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Lack of Fiscal Data Stalls Budget Transparency

The lack of fiscal data and a detailed budget with disaggregated sectoral expenditure figures on key policy programmes have been identified as the challenges to budget transparency, monitoring and evaluation.

This came to light at a workshop organized by the Ghana Aid Effectiveness Forum (GAEF), an umbrella body of national civil society networks, and SEND-GHANA- a subsidiary of SEND Foundation of West Africa- to critically appraise ongoing civil society led budget tracking initiatives while taking stock of the experience and insights gained to promote best practices to ensure future budget transparency.

Clara Osei Boateng, Director of Policy Advocacy Programmes at SEND-GHANA, in her presentation said the workshop was aimed at presenting findings of the independently monitored and evaluated 2013 budget to provide evidence for public dialogue and the subsequent fiscal responsibility in Ghana.

She explained that, going by the theme of the workshop: “The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Promoting Fiscal Transparency in Ghana,”the participation of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the preparation, approval, execution and monitoring of the budget is a practice, which will ensure budget transparency and accountability.

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“The reasons for budget monitoring are diverse,” she said. “It helps to provide evidence for policy dialogue for greater fiscal responsibility, improve credibility by making the budget more responsive to development policies. For example, government says we need 300 people to support the black stars when we don’t have the money for it.”

The analysis and monitoring of the 2013 budget by SEND-GHANA was carried out around 15 thematic areas including agriculture, health, education, water and sanitation, oil and gas.

Under the evaluation and monitoring of the Water and Sanitation Sector, SEND-GHANA discovered that the percentage gaps between the amounts requested by the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) and the actual amounts released were significantly high in the budget trends of the years 2004 to 2009.

In 2009 for instance, the CWSA requested an amount of GH¢5,022,197 but the actual amount released was GH¢2,392,537, representing a percentage gap of 52.36%.

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The presentation concluded on the need for transparency and accountability via the release of timely, relevant and user-friendly data on government expenditure and the blockage of leakages which include impulse pronouncement on projects by politicians even though the projects have not been budgeted for by the state.

An official of the Finance ministry, Samuel Danquah Arkhurst said after the transparency code was established in 1999 by ECOWAS to enable fiscal transparency and public participation, the government of Ghana also in 2009, established the Ghana Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS) to ensure fiscal transparency.

He assured that the Ministry was introducing user-friendly software on its website to implement program-based budgeting to make the budget simple to understand by every Ghanaian. This will run vis-à-vis the citizens’ budget, an abridged form of the detailed budget.

Ernest Armah of policy think-tank, IMANI Ghana, highlighted some challenges to budget transparency and monitoring including access to data, inconsistency of data from diverse government agencies and the lack of cooperation from government representatives.

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SEND-GHANA, in recommending the way forward towards ensuring better budget transparency and evaluation of projects, confirmed that it was soon to receive funding from the World Bank to further research the community level impact of government expenditure.