OBS indicates Ghana’s performance has improved from 50 in 2017 to 54 in 2019

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SEND-Ghana
SEND-Ghana

SEND GHANA, taken the opportunity to join civil society groups and like-minded institutions and citizens alike, in calling on government to ensure that there is greater transparency and accountability in the management of Covid-19 funds.

As a leading Civil Society in Budget Advocacy since 2012, SEND GHANA has been partnering with the International Budget Partnership (IBP) in assessing and conferring with Ghana government on the reporting and use of public funds.

SEND GHANA, a leading Civil Society in Budget Advocacy, since 2012 has been partnering with the International Budget Partnership (IBP) in assessing and conferring with Ghana government on the reporting and use of public funds.

SEND GHANA, in a statement signed by
George Osei-Akoto Bimpeh, its Country Director, and copied to News Ghana on 30th April, 2020, took its stand in the wake of the latest edition of the OBS which covers 117 countries and assesses the three broad components of a budget accountability practice: transparency (availability of budget information for the public); public participation (formal opportunities available for citizens participation in the budget process); and budget oversight (the role of formal oversight institutions, including the legislature and the national audit office).

The survey made use of only documents published and events, activities, or developments that took place through 31st December 2018.

According to the survey, globally, the 2019 OBS points to weak transparency and oversight of government spending. It also reveals that four out of five of the 117 governments assessed failed to reach the minimum threshold for adequate budget transparency and oversight, and even fewer provided opportunities for the public to participate in shaping budget policies or monitoring their implementation.

Ghana’s performance according to the survey, although globally, budget transparency level remains low with the average score of 45, Ghana’s performance has improved from 50 in the last round of survey in 2017 to 54 in 2019, and ranks 44 out of 117 countries surveyed.

This makes Ghana a relatively higher performer on the budget transparency score in comparison with six other West African countries (Sierra Leone- 39, Liberia- 38, Sao Tome- 24, Nigeria- 21, Equatorial Guinea- 5, and Gambia- 4).

SRND GHANA says, the reason for this is that, Ghana has increased the availability of its budget documents by particularly publishing the In-year Reports online and in a timely fashion.

SEND GHANA believes that although COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges, it brings opportunity for greater transparency and accountability in the health sector budget.

Read the full statement below;

SEND GHANA
( A Subsidiary of SEND Foundation of West Africa)

PRESS STATEMENT: RELEASE OF 2019 OPEN BUDGET SURVEY (OBS) RESULTS

April 30 2020

The Open Budget Survey (OBS) is the world’s only independent, comparative and fact-based research instrument that uses internationally accepted criteria to assess public access to central government budget information; formal opportunities for the public to participate in the national budget process, and the role of budget oversight institutions such as the legislature and auditor in the budget process. It lays out standards for budget transparency of the central budget by looking for core budget information available in budget documents that governments should publish throughout the budget cycle.

SEND GHANA, a leading Civil Society in Budget Advocacy, since 2012 has been partnering with the International Budget Partnership (IBP) in assessing and conferring with Ghana government on the reporting and use of public funds.

The latest edition of the OBS covers 117 countries and assesses the three broad components of a budget accountability practice: transparency (availability of budget information for the public); public participation (formal opportunities available for citizens participation in the budget process); and budget oversight (the role of formal oversight institutions, including the legislature and the national audit office). The survey made use of only documents published and events, activities, or developments that took place through 31st December 2018.

Globally, the 2019 OBS points to weak transparency and oversight of government spending. It reveals that four out of five of the 117 governments assessed failed to reach the minimum threshold for adequate budget transparency and oversight, and even fewer provided opportunities for the public to participate in shaping budget policies or monitoring their implementation.

