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Ghana Aid Effectiveness Forum Dissects 2014 Budget   
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The Ghana Aid Effectiveness Forum (GAEF) calls for a greater accountability and transparency in re-aligning the budget to meet key national priorities. The Forum at a budget workshop notes that in spite of the 2014 budget statement advocating for re-alignment of budget allocations to reflect the nation’s development agenda, wide gaps exists when one considers key sectors such as water and sanitation, health and the fight against corruption.

The GAEF’s review of the 2014 National Budget vis-à-vis the 2013 budget indicates that some key macro-economic indicators were missed in 2013. Real overall GDP growth fell from 7.9% to 7.4%. However, in nominal terms real GDP growth of GHȻ32,332 million compares favourably with the 2013 budget projection of GHȻ32,109 million. Inflation as at October 2013 was 13.1%, a far cry from the targeted 9%. Budget deficit still hovers around 10.2% of GDP as against the target of 9%. A deficit of GH¢ 8,905.4 million representing 10.2% of GDP is far higher than the target of 9%. Similar targets were missed in the previous year (2012) which paints a worrying pattern.

In 2013, GAEF set out once again to monitor government budget spending taking cognizance of the challenges that always characterizes post election year budget spending. Interestingly, problems of limited access to budget information and the use of bureaucracy to thwart access to budget data set still persist. It will not be surprising if Ghana once again dip further in its score for Open Budget Survey for 2013. This is due to limited access to budget information which makes it difficult for citizen’s to hold government accountable for its use of public money.

Findings from the monitoring of the water and sanitation in 2013 indicate a short fall in water supply to rural and urban areas in Ghana. Per the Ghana Urban Water Company Limited (GUWCL) March 2013 publication, the company produces 682,160 cubic meters of water per day. However, the demand for water by the populace stands at 1,076,526. A deficit of 394, 336 (about 40%) which the GUWCL needs about 2 billion dollars over the next decade to complete. In achieving the 65% rural water supply as mentioned in the 2011 budget to which 20,000 boreholes were targeted, only 1,115 were so far mentioned as constructed in the 2014 budget leaving another deficit of 18,885. Sanitation follows similar trend where 86 percent of Ghanaians do not have access to basic improved sanitation and 19 percent defecate in the open. This leads to water contamination and spreading of diseases with severe consequences on health, education and income. However, it is documented that every $1 invested in water and sanitation, on average, $4 is returned in increased productivity. The current rate of budget allocation towards water and sanitation is woefully inadequate. The 2014 budget allocation to water and sanitation was GHȻ 531,389,023 which is a significant increase. However, donor funding of this budget provision is a whopping 82%. Given the continuous dwindling nature of donor support how will Ghana meet this demand and the MDG goal? Interestingly, the rain harvesting idea as indicated in the 2013 budget could not find space in the 2014 budget as to its implementation.

In bridging the equity gap in child and maternal access to health care the government decided to orient the local and regional government staff on the revised Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) policy. Under this policy, the government sought to develop 450 functional CHPS compounds in 2013. However, only 19 CHPS compounds were constructed in 2013 and the 2014 budget mentioned that work had commenced on 25 new compounds. In the 2014 budget the government only mentioned that it will construct CHPS compound but nothing on the number and how the number compares with the pledge the government made to the people of Ghana. The stony silence on such an important policy that can help address the MDG goal on child and maternal health is audible to the deaf. Further, the total budgetary allocation to the health sector is about 9% of the total budget. This is contrary to the Abuja target where the government of Ghana agreed to spend about 15% of its national budget on health.

Reflecting on the rather evasive outlook for 2014 fighting corruption, the Forum thinks that the continuous starving of independent anti-corruption agencies such as CHRAJ undermines efforts geared towards fighting canker. Indeed, 64 percent of 2013 budgetary allocation to CHRAJ went into wages and salaries with goods and services taking another large chuck. Thus, little is left for the commission to prosecute cases of alleged corruption to their logical conclusion. Indeed, Ghana’s ranking on the Corruption Perception Index has improved from 69 in 2011 through 64 in 2012 to 63 in 2013. This could improve in leaps and bounds if transparency and accountability are made the hall mark of the expenditure pattern of the government.

The 2014 budget though informative failed to provide the necessary clear cut details that could help the platform members to efficiently track government’s expenditure to enhance transparency and accountability. Details about government expenditure in the 2013 and 2014 fiscal year were shrouded in mystery. This denied the calculation of the budget execution rate which gives an idea of the variation in government’s proposed and actual expenditure. The Forum suggests that subsequent budgets be detailed enough and also give sectoral account on government expenditure in the previous year. This would allow for transparency and weeding out of corruption.

The monitoring and evaluation of some of the programmes is weak thereby resulting in lack of action in the execution. To rise up to the challenge of re-aligning budget allocations to meet pressing national demands, the Forum proposes that only programmes with high probability of secured funding within the given time frame should find their way into the budget. This we believe aligns with the President’s commitment to promote citizens-based monitoring and evaluation of public policies and programmes as well as providing feedback and suggestions on ways of improving the targeting of social and economic programmes as stated in the State of the Nation Address in February 2013.
Source: Ghana Aid Effectiveness Forum/SEND-GHANA

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