Date: July 11, 2009, 7:52 am


A CALL TO DUTY


The Essential Services Platform, consisting of civil society coalitions in the health, water and sanitation, and education sectors which work towards universal provisioning and keeping social services out of GATS and TRIPS and other international trade agreements, wish to congratulate government for issuing a budget (2009 budget) which aims at improving the provision of  essential services to all  Ghanaians.  We however wish to bring to government’s notice certain lapses in the essential services sector and hope for more attention from government and subsequent universal provisioning in the coming months and years. 

Even though government has expressed the intention to review ongoing projects in the water sector, we urge government to set timelines for this exercise and take into consideration the concerns of civil society when undertaking this exercise.  We wish to bring to government’s attention to the fact that urban water coverage has dropped from 70% in 2000, to 57% at present.  This deterioration can be attributed to the failure of the urban water reforms and especially to the management contract which Aqua Vitens Rand Limited is at present executing.  In the light of these developments, we strongly recommend the abrogation of this contract by the Mills government. Rural water has seen a marginal increase but not significant enough to meet the MDG targets by 2015.

We also call on government to review the procurement processes and make it transparent and open to public participation and scrutiny.  This is in view of the fact that procurement in the water sector is one of the biggest conduit pipes for the supply of substandard services and also fertile ground for bribery and corruption which compounds the water crisis. 

The Mills administration 2009 budget is committed to expanding and repairing a number of water systems, this a good move but we need to see the figures to be spent on these projects.

Government should tackle sanitation issues as national issues and seal all leakages in the contract and execution of all sanitation contracts in the sector. We are reminding it, that the campaign promise of allotting GH 30 million cedis to the sanitation sector will be fulfilled.  The Sanitation sector is not a political cake to be shared among party faithfuls. It is our hope that this time round, government will desist from giving sanitation contracts to unqualified individuals and companies and make the sector a professional one.

We call on the NDC government to make achievable at least 65% of targeted borehole construction in the four years of its governance.  The 100-day sanitation pledge must become reality and not a nine day wonder. 

 Education   

Given that inflation is about 20%, and the Get Fund in the 2009 budget has been allocated GH¢275 million as compared with GH¢204 million in 2008, (about a 26% increase),  the actual increase in the allocation for the Fund is rather small.  Currently contractors with outstanding projects are not being paid because of lack of funds. We therefore call on Government to put in place structures which will make the GET Fund more transparent, accountable and efficient to ensure real value for money.  At present, however, it is important for government to institute an investigation into the operational activities of the GET Fund because of allegations of malfeasance. 

Under the educational reforms (2007-08), kindergarten has become a part of compulsory basic education.  However as at 2007-08, there were nearly 2,000 primary schools without kindergartens.  It is hoped that this lapse will be remedied and teachers trained for the kindergarten level.  It is also hoped that the NDC will implement its manifesto promise of instituting one training facility for kindergarten teachers in each region. 

The platform wish to commend government for increasing the Capitation Grant to GH¢4.50, a 50% increase.  However, if the growing inflation rate of over 20% is taken into consideration, the 50% increase is not much to write home about.  It is also not clear whether the same deductions for sports and culture, amounting to about 30% of the grant and withheld at the district level, will be made.  Pupils with disabilities should be granted additional funds given their difficult circumstances. We wish to reiterate that the creation of a threshold for rural schools is very essential in ensuring equity in the disbursement of the grant.    We call for the stringent and transparent implementation of this grant by the appropriate authorities so intended beneficiaries will benefit from it.   We also hope the new government will maintain the practice whereby the Capitation Grant is only available to public schools.  Under no circumstances should private schools benefit from the Capitation Grant.

The provision of a free uniforms from September 2009 for 1 million pupils at a cost of GH¢ 7.00 each in the most deprived areas, and the provision of free exercise books are positive gestures.  However, pupils need at least two uniforms for good hygiene.  It may be better to institute these interventions on a pilot basis for at least the first year and reduce the number of pupils who qualify so only the most deprived can be given at least two sets of uniforms and the required number of exercise books.  

We call on government to consider giving teachers more incentives to make their work more attractive.  An allowance of at least 20% of basic salary could be offered to those who go to the deprived areas. 

More attention should be paid to the maintenance of basic school buildings all over Ghana.  Many are the school buildings that are decrepit, have cracks, leaking roofs and lack water and toilet facilities. Authorities in the education sector, the Ministry, and the districts have seriously neglected basic school infrastructure.  At the district and metro level, the usual explanation is that the money is needed for waste management. 

Health

A critical analysis of the health initiatives in the budgetary plans in the 2009 budget has revealed some positive moves that government is putting in place to ensure the smooth delivery of health in Ghana.

Even though government has pledged to expand midwifery and nursing training institutions; deploy qualified nurses and midwives; improve comprehensive abortion care services and the provision of treated mosquito nets for pregnant women and new mothers are very important strategic initiatives, the Platform strongly recommends that government should ensure that quality training standards are applied in these institutions in line with the expansion exercise.  This will avert the situation of falling standards and maintain high level discipline and dedication to service in the sector and reduce the high rate of avoidable maternal deaths in line with the achievement of the MDG goal number five.

The pledge to improve the claims management under the NHIS is worth commending, but looking at the critical nature of health delivery, action must be expedited soon. It is of utmost importance that government incorporates anti-retroviral drugs into the list of drugs provided under the national health scheme.  This will lessen the burden of HIV patients. 

This is a call to duty, a call to remind the government that it was elected on a social democratic platform that seeks the welfare of the masses, especially the disadvantaged and the deprived.



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