General News of Monday, 13 March 2017
SEND-GHANA, a policy research, advocacy and livelihood promotion organisation, has called on government to explain how it would fund the soon-to-be office of Independent Prosecutor.
The advocacy group which praised the first budget of the Akufo-Addo government, also called for disbursement of funds to some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on time to prevent corruption.
In a press release, the Country Director George Osei-Bimpeh describes the government’s financial and policy statement as a ‘Budget For All’, and outlined some concerns in the various sectors which must be addressed by government.
According to the policy think tank, funds disbursed to CHRAJ, Parliament and Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department must match actual allocations to enable the accountability institutions to perform their core functions effectively and efficiently.
In the health sector, it said, “the 2017 budget pledges government’s commitment to invest in the provision of quality health services to the citizenry but it is less transparent on strategies in key areas such as allocations for the implementation of the national nutrition strategy adopted in 2016.”
In the Gender Minsitry and under Child Protection and Welfare, the advocacy organisation said “in the absence of a programme budget for the ministry, it is difficult to assess the proportion that goes into child rights promotion and protection.
“The budget failed to provide details on targets achieved on key policies pursued in 2016 and targets for 2017 in most cases. Statements such as “government will continue or collaborate with …” were commonly used.”
Below is the full press release:
Budget for All
SEND-GHANA has analysed Ghana’s 2017 budget and has come out with the following observations on key sectors and pro programs;
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
We applaud government for incorporating a good number of our inputs into the 2017 budget, but challenge it to develop an overarching health and nutrition security investment strategy that is consistent with its overall theme of “Beyond Aid”.
The 2017 budget pledges government’s commitment to invest in the provision of quality health services to the citizenry but it is less transparent on strategies in key areas such as allocations for the implementation of the national nutrition strategy adopted in 2016.
The budget failed to clearly indicate how the government will fund the improvement and expansion of the Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) and also does not demonstrate a strong commitment to upholding the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) principle of reliance on domestically mobilized funds for development and investment expenditures.
Revenue realized from the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) should be separated from the consolidated funds and be given directly to the National Health Insurance (NHIA) to prevent government from spending the funds on other interventions.
Government should invest in the provision of up-to-date data on health priority areas: maternal and child health, nutrition and Human Immune Virus (HIV) to facilitate proper monitoring and planning.
The removal of the 17.5 % tax on imported drugs is a welcome relief because the price of drugs in Ghana is currently higher than the price of the same drugs on the international market.
The 2017 allocation to the health sector of 7.8% falls short of meeting the 15% of the total annual budget set by the Abuja Declaration which Ghana signed up to in 2001. Sixteen (16) years down the line Ghana is about half way to meeting the Abuja target.
CHILD PROTECTION AND WELFARE
Expenditure allocation to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGC&SP) increased by 416% from GH¢49,520,377.00 to GH¢255,481,323.00, which is commendable given the important role it plays.
However, in the absence of a programme budget for the ministry, it is difficult to assess the proportion that goes into child rights promotion and protection.
The budget failed to provide details on targets achieved on key policies pursued in 2016 and targets for 2017 in most cases. Statements such as “government will continue or collaborate with …” were commonly used.
This style of budgeting does not give room for interested civil society organisations and citizens (in particular) to track the use of public resources meant for specific purposes. Again, it makes it impossible to hold government account to specific targets.
Abuse, violence, and exploitation of children in Ghana are prevalent in various forms. A recent study by the MGC&SP with support from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) does not only underscore this phenomenon but concluded that aside from violating children’s right to protection from harm, these come with a high economic cost. It is for this reasons that key stakeholders have commended government’s policy initiatives in recent years.
Adoption of policies is a means to an end and not the end in itself. Thus, the budget, as a national cost plan, is to facilitate the implementation of policies. Unfortunately, the 2017 Budget Statement is silent on how it will fully implement policies such as the Child and Family Welfare Policy and Justice for Children Policy, which was approved in 2015 and 2016 respectively. A cost implementation plan for the Child and Family Welfare Policy estimates the annual cost to around GHC 20 million.
