Weak budget advocacy at the local level structures - Send Ghana

Ho, March 31, GNA - Mrs. Harriet Nuamah Agyemang, a Senior Programmes Officer for Send Ghana, a Non-Governmental Organisation, has bemoaned “weak” resolve for budget advocacy among citizens in the country.

She said the weakness, most felt at the community level, affected the interrogation of government plans and policies, as well as the promotion of transparency while granting local Assemblies “a field of day.”

Mrs. Agyemang noted the concern to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at a three-day workshop in Ho on budget advocacy for District Citizen Monitoring Committees (DCMCs) in the Volta and Oti Regions.

She said added that more consequently, the efficient utilization of Assembly resources suffered, as well as the people’s resolve to demand their right to services.

The Programmes Officer said there was a lack of budget advocacy skills among the populace, and that public education by government to get people to get involved to participate in the development process, was necessary.

She thus called for citizens to be made to grasp the need to participate in the budget process.

She also called on stakeholders to endeavor to make budget information more accessible to the public, adding that although a technical tool, the budget “can be broken down into simple terms so people could be made to understand the process and how to participate in the process”.

Mrs. Agyemang said leadership of the local assemblies must commit to putting out information, and to draw community members into the budgeting process.

“Its about the people- their needs and wants. The documents must be made available to beneficiaries for scrutiny. It would provide information equip them to ask more questions.

“Every DCE should be proud that at the end of his term he would be solving the needs of the people,” she stated.

Mrs. Agyemang also said it was imperative that traditional authorities and opinion leaders led budget issues, and must therefore be provided the skills, adding, “they have to know the budget.”

“They are always called to make inputs into development plans. After, they should have the skills to interrogate it. If chiefs question Assemblies they will sit up because they respect traditional authorities, thus they must be equipped,” she said.

The workshop forms part of the USAID’s People For Health project being implemented by Send Ghana in collaboration with the Ghana News Agency and Penplusbytes.

Beneficiaries, drawn from districts and municipalities implementing the program, were urged to consider the budget as a conduit to making development decisions, and to identify and solve problems.

She said it was important that they got their knowledge updated, possessed the tools and mechanisms, and knew how to use them, so as to take advantage of the budget process to hold leaders accountable.

“Budget analysis serves as a checklist for Government interventions and achievements. DCMCs must therefore understand the documents the Assemblies produce and use it to hold them accountable.

“It helps influence implementation, and you should influence the budget before its finalized so that your report would be included,” the Programs Officer said.

She urged DCMCs to participate in the planning sessions, and said District Assemblies must show commitment to listening to the people and responding to their requests year after year.

The Assemblies were also asked to give feedback and solicit inputs as well.

The P4H project is focused on five thematic areas including HIV, malaria, family planning and maternal and child health, nutrition, and WASH.

In essence, it helps sustain efforts towards ensure budget justice at both district and the national level.

Mrs. Agyemang said participants should be able to gain ideas on producing stronger proposals towards attracting and sustaining external support.

Committee members were also introduced to the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), and urged to help uphold its principles, which includes openness, inclusiveness, accessibility and transparency at the District Assembly level.