Ghana’s performance

The survey reveals that although globally, budget transparency level remains low with the average score of 45, Ghana’s performance has improved from 50 in the last round of survey in 2017 to 54 in 2019, and ranks 44 out of 117 countries surveyed. This makes Ghana a relatively higher performer on the budget transparency score in comparison with six other West African countries (Sierra Leone- 39, Liberia- 38, Sao Tome- 24, Nigeria- 21, Equatorial Guinea- 5, and Gambia- 4). The reason that accounts for this is that Ghana has increased the availability of its budget documents by particularly publishing the In-Year Reports online and in a timely fashion. However, there is room for improvement, and the government must take key actions, including prioritizing the publication of the Pre-Budget Statements too online and on time, while improving the comprehensiveness of the content of the budget documents.

Ghana performed abysmally low on public participation scoring 15 out 100 and dipped by two (2) points when it scored 17 out of 100 in 2017. Ghana’s score also falls below two (2) of its West African counterparts, Nigeria- 22 and Sierra Leone- 31, albeit slightly higher than the global average score of 14. The survey largely attributes reason for Ghana’s low performance to inadequate space for citizens’ participation at the various stages of the budget process. It shows that while limited (41/100) number of citizens had the opportunity to participate in the formulation stages, only a few (0-40/100) participated in the approval, implementation, and audit stages. This undermines the ability of the public to effectively use budget information and in holding the government accountable for the management of public resources. Transparency without inclusive public participation is insufficient for improving governance and positive service delivery outcomes. Thus, although Ghana performs fairly on budget transparency, much effort is needed to further strengthen public participation in the budget process.

For this to happen, the Ministry of Finance should Pilot mechanisms to monitor budget implementation and actively engage with vulnerable and underrepresented communities, directly or through civil society organizations representing them. Also, Ghana’s Parliament should allow members of the public or civil society organizations to testify during its hearings on the budget proposal prior to its approval. Likewise, Parliament should allow members of the public or civil society organizations to testify during its hearings on the Audit Report. In addition, Ghana’s Audit Service should establish formal mechanisms for the public to assist in developing its audit program and to contribute to relevant audit investigations.

On budget oversight, the report posits that Ghana’s legislature and supreme audit institution, together, provide limited oversight during the budget process, with a composite oversight score of 50 out of 100. For the specifics, the legislature scores 44/100 on budget while the audit score 61/100. The report further states that Ghana’s Parliament provides limited oversight during the planning and implementation stages of the budget cycle. To improve oversight, it recommends among others that the legislature should debate budget policy before the Executive’s Budget Proposal is tabled and approve recommendations for the upcoming budget. The Executive’s Budget Proposal should also be submitted to legislators at least two months before the start of the budget year. It further recommends the Legislative committees to examine the Executive’s Budget Proposal, In-Year Budget implementation, and Audit Reports, and publish reports findings with their analysis online. The Audit service also requires legislative or judicial approval to appoint the head of the supreme audit institution and should also ensure audit processes are reviewed by an independent agency.

In addition to the OBS that focuses on central government budgets, we piloted a ‘Health Sector Module’ analysis as part of the OBS 2019 to ascertain sector-specific budget transparency. An analysis of the health sector budget reveals that although Ghana recorded an overall increase in budget transparency with 54 scores, the health sector budget scored a lower mark of 50. This presupposes that information on the health sector-specific budget is limited, which is also a recipe for low public participation. Furthermore, information on actual spending by sub-program or activity is not provided and subnational budget documents are not posted on a central government website, such as the Ministry of Health, etc.

These findings present the government with the opportunity to put in place mechanisms to ensure that Ghana’s health sector budget governance is strengthened. SEND GHANA believes that although COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges, it brings opportunity for greater transparency and accountability in the health sector budget. We take the opportunity to join civil society groups and like-minded institutions and citizens alike, in calling on government to ensure that there is greater transparency and accountability in the management of Covid-19 funds. This will serve as the springboard to spur the Ministry of Health to improve in its management of the budget processes.

We hope that government and the respective institutions would consider the implementation of the respective recommendations enumerated above to improve Ghana’s budgeting processes and financial management systems.

Signed

George Osei-Akoto Bimpeh
Country Director, SEND GHANA
(050-120 4944/0246784896)

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