The National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana (NALAG) has called on government to extend its stimulus package to the Metropolitan, Municipal and Districts Assemblies (MMDAs) since the internally generated revenues of the assemblies have dropped amidst the increase in expenditure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said government should also consider extra funding for MMDAs to enable them render other social services to the local assemblies.
Mr Bismark Baisie Inkum, President of NALAG, made the call at a press briefing in Accra held to highlight the NALAG leadership nationwide engagement with presiding members and selected assembly members from the 260 MMDAs on COVID-19.
The meeting afforded the leadership of the Association the opportunity to interact with its key stakeholders and ascertain their views and experience on COVID-19 pandemic responses at the local level.
Besides, the interaction also gave the leadership adequate understanding of what has transpired across the regions and the MMDAs and how best that has helped in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Association after touring the nation identified some key issues which they asserted were hampering the fight against COVID-19 at the local level.
Some of the emerging issues included: District Health Depreciates entering communities without involving assembly members; creating difficulty for cooperation from community members in adhering to established protocols; some communities treating suspected COVID-19 cases as confirmed cases; the manner in which recovery cases are released into the community creates needless suspicion and stigma for individuals involved; as well as lack of consensus among stakeholders at different levels especially the local community among others.
To address the challenges identified as a result of the local level engagement, Mr Inkum suggested that Public Health Emergency Teams should liaise with assembly members in various communities in order to have easy engagement with the communities, adding that this would enhance inclusivity and promote comprehensive front for the fight against the pandemic.
He said the Ghana Health Service staff should work hand in hand with the assembly members when they want to enter a community to educate or contact trace a suspected case, saying this would ensure that the unfortunate incident of a suspected person refusing to cooperate is reduced.
He said the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Information Services Department (ISD) should intensify the education and sensitization in the local communities.
Mr Inkum also emphasized the need for Assembly members and Unit Committee members to liaise with chiefs, security and health personnel to deal with non-compliance to the protocols.
He said the religious organizations should equally use their various platforms to educate their members on the pandemic and urged them to adhere to enhanced personal hygiene and social distancing protocols while washing their hands under running water and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Mr Inkum said the threats from the coronavirus disease also present an inherent opportunity for MMDAs to consider new ways of doing things.
He cited for example that MMDAs should now think of the possibility of having virtual meetings where the usual physical locational meetings may not be possible for reasons of COVID-19.
“It is our hope that in the future, our laws will consider such virtual meetings as legal.
We should also think about digitizing our services to enable clients access same from a remote location to reduce the usual human interface. A digitized and a mobile enabler platform can be used for revenue collection, building permit processing and a host of others”, he added.