GAS to assist citizens to engage 50 assemblies on development projects

Tamale The Ghana Audit Service has conducted performance audits to assess the quality of selected infrastructural projects under Ghana’s Strengthening Accountability Mechanisms (GSAM) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

It is to evaluate for value-for-money in public budgeting of 50 selected District Assembly projects including classroom blocks, health centres, teachers’ and nurses’ quarters, and toilet facilities.

The audit reports would show how well or poorly the projects were executed and whether the assemblies followed due processes in planning, tendering, contracting, monitoring and supervising these projects.

Scorecards that rated the performance of the assemblies have been generated based on the performance audit findings and would be available to citizens from November.

The GSAM project and the Ghana Audit Service, would organize district town-hall and community meetings to disseminate the outcomes of the performance audits using the scorecards, which were developed with the involvement of citizens and civil society organisations (CSOs) across the 50 districts located in regions including Northern, North East and Savannah.

The initiative is to increase citizens’ access to information on the performance of their assemblies in terms of infrastructural projects and make it possible for them to use the information to demand accountability, improved quality of infrastructural projects and value for money in public spending.

It is expected that citizens of districts that receive positive ratings would have an improved understanding of the efforts of their local government authorities, whilst citizens of districts that received negative ratings would demand improved service delivery.

Over the years, the reports of performance audits conducted by GAS on the planning and execution of infrastructural projects by assemblies uncover various infractions. The reports are submitted to Parliament, which scrutinizes them as part of its oversight of public funds.

However, persons whom adverse findings are made against are often not punished, a situation, which emboldens others to commit similar acts. That is why the GSAM project seeks to discourage, by promoting bottom-up approach in the selection and execution of capital development projects to promote citizens’ monitoring of such projects in a bid to ensure accountability.

GSAM works to improve accountability, transparency and performance at the local government level by strengthening both central government and citizen’s oversight of capital projects in 100 districts.

It is implemented by a consortium comprising CARE International, Oxfam and the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), in collaboration with the GAS, the implementing Assemblies and other CSOs.

Since the inception of the GSAM in 2014, USAID supported the GAS to conduct similar performance audits on assemblies’ infrastructure in another set of 50 districts in 2014 and the findings were disseminated between 2015 and 2016.

This generated enthusiasm amongst the citizenry to demand accountability from duty-bearers, who on the other hand, have become meticulous in undertaking capital development projects such that they would not be accused of any infractions or misappropriation of public funds.

The GSAM project, over the past five years, has been touted for helping to whip up citizens’ interest in local governance issues as well as placing officials of the assemblies on their toes.

The GSAM implementers have observed that with increasing demand by the citizenry for more social services, coupled with low volumes of revenue generation, there is the need for judicious use of public funds.

Mr Mohammed Mahamud, Governance Programme Coordinator of Oxfam, at a recent workshop for CSOs, community development monitors and citizen groups in Sunyani, said there is the need for stakeholders to be critical in demanding transparency and accountability from assemblies to ensure value for money in the infrastructural projects the assemblies provide.

As GSAM enters its sixth and final year, it is imperative that the milestones achieved will be sustained such that the assemblies will follow the laid down procedures to initiate, select contractors and execute capital development projects to safeguard the public purse.

The GSAM project’s concept and the Local Government Service Act of 2016, Act 936, seeks to promote a bottom-up approach to the initiation and execution of capital development projects to ensure that the projects represent the felt needs of the citizenry to facilitate community ownership of those projects and promote sustainability.

Source: Ghana News Agency