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General News Fri, 27 Feb 2004

MPs decry budgetary allocation to Women Ministry

Accra, Feb. 27, GNA- Members of Parliament, Friday decried the 20.563 billion cedis, allocated to the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MWCA) in the 2004 budget as scanty, saying it defeated government's professed commitment to the course of women in the country.

The amount, though represented more than 100 per cent increase over the 9.669 billion cedis allocated to the Ministry last year, was described as "woefully inadequate" by MPs, who unanimously approved it, but called for it to be reviewed and possibly appreciated.

Presenting the report on the 2004 Annual Budget Estimates of the Ministry, Mrs. Angelina Baiden-Amissah, Chairperson of the Committee on Gender and Children, noted that the scanty budget was also not fairly distributed among the various sectors of the Ministry.

She observed that out of the total amount, of which 18.535 billion was expected from government sources and 2.028 billion cedis from donor sources, the 2.750 billion cedis allocated to Administrative Expenses was too low as against 9.4 billion allocated to the Services in the ministry.

Mrs. Baiden-Amissah argued that the Ministry had been bedevilled with lack of adequate equipment, no library and inadequate staff to function properly, adding that "during this year the Ministry would have to acquire a lot of office equipment and recruit more staff to fill the vacancies resulting in increased overhead expenses."

"The Committee therefore recommends that 2.250 billion cedis be moved from the Service Activity to Administrative Expenses to make the amount read five billion cedis for the latter," she said.

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Mr. Alban Bagbin, Minority Leader, noted that the amount allocated to the Ministry did not truly reflect the government's commitment to the course of women in the country as professed by the NPP during the 2000 electioneering campaign.

He called for a review of the amount and if possible an appreciation in the cause of the year.

Mr. Bagbin however noted that last year, the Ministry received a Japanese grant, which did not pass through Parliament for approval but was used by the Ministry, adding that the government should desist from such behaviours and ensure that all loans and grants were approved by Parliament before they are used.

Mr. Mike Hammah, NDC-Effutu, said available statistics show that 50 of Women in the country were illiterate and 50 per cent more women than their male counterparts were unemployed, adding that though 70 per cent of the women constitute the informal production sector, they lacked credit facilities to develop.

This, he said, called for a bigger budgetary allocation to the Women's Ministry to be able to support the course of women in the country "as most of these women who live and work in the rural areas are usually exploited by traders from the cities, who buy food stuff and other products from them at very low prices."

Mrs. Alice Boon, NDC- Lambussie, urged the Minister of Women and Children Affairs, Mrs. Gladys Asmah to "be bold and tell the Minister of Finance that the money allocated to the ministry is too small - don't just say that if Parliament approves it you will manage, otherwise we will take it upon ourselves as women MPs and make a strong case for the Ministry in this respect."

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Mrs. Hanna Tette Kpodar, NDC-Awutu-Senya, said women and children centres, should be opened in the 110 districts to implement programmes of the ministry to ensure that the benefits of such programmes got down to the grass-root level.

She also noted that the work of the Ministry demand more cross country travels but the Ministry has only two Pick-up vehicles donated by DANIDA, adding that more money needed to the Ministry to acquire more vehicles.

Mrs. Cecilia Gyan Amoah, NPP- Asutifi South urged the Ministry to put in place, an effective monitoring machinery to ensure that monies given to women for specific purposes were used for those purpose and nothing else, as complaints of misuse of funds has also been a problem in the ministry.

She also alleged that those who were usually charged to distribute monies from the Women Development Fund to women took advantage of the illiteracy of the beneficiaries and either charged them some percentages for their personal use, or as favours from them.

Mrs. Asmah and Mrs. Baiden-Amissah corroborated the allegation by Mrs. Amoah and assured the House that the disbursement process would be monitored effective to bring the recalcitrant men involved to book. Mr. Asmah also assured the House the district assemblies were being used as avenues to bring more women into politics and ultimately to Parliament to participate in decision-making, especially on matters affecting women.

Source: GNA