By Pascal Kelvin Kudiabor, Communications Officer, SEND-GHANA

Accra, Ghana

School infrastructure is everything from electricity, running water, safe buildings, tables, chairs, text books, and teachers. Without these things, a school cannot function properly. However, there are still hundreds of schools today in Ghana where, for students who do attend, classes are held on the ground under trees. These are the kinds of issues that most communities battle with in poor districts in Ghana. 

On June 11, 2015, SEND-Ghana launched the ‘Making the Budget Work for Ghana Project’ which aims to address current governance challenges affecting the delivery of basic education and health services in poor communities through improving budget planning, execution and monitoring services.

SEND-Ghana, with the renewed public commitment from the Government of Ghana and the support of the GPSA, is working to address the prevailing inequality situation and improve the delivery of basic services in the area of health and education, such as low school performance and poor medical care.

 “Citizens are at the center of the objective of the project, and at the center of what we are trying to achieve,” said George Osei-Bimpeh, SEND-Ghana Country Director. SEND-Ghana is working with ordinary citizens to have a strong voice informed by evidence to make suggestions as to what community priority projects should be embarked upon. These projects must address the challenging health and education issues and for that matter should be budgeted for in the 2016 national budget.

Speaking at the launch, the Chief Executive Officer of SEND-WEST AFRICA, Mr. Siapha Kamara said that Ghana has worked well with growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but sadly equity is difficult to surmount, “The most important instrument is the national budget at the disposal of the Ghanaian government for making strides against inequality.” If we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this has to be the journey, he argued.

Deryck Brown,  Senior Governance Specialist who represented the Word Bank at the launch, was full of praise for the uniqueness of the project acknowledging that, it focused on some of the most pressing challenges existing in public finance management in the health and education sectors which included challenges on the transparent use of public resources and few opportunities of public participation but that will provide a unique opportunity to address some of them  by putting information about citizens’ perspectives on public services directly in the hands of the officials in chargeMr. Brown speaking on behalf of the WB Country Director Mr. Yusupha B. Crookes   said that, the increased willingness of government to engage with citizens and a more assertive Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to engage citizens must be applauded. “This is a fundamental and positive shift.”

SEND-GHANA will apply use its methodology through the extensive use of the Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Network which is expected to also build capacities downstream to push for accountable budgetary processes, said SEND-GHANA Country Director Mr. George Osei-Bimpeh. “Government of Ghana has to finance development; with implications for taxation and public financial management; therefore citizens must take up their role; a collective call to ensure a more transparent budgetary process.”

Lack of textbooks in schools, teacher-pupil ratio, teacher absenteeism and low performance are among crucial issues that we strive to address in the education sector, matters for which SEND-GHANA can help bring to the fore and make government more aware and service providers more accountable.

Mr. Peter Ahlijah, Head of Planning, speaking on behalf of  Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the Minister of Education, she said “the GPSA partnership will help us improve upon our monitoring and evaluation as well as reporting on the overall performance.” She believes that, ensuring full time equivalents and effective monitoring of teacher absenteeism and other pressing challenges in the sector can help improve education standards in the country.

Lack of medicines and inadequate health staff at our health facilities is also a  source of worry in poor districts in Ghana. The process of addressing these issues is directly linked to the health priority of government.

Ministry of Health has over a long period invited public inputs into budgeting because the health sector decentralization requires that budgeting begins at the sub-district levels, it was observed in the speech presented by Mr. Daniel Osei, Head of Budget on behalf  of  Mr. Alex Segbefia, t Minister of Health.

“This is a good opportunity to ensure that practices such as annual preparation of the national health accounts that is, who is providing services, who is paying for these, amongst others is put in place in order to maximise the benefit of the project.”

The Chairperson for the launch, Dr. Esther Offei Aboagye urged media to partner with SEND-GHANA to address critical development and governance challenges by providing better information and fostering debate on public trust and accountability.

The Making the Budget Work for Ghana Project is funded by the World Bank through the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) Initiative. The project will also provide an online interactive platform where citizens can engage with government to provide feedback on budget provisions.