Our appraisal of the 2017 Budget Statement generally reveals a mention of some of these initiatives. However, it failed to provide the expected detailed information.
We commend government for the huge increase of the capitation grant. However, it is not clear if the increase is actually coming at the expense of the base grant and does not actually represent an increase per head at all. We call on government to ensure timely disbursement of the funds to schools and in their entirety.
The free uniforms programme appears to be encountering teething problems which must be addressed.
We wish to remind government that increasing access to education through free fee policies such as the Senior High School (SHS) policy is important. However, we must be guided by lessons from that of the capitation grant.
Over the years government has been consistent in reaching the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) target of allocating up to 6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education.
An average 6% of GDP is annually spent on education. In 2017, a total of GH¢8.33 billion representing 15.3% of total national budget was allocated to the education sector for the implementation of strategies, salaries and wages and infrastructure development.
However, the sector’s share in 2017 represents a decline of 2 % compared to 2015 and 2016. In real value, however, it is still higher than those of 2015 and 2016. The rate of growth of the sector’s allocation between 2015 and 2017 in nominal terms is approximately 24%.
POVERTY REDUCTION INTERVENTION
The general increase in allocation for pro-poor expenditure allocation as well as social protection is commendable. However, there is the need to ensure continued scale-up as both programmes still reach the minority of those that need it – Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) only reaches 1 in 8 poor households.
Inequality still persists in education service delivery in deprived communities especially in the three regions of the north.
There is the need to fast track the implementation of National Household registry to ensure that the poor are adequately targeted to benefit from all pro-poor interventions across the different sectors.
A Social Protection law that guarantees the rights and duties of families benefiting social protection interventions and that regulates the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in charge of implementing and monitoring their delivery should be considered.
The general increase in allocations for capital expenditure and goods and services to CHRAJ, Parliament and the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department is commendable.
The disbursement of these funds should be on time and must match actual allocations to enable the affected accountability institutions to perform their core functions effectively and efficiently.
Government has committed to the appointment of an independent prosecutor. However, the budget was silent on how the office of the special prosecutor will be funded.
Strictly applying the provisions of the Public Financial Management and Public Procurement Acts, as well as amend, in particular, sections 3, 151 and 239-257 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), which will make corruption a felony instead of a misdemeanor is recommended.
The Planting for Food and Jobs policy, which is expected to provide 750,000 jobs is laudable because it has the potential of absorbing the teeming unemployed youth as well as increase productivity, increase food security and nutrition of families. However, government should be clear on the amount needed to execute this policy.
The One District; One factory policy should prioritize agro-industries because they have latent potential of generating employment and income opportunities.
Government should increase its core funding for the sector and resist the temptation to resort to ABFA as a substitute in recent years for funding the ministries ‘capital expenditure.
Government should ensure that subsidized fertilizer is disbursed in a timely fashion as the farming season is fast approaching and in actual in right quantity as projected. Government should also put in measures to curb the smuggling of fertilizer to neighboring countries.
WATER AND SANITATION
Allocation to the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MS&WS) in 2017 (GHC 255,531,354) decreased by 16% in comparison to allocations for water and sanitation to the Ministries of Local Government and Rural Development (MLG&RD) and Water Resources, Works and Housing in 2016 (GHC 305,670,536). This decrease raises concerns about Government’s commitment to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector given the state of sanitation in the country.
The WASH Ministry has a total share of 0.99% of total MDAs allocation in the 2017 Budget. This shows a 16% decrease in allocation for the previous year. In real terms, the ministry’s allocation decreased by 18.6% at a real value of 248,686,764.2 when inflation is accounted for.
Prior to the creation of the new Ministry for Sanitation and Water Resources, WASH interventions were managed by the Ministries of Local Government and Rural Development and Water Resources, Works and Housing. Allocation to the WASH sector as a percentage of total MDAs allocation has seen consistent decreases between 2015 and 2017.
The Budget is expected to focus on stimulating growth. We at SEND-GHANA are ready to help government in ensuring that the budget addresses the needs of all its citizens.