Government has been advised to establish a strong financial sustainability plan that would enable it to progress with the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) and the other social intervention programmes.
The advice forms part of SEND-Ghana’s recommendations, after a research conducted on the equity in resource allocations to education, health and social protection, and a scrutiny of the 2018 Annual Budget to these sectors.
Mrs Harriet Nuamah-Agyemang, the Programme Officer of SEND-Ghana, explained that government’s proposal in the 2018 Budget Statement, to set up a voluntary fund to finance the Free SHS Programme, lacked clarity, in terms of how much was being targeted, how that target was going to be met, and how the initiative answered the question of sustainability.
Mrs Nuamah-Agyemang stated at a round-table organized by the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) in Accra, which attracted participants from the academia, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), policymakers, implementers and the media.
The meeting was to explore the nexus between budget allocation and inequality, focusing on Education, Health and Social Protection.
Mrs Nuamah-Agyemang said government needed to answer questions on prioritisation and equity in these three areas, stating that, the gaps at the basic level of education must be adequately addressed in order to build a stronger foundation for Ghanaian children.
She said, “in this respect, enough funds should be allocated for basic education. In addition, parents who can easily afford to pay for SHS for their wards must be allowed to do so to save funds to support poor parents to take their wards through basic education”.
The government, she said, must also ensure that funds allocated were timely disbursed in their entirety to strengthen the management systems of schools, so that the directorates of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES) could implement all pro-poor policy interventions such as the Capitation grant, Free SHS and examination subsidies among others.
The presentation by SEND-Ghana further proposed that government increase allocation to capital expenditure (CAPEX) in the 2018 Supplementary budget by earmarking a significant proportion of revenues from the extractive non-renewable sector and other sources such as the Talk Tax, and ensure the judicious expansion of the GETFund of over GHC928 million.
Mrs Nuamah-Agyemang said the expansion of the GETFund allocation was necessary to address the infrastructural deficit at the Basic and Senior High School levels, especially as has been exposed by the implementation of the Free SHS.
On the health sector, the government was also urged to complete the reimbursement of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) claims to health service providers, timely.
“This should be accompanied by a financial sustainability plan to ensure that the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) promptly pays health facilities for services rendered.
“Persistent delays in payment of claims to these facilities cripple their ability to deliver quality services,” she said.
The SEND-Ghana report also urged the government to expedite action and follow-up on the report submitted by the Chris Atim-led Independent Technical Committee, which came out with a clear plan for improving upon the effectiveness and efficiency of the NHIS, which pay a key role in health financing in the country.
She said it was also realized that the 2018 budget statement, was silent on the suspension of the NHIS Capitation programme in 2017, which had earlier been cited in the Ghana Health Service’s (GHS) 2016 Annual Report as one of the solutions to guarantee the timely release of financial resources to health service providers.
The government was therefore asked to review the NHIS Capitation programme alongside the 2016 Independent Technical Committee’s Report for clear and sustainable payment implementation plan.
Mrs Nuamah-Agyemang, urged government to enact a Social Protection Law to provide legal backing to the “Social Protection Policy” and to regulate relationships among the key entities working to achieve this common goal.
She also called on government to work aggressively and expand the key interventions like the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme to reduce extreme poverty among the vulnerable groups in society.
She said a well-coordinated social protection budgeting would enable the country to align its expenditures on the sector and make progress in the Gross Domestic Product.
Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, IDEG Executive Director, thanked the participants for their contributions, saying that, although Ghana has made significant progress in her socio-economic development and poverty reduction, there must be equity in budgetary allocation to ensure sustained progress.