A Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mr John Alexander Ackon, has said the government had paid GH˘4,918,404 under the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme as of August.
He said 76,913 households from 103 districts across the country had benefited.
Mr Ackon, who was addressing a news conference in Sekondi, said all outstanding arrears of LEAP grant had been paid while the number of beneficiary households had also expanded to cover an additional 4,300.
He announced that plans were far advanced for the establishment of a single national registry database of extremely poor and vulnerable persons, which would be known as National Household Registry.
He said the database would enroll all prospective beneficiaries of any social protection intervention programme for easy assessment and monitoring.
The Deputy Minister noted that LEAP was a flagship programme of Ghana’s National Social Protection Strategy, administered by the Gender Ministry, through the Department of Social Welfare, to improve the socio-economic status of the poorest households and promote the survival and development of their children.
The beneficiaries include orphans, vulnerable children as well as severely disabled persons, without a productive capacity and the elderly without any source of support.
He said the Ministry had successfully undertaken a pilot electronic payment programme to beneficiaries and would ensure that all qualified persons received theirs.
He said beneficiaries in nine districts across the country would be paid through this means during the payment cycle by MTN, AYA Technologies and Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems.
The Ackon noted that the electronic payment system is the Ministry’s innovation in the cash transfer process to facilitate faster payments and ensure cost effective means of reconciliation after payments, to reduce waiting and travel times for beneficiaries, as well as to promote and supporting the trend of cashless transactions.
He said it was the sixth electronic regular payment to be made since its inception and added that a Community Selection and Implementation Committee investigated the background of prospective beneficiaries to ensure fairness and transparency.
Touching on some landmark achievements of the programme since its inception in 2008, he said, vulnerable and socially excluded persons had been able to provide the basic needs of their families and their access to education, health and food, while beneficiaries had received capital to start small-scale business ventures for sustainable income to ultimately move out of abject poverty.
Mr Ackon said the intervention is within the framework of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) and in line with the Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction, he said.
He said the Ministry would expand the eligibility criteria of the LEAP programme by adding pregnant women and infants in extreme poor households under a “LEAP 1000" initiative.
This new intervention, he said, was aimed at preventing stunting, underweight, and general malnutrition amongst children during the first 1000 days of their lives and also to increase the nutritional value of food intake by pregnant women.
He said the programme would take off in10 districts in the northern sector of the country, stating: “As we strive to improve the economic status of the poor, it is important also that we ensure equitable and sustainable development towards a positive social change by putting in such interventions that would address issues of vulnerability”.
He said the government under the National Social Protection Strategy was implementing a number of pro-poor interventions through different Sector Ministries.
To ensure effective and efficient coordination of the programme, he said the Ministry would ensure regular monitoring and evaluation to achieve value for money.
The Ministry, which is mandated to coordinate these pro-poor interventions had developed an institutional framework to be implemented at the national, regional, district and community levels, he explained
He extended the government’s appreciation to the development partners, including the DFID, The World Bank, UNICEF, USAID, the UN System, E.U, ILO and Luxembourg Social Trust for their support to social protection programmes.
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