We want to talk about the various ways in which local government authorities are controlled in a West African countries.
But before that, let us find the definition of the term “local government authority”.
A local government authority is a sub-division of government designed to ensure local participation in the political administration of the country.
Its powers and functions are delegated by the central government which exercises supervisory control over it.
It is a common feature of the unitary system of government.
In Ghana, District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies headed by Chief Executives are examples of local government authorities.
In order to ensure accountability and efficiency in the performance of their functions, both the state and the general public control local government authorities in the following ways.
1. Legislative Control.
The instrument establishing local authorities stipulates their area of jurisdiction and also limits their functions and powers. These functions and powers may be revoked or modified by the legislature or the minister of local government.
In addition, local government bye-laws are subject to approval by parliament before they can become effective
2. Judicial Control
Local government authorities are legal entities and as such, they can be sued for violating the law.
In addition, the courts exercise control over the actions of local authorities by nullifying their actions where they go beyond the powers legally conferred on them.
The writs of mandamus, certiorari and prohibition can be issued in appropriate cases to respectively compel a local authority to perform its statutory functions and to prevent it from carrying out an intended course of action.
3. Ministerial/Executive Control
One way by which the executive controls local government authorities is the setting up of a commission of inquiry to investigate their administration or to ascertain allegations of bribery, financial impropriety, corruption in the award of contracts etc.
In fact, the central government has power to revoke, suspend or vary any instrument of appointment by which a local authority is established as a result of the inquiry.
Again, the central government can merge or split local government authorities to ensure their effectiveness. In Ghana for example, the central government has often split up District Assemblies into smaller units to ensure effective administration.
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4. Financial Control
Several financial control measures are taken to regulate the activities of local government authorities.
In the first place, the annual estimates of revenue and expenditure (budget) of local authorities must be submitted to the central government for scrutiny and approval.
Also, the Auditor-General carries out annual auditing of local government finances. This is then submitted to parliament for scrutiny.
Anyone found culpable of any malfeasance is expected to be sanctioned. They are made to refund the money, suspended, or dismissed to serve as a deterrent to others.
5. Control Through Inspectorates
The local government ministry normally has an inspectorate division which carries out regular inspection of the activities of local authorities. The purpose is to ensure that they go about their work properly and efficiently.
In Ghana, for example, the Common Fund allocation for a District Assembly can be withheld pending the fulfillment of certain conditions by that assembly.
6. Public Opinion
The activities of local authorities can be controlled or checked through the expression of public disapproval or criticism. This can take the form of discussions in the mass media or civil disobedience (e.g. strikes), protests, or demonstrations.
The above are the most common ways both the central government and the public act to keep in check the activities of local government authorities in West Africa.