SEND Ghana raises eyebrow on unspecified allocations in budget

send-ghanaSEND Ghana, a civil society organisation, has raised concerns over some funding allocations in the 2016 budget presented by the Finance Minister last Friday, saying it did not show sufficient openness.

While acknowledging the need for fiscal discipline in 2016 given Ghana’s economic challenges which led to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, the Social Enterprise Development Foundation noted that it was important for government to be open with the citizens.

Speaking at a press conference to present its comments on the 2016 budget and economic policy, Ms Clara Osei-Boateng, Director of Policy Advocacy Programme at SEND-Ghana, said the organisation’s analysis of the budget revealed that for the first time, huge sums of money had been set aside as “other government obligations”, without explanation on what exactly it would be used for.

“For instance, under the health sector budget, a total of approximately GH₵ 1.49 billion, equivalent to 30.65 per cent of the total health sector budget was set aside for “other government obligations”, she stated, adding that similar unspecified items were found in the budgets of other Ministries, Departments and Agencies such as the Ministry of Roads and Highways, Education and the District Assemblies Common Fund.

She said SEND-Ghana had in the past hammered on the need for government to present information in a disaggregated manner to facilitate monitoring by individuals and civil society who wish to do so. As such the practice of unexplained expenditures did not lend itself to transparency and accountability.

“This raises concerns especially since it’s an election year. We would like to know which categories of expenditure constitute “other government obligations”. Is it compensation or assets?

Ms. Osei-Boateng also stated that SEND-Ghana, in line with government’s efforts to ensure citizens participation in the budget process, submitted inputs into the national budget, thus the assessment was also to verify the extent to which their inputs had been given policy recognition.

Focusing on four key sectors of interest to SEND-Ghana – Education, Health, Agriculture and Anti-Corruption – she noted that although their inputs had largely been addressed in the budget, there were still some outstanding ones.

Under Health, Ms. Osei-Boateng noted that the budget had covered most of the proposals contained in its inputs into the 2016 budget, such as government’s commitment to spend 63 per cent of the total health budget on primary health and to build 250 of the proposed 1600 CHPS Compounds across the ten regions in 2016.

She noted, however, that the budget did not show how much the 250 CHPS Compounds would cost, which did not allow for civil society’s monitoring. Also, the total budget for the health sector in the 2016 budget was 7.2 percent lower than that of 2015.

In the Education sector, she noted that while the budget intended to address some of the issues such as review of the regulatory regime for private schools and submission of a national school feeding policy to cabinet, it did not sufficiently ensure continued improvement in access and quality.

Among concerns raised were the nominal reduction of two million Cedis in the sector budget, especially cuts in government and donor contributions to the sector, lack of allocation from the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA/oil money); failure of the budget to indicate whether the capitation grant will be increased from the current GH₵ 4.50 per pupil; as well as exact amount and periods for removing schools under trees and funding special schools on non-formal education.

Ms. Osei-Boateng said the budget, under agriculture, failed to provide updates on 41 more Agricultural Mechanisation Centres to be established as well as the construction of 2500mt National Food and Buffer Stock Company.

They, however, commended government for raising the ABFA allocation to the sector by 316.57 percent.

Mr. Siapha Kamara, Chief Executive Officer of SEND-West Africa, urged government to consider releasing its programme budgets simultaneously as the main one in order to allow citizens and civil society to better monitor spending and ensure transparency and accountability.

Source: GNA

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