The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) has called for an immediate probe into the utilization of the local COVID-19 fund in the Kintampo South District of the Bono East Region.
Utilization of the fund for COVID-19 response activities in the District, the Coalition said had several infractions which raised questions and required investigations.
According to research findings revealed by the Coalition, the District reportedly received a total of GH¢236,296 as the receipts for COVID-19 response in 2020, but funds for 2021 remained unclear as no expenditure items were reported in the year.
The 2020 funds were received in three tranches of GH¢20,000 GH¢50,000 and GH¢166,296 with the sources from the government through the National COVID-19 funds, District Assembly Common Fund, and District Performance Assessment Tool respectively.
Other local donations were also received from Non-Governmental Organizations and individuals and support from these sources were, however, in the form of logistics and Personal Protective Equipment, the monetary value of such items as well as the quantities were not reported.
The Kintampo South Local Accountability Network (LAN), a network of civil society bodies in collaboration with MIHOSO, an NGO with support from the GACC conducted the research.
It was in the COVID-19 accountability project implemented by the Coalition titled: “COVID-19 Accountability Bridges-Providing Platforms for Engaging Government on Transparent and Accountable COVID-19 Expenditure”.
The 18-month project, being implemented between September 2020 and March 2022 was funded by the US Embassy in Accra and aimed at providing the government with the platform to account for COVID-19 policy implementation and expenditure while availing the same platform to citizens to scrutinize government accountability.
As part of the project activities, LANet monitored the COVID-19 policy and expenditure in the district.
Highlighting some of the findings of the research at a dissemination meeting held at Jema, the district capital, Mr Gordon Gyasi Agyarko, the Chairman of the LANet noted the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on lives and health care systems in the district.
He explained the district assembly set up a five-member committee to respond to the COVID-19 and carried out response activities, but added several infractions were identified in the utilization of the funds at the local level.
The funds received were expended on items that sought to improve sanitation, increase water supply to citizens, public education and awareness campaigns, and afforded people the opportunity to have access to PPE.
But the specific expenditure items including the extension of pipe-borne to Jema and Anyima markets as well as drilling, construction, installation, and mechanization of borehole and construction of two urinals at Apesika were not accounted for.
“All funds spent on the conversion of the old maternity block of the Jema Hospital to an isolation centre as well as other expenditure on the provision of PPE such as nose masks, hand sanitisers, and handwashing materials including veronica buckets, tissue papers, and liquid soap must be accounted.”
“In fact, while some of the expenditure items were budgeted items, others were not part of the Assembly’s budget for the year 2020, but they became necessary due to exigency of the COVID-19 pandemic”, Mr Agyarko added.
He regretted the breakdