communication and common problem solving.

  1. Strategic planning, resource management, and linking CSOs/DAs.

  1. Financial management and proposal writing skills.

  1. Preparation for grant program, set up joint civil society/DA grant making mechanisms.

3.4.4. The second step was to give the newly trained CSO and local government officials a chance to practice their skills via a small-grants program. IFES was to set up joint CSO/government boards in each of the districts in which the activity functioned and grants were to be vetted by this board and included matching funds from the district assemblies themselves.

3.4.5. There was some disagreement between IFES and USAID at the time of implementation of the second phase of the project over the small grants component. This was a function of what USAID viewed as IFES’ concentration of grant money targeted at general community development and economic growth oriented projects and not Democracy and Governance (DG) specific activities. For their part, IFES believed that they had communicated their intentions from the start of the activity and further had represented the broad nature of the grants to project participants. There appears to have been mixed messages sent and the issue of grants and the use of sitting fees, both attributed to ESCELL, linger during the current activity period. In the end, IFES implemented a more restrictive grant-vetting process that targeted DG specific activities. As one senior cooperant coordinator in ESCELL put it, “we appeared to be changing the promises made during mid-stream.”
3.4.6. The activity was closed at the end of March 2001 after having been funded at the level of 1.9 million U.S. Dollars for the period of the activity. In the districts where ECSELL operated there is now only limited awareness of the activity. The shift in cooperant, relatively early into the civil society support activity, because it was accompanied by a change of philosophy and methodology, meant that there was some loss of activity impact, and the identification of USAID as the support agent, between the ESCELL and GAIT periods. This sort of dislocation is almost inevitable when there is a pre-mature disengagement of the sort which IFES/ESCELL represents.
3.5. The Current Program

3.5.1. Support for decentralized governance began more than six years ago. However, prior to 2001, the impact of this activity was limited. A second phase of support for decentralized governance and civil society support began on February 1, 2001 under the title, “Government Accountability Improves Trust” (GAIT). The GAIT grant largely continued the work of the “Enhancing Civil Society Effectiveness at the Local Level” (Project ECSELL), implemented by IFES since July 1, 1997. The new cooperant was the Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA). The activity is scheduled to end in July 2004.

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