My attention has been drawn to the rather bizarre claim by parliamentary candidates of the NPP in the Northern Development Zone of having lobbied the Northern Developmental Authority (NDA) to undertake all constituency specific projects in the Constituencies that fall under the jurisdiction of the NDA. For instance, on the 9th April, 2020, it was reported on Ghanaweb that a certain Dabid Sei Demah, an NPP Parliamentary Candidate for the Bole-Bamboi Constituency cut sod for the construction of market stores, three unit classroom blocks, and a clinic with funding from the Northern Development Authority. When pushed for clarification on the nature of the projects he had just cut sod for works to commence and the funding sources, Dabid Sei Demah is quoted as having confessed that the projects were being executed under the One Constituency per One Million dollars policy. He further stated that the president had converted the One Million dollars into projects “which were not being channelled through NPP parliamentary candidates”.
Similarly, on the 18th April, 2020, it was reported on Builsa Radio Social Media Platform that a site had been handed over to a construction firm to construct a two storey building along the Sandema-Seniensi road which upon completion will serve as a nursing training college. The report indicated further that other sites had been handed over for the construction of a police station and quarters in Chuchuliga and a children’s ward at the St Lucas hospital in Wiaga amongst others. At the tail end of the report, the DCE for Builsa North is reported to have singled out the NPP Parliamentary Candidate for the Builsa North Constituency, one James Abakisi for praise for having lobbied the Northern Development Authority for the projects mentioned above
From the outset, it is important to state that the Northern Development authority is a statutory body set up under an Act of Parliament with a clear cut mandate. It is therefore not an appendage to any political party including the NPP. Consequently, If it is established that the Northern Development Authority has allowed itself to be used as a tool to shore up the political fortunes of the NPP by lending support to NPP Parliamentary Candidates rather than implementing its own strategic goals carefully developed through comprehensive needs assessments, carried out in the Constituencies that make up the Northern Development Zone, then the hour for accountability is fast approaching.
The object of this short paper is to critically analyse relevant provisions of the Northern Development Authority Act, 2017 (Act 963) in order to establish the real mandate of the Authority and its functions. Reference will also be made to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for 2020 – 2023 of the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives Programme Based Budget Estimates for 2020 in order to demonstrate that all projects being executed by the Northern Development Authority are projects captured in its needs assessment reports which were subsequently approved by parliament in the budget estimates.
As indicated above, the Northern Development Authority was established by the Northern Development Authority Act, 2017, (Act 963) by the Parliament of Ghana in 2017 and Assented to by the President on the 2nd day of January, 2018.
The Northern Development Authority Act, 2017 (Act 963) repealed the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority Act, 2010 (Act 305) which gave birth to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA). As a result, the Northern Development Authority is the successor body to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (see S.36 of the NDA Act, 2017). In other words, upon coming into force, the NDA assumed the assets and liabilities of SADA including needs assessment carried out in all the Constituencies that make up the Northern Development Zone. I will revisit the issue of the conduct of needs assessment by SADA which was subsequently adopted by the NDA as working documents upon the passage of the NDA law by parliament.
A key object of the NDA is to accelerate economic and social development in the Northern Development Zone through strategic direction in the planting and prioritisation of development projects (See S.2 of the Act 963). What can be gleaned from the above object of the NDA is that its interventions must be based on planning and prioritisation of development projects in the Constituencies under its jurisdiction. This then is the basis for the conduct of needs assessment in the constituencies to inform the kinds of interventions the NDA can or should make in a given Constituency.
On the issue of the allocation of One Million per Constituency and the claim by an NPP Parliamentary Candidate that, the President had now converted the allocation to projects to be channelled through them (NPP Candidates) for execution purposes, S. 3(b) of Act 963 exposes the political manoeuvring of the NPP government in no small measure.
- 3(b) of Act 963 reads as follows:
“For the realisation of the objects of the Authority, the Authority shall
(b) oversee the application of the annual allocation by the central government to each constituency in the Northern Development Zone.”
It is very clear from a reading of the above provision that once an allocation is made from the Taxpayer’s money on an annual basis into the coffers of the Authority, the criteria for the application of the said allocation becomes the sole responsibility of the Authority. At this point, not even the President has any power to determine how the allocation made will be applied in the constituencies within the jurisdiction of the Authority not to talk of a parliamentary candidate of the NPP. In fact, and in law, the Authority in determining how to apply funds allocated to it must have recourse to its needs assessment reports which are its own handiwork and not the brain child of any NPP parliamentary candidate.
Again, the category of bodies and institutions the NDA in the discharge of its mandate must relate with have been stated in S.3(m) of Act 963 as follows:
“Cooperate with key statutory bodies and institutions including the National Development Planning Commission, Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Regional-Coordinating Councils, District Assemblies and other entities to ensure conformity with the National Development Plan to avoid duplication of functions.”
Although S.3(m) of Act 963 does not provide us with an exhaustive list of bodies and institutions the NDA must relate with in the execution of its mandate, what is certain is that it was never within the contemplation of parliament that the NDA in addition to the bodies and institutions listed above will have to collaborate and cooperate with Parliamentary candidates of the NPP and not Members of Parliament in the discharge of its mandate.
MEDIUM TERM EXPENDITURE FRAMEWORK (MTEF) FOR 2020- 2023 OF THE MINISTRY OF SPECIAL DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES (PROGRAMME BASED BUDGET ESTIMATES FOR 2020)
Under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework of the Ministry of special Development Initiatives for 2020-2023 (Programme based budget estimates for 2020), the programmes and projects intended to be undertaken by the three Development Authorities namely; the Northern Development, Middle Belt and the Coastal Development Authorities have been listed at page 3 as follows:
“Accordingly, the following underlisted projects in the table, which were initiated in 2018, are being delivered across the 275 Constituencies.
Flowing from the above, it is crystal clear that all projects being executed in the name of the Northern Development Authority and the other two Authorities were initiated as far back as 2018 when the NPP had not held primaries to elect parliamentary candidates for its so called Orphan Constituencies including the Builsa North Constituency.
In fact, the last time I checked, the NPP conducted primaries in the so-called Orphan Constituencies on the 28th September, 2019. It is therefore extremely preposterous and deceitful for NPP parliamentary candidates to credit themselves with the work of the Development Authorities.
On the issue of constituency specific projects being executed by the Development Authorities including the projects to be undertaken in the Builsa North Constituency and the claim by the NPP Parliamentary Candidate that he lobbied for the said projects, the programme based budget estimates for 2020 of the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives settles the matter at page 6 paragraph 5 as follows;
“These projects were selected from the Constituency Needs Assessment Reports which were developed by Ten Member IPEP regional teams, which was constituted in 2017 to compile the reports prior to the full operationalization of the three Development Authorities. Accordingly, some of the projects that are ongoing include construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure such as culverts, classroom blocks, community centres etc and the supply of furniture and equipment among others”.
It is obvious from the above that even the much talked about needs Assessment was done under the supervision of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority in 2017 and bequeathed to the Northern Development Authority.
The Medium Term Expenditure Framework of the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives which is also the budget estimates of the said ministry, it is important to note was approved by Parliament sometime in December, 2019 and became part of the Appropriation Act, 2019 which gave government the green light to spend an amount of Ninety-Eight Billion, Six Hundred and Ninety-Two Thousand, Eight Hundred and Fifty-Eight Ghana Cedis (GH¢98,036,692,358.00) for the 2020 financial year commencing on January 1, 2020.
What this means is that the 825 Constituency Specific Projects captured in the budget estimates of the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives cannot be varied without parliamentary approval. Any variation of the Constituency Specific Projects without further parliamentary approval will be in contravention of the Appropriation Act, 2019 with dire penal consequences.
In conclusion, this paper has explored the legal regime under which the Northern Development Authority Operates. Under Act 963, the Northern Development Authority is insulated from all forms of political manipulation and is therefore not an appendage to any political party including the NPP. Consequently, its programmes and projects being executed is informed by the Needs Assessment done by regional IPEP Teams in all the Constituencies under the jurisdiction of the NDA. This position completely diminishes the value of all forms of propaganda which seeks to associate the NDA’s work with NPP parliamentary candidates in the Northern Development Zone.
The paper has also amply demonstrated that under the programme based budget estimates for 2020 of the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives, work in the form of needs assessment in respect of the Constituency Specific Projects currently being undertaken by the NDA started as far back as 2017.
In the coming days, I shall escalate this matter to the next level by seeking to extract relevant information from the Northern Development Authority by invoking my rights under Article 21 of the Constitution and the Right to Information Act recently passed by Parliament.
James Agalga, MP for Builsa North and Ranking Member; Defence and Interior Committee of Parliament