Civil society want answers on public spending, local and foreign.
Omar Ortez is the Senior Policy Advisor on Active Citizenship at Oxfam America
The Ghanaian think tank, Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Africa (FAT-Africa), convened leaders of civil society organizations, the private sector, unions, and religious leaders to discuss the country’s fiscal transparency and accountability challenges last week in Accra.
In anticipation of the upcoming US-Africa Leaders Summit to be held in Washington DC this coming August,* Ghanaian leaders will gather recommendations to the government of Ghana on budget and expenditure governance. They will also produce recommendations for the US government, so that, together with other donors, the US can more effectively partner with the Ghanaian government to strengthen national public finance systems and institutions. Such recommendations from citizens are timely since, just last week, the Parliament of Ghana, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) signed an agreement to support the Partliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its oversight responsibilities for government expenditure.
Albert Kan-Dapaah, a former cabinet minister and former chair of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament of Ghana, teamed up with three eminent chartered accountants to co-found the think tank last year, Himself a chartered accountant, Kan-Dappah went into early retirement to work on these issues from the civil society side because he felt compelled by the challenges of “making the public purse work better for ordinary Ghanaians.” Oxfam is one of the FAT-Africa’s supporters.
What are the kinds of issues that civil society leaders are likely to raise to improve public spending in Ghana? We got a few clues during a visit that Solomon Ampofo, a leader from Friends of the Nation (FON-Ghana) made to Washington DC earlier this year.
Friends of the Nation is an Oxfam partner championing improved use of oil/gas revenues for local development. Ampofo agrees that public sector reform is necessary along the lines of tackling leakages in public resources (e.g. cleaning “ghost names” in public sector payroll, estimated at 10,000 names), or rationalizing the public sector (e.g. reducing duplication, improving efficiency and performance). Ampofo further told us that making public investments more strategic is likely to gain citizens’ support because they see that current investments are being spread too thin, leading to incomplete projects and overrun costs (e.g. many uncompleted roads). Ampofo also laid out a clear vision for matching public spending with long term national goals:
“On public spending, Ghana needs to move beyond medium-term political-parties manifestos (currently driving national plans) and into a long-term, 20- to 30-year national investment plan. We need national agreements, made into law, on funding priorities for long-term economic, social, and institutional goals. Political parties can then compete with their electoral proposals for how to move towards those goals each five-year term.”
*Stay tuned to Oxfam’s Politics of Poverty blog for more African civil society perspectives on the upcoming US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC.