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ER: Are Assemblies misappropriating Common Fund allocation for malaria control?

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Wed, 13 Jan 2021 Source:

Correspondence from Eastern Region:

Municipal and District Assemblies (MDAs) in the Eastern Region may highly be misappropriating the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) allocation meant to help efforts at eliminating malaria in the country, Ghanaweb’s inquiry suggests.

The Common Fund Secretariat developed guidelines for the utilization of the District Assembly Common Fund on the allocation of 0.5 percent to promote efforts at eliminating malaria in Ghana but the MDAs seem to be sublimely abusing the guidelines.

In Ghana, the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) is the formula-based system of financial transfers for local development from the Central Government. The Fund was created under Article 252 of the Constitution to serve as a mechanism for the transfers of resources from the Central Government to the MMDAs.

The Article provides that now 7.5% of Ghana’s total revenue should be paid into the Fund for distribution to the local authorities. To operationalise this constitutional provision, Parliament enacted the DACF Act (Act 455) in July 1993 to provide further legislation and detail on the administration of the Fund. As such, 0.5% of the fund to MMDAs was allocated purposely for malaria control.

Ghanaweb, therefore, set out to some Municipal Assemblies in the Eastern Region to inquire about how they utilise their 0.5% DACF allocation for malaria control. Some of these MDAs however did not open their doors for this exercise.

At the New Juaben South Municipal Assembly, the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Mr. Isaac Apaw-Gyasi, indicated that his outfit undertakes a lot of activities to minimise malaria cases.

He mentioned activities such as embarking on market and household sensitisation as well as clean-up exercises to get residents in the Municipality to be much aware of malaria and the need to keep their surroundings clean to avoid contracting the disease.

Mr. Apaw-Gyasi also said New Juaben South got the opportunity to be part of the Secondary City Project undertaken by the Government of Ghana where over GHC14.8 million funded by the World Bank was given to reconstruct what they called the Nsukwao Basin with focus on de-silting streams and drains to prevent the breeding of the female anopheles mosquitoes that eventually spread the malaria parasites.

The Basin is a stretch of a river which starts from communities such as Ada Magazine, Zongo, Tanoso, Nsukwao all the way through various communities in Koforidua, the Municipal capital, to join Densuano into the main Densu (River).

“It is a huge channel. Because it had been there for many years without any attention, there were a lot of stagnant streams which created the breeding of the mosquitoes and I can say that this funding that we got from the World Bank has made it possible for us to reconstruct the Nsukwao Basin and apart from the fact that it is going to check the spread of mosquitoes which are the carriers of parasites, it is also going to check the usual flooding which happens anytime it rains in Koforidua,” he said.

From the MCE’s response, it was clear that the funding for the construction of the Basin was from World Bank and not from the 0.5% DACF allocation.

When asked how he funds activities against malaria, he replied that the Assembly relied on its Internally Generated Fund (IGF) to fund such activities.

“Basically the Assembly relies on its IGF. It is not everything we have to wait for the Common Fund or the District Development Fund (DDF) to fight such a very serious problem. I think that we as a Municipality also have the capacity to generate our own revenue and use it in our interest. So for me, I have no problem putting something aside to fight malaria. So basically we rely on our internally generated fund,” he said confidently.

Ghanaweb then asked him if he was aware there was a component of the DACF meant for championing malaria elimination activities? He dragged a bit in an indication that he was not really aware of it or his outfit was not using it solely for that purpose.

“Eerm, errm, I wouldn’t be surprised. Even if there were no such thing I believe the Assembly or whoever is the Chief Executive can still make available some contingency fund out of the Common Fund to fight malaria,” he said.

From Ghanaweb’s observation, even though New Juaben South Assembly was doing so well to reduce malaria, the 0.5% DACF allocation was not really part of the action. Where then does the 0.5% allocation go?

When Ghanaweb approached the Malaria Focal Person at the New Juaben South Health Directorate, Akua Durowaa-Adjei, she said, “In terms of finances we have never received anything like that. Malaria programmes are usually sponsored by the Malaria Control Programme and the Ghana Health Service.”

“In terms of resources such as vehicles, yes we fall on them. But finances I have never heard anything like that. I heard there is (an allocation for malaria control in the DACF). There should be something like that. Anyway, it has to pass through my Director,” she said alluding that her Health Director might be aware if the Assembly was giving them the allocation or not.

Ghanaweb approached the Municipal Health Director, Dr. Ekow Kaitoo, who contended that “When we do any programme they support us. They tell us it is part of the money allocation (from the DACF). Most cases its fuel. They pay part of the fuel components.” Which suggests that the malaria allocation is been used for all health-related activities and not solely for malaria control.

Meanwhile at a stakeholders meeting held in the Lower Manya Krobo Municipality by SEND Ghana under its People for Health Project, the situation was not different. It emerged that the Health Directorate had never received any allocation from the Assembly in relation to malaria control.

According to the Lower Manya Krobo Municipal Health Director, Dr. Bismark Sarkodie, as far as he was aware, he had not been given any money for malaria activity since he took office in 2019 and that if the Assembly did so in previous years, he might not be aware as there was no record at his office to show that.

The Assembly staffers present at the meeting contended that truly there had not been proper collaboration between the Health Directorate and the Assembly on the judicious use of the malaria money and pledged to do so thenceforth.

The trend of events did not please Mrs. Harriet Nuamah Agyemang, the Senior Project Officer at SEND Ghana who told Ghanaweb that just because it is money brought to the Assemblies, some of them do not feel obliged to use the money for malaria control because they think they have other priorities than malaria.

“For me it is a worrying situation to find that some Assemblies will not even inform the Health Directorates that there is this money for this purpose. They use it as they will. Even the Health Directorates will request for money and they will not mind them. It is disheartening to know that this happens in some areas,” she expressed.

Mrs. Agyemang called for a good collaboration between the Assemblies and the Health Directorates to ensure that the allocations are released based on plans that have been submitted by the Health Directorate, and the Assemblies also monitor how it is being used for the common good of the general populace.

She also appealed to the Common Fund Administrator to release Fund on time to avert the seeming misappropriation of the 0.5% malaria allocation by the MDAs.

Malaria still remains one of the deadly diseases in Ghana. It is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

According to statistics on health-related deaths, malaria is among the top diseases that claim more lives globally and nationally and Ghana is among the 15 highest burden malaria countries in the world.

Delivering a speech at the 2018 Malaria Summit in London, the President of the Republic of Ghana, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, assured world leaders at the summit of Ghana‘s commitment to overcoming the fight against malaria by 2030.

However, from the look of things, as far as the Eastern Region is concerned, more needs to be done to get the MDAs to judiciously support the government policy of zero cases of malaria in Ghana by 2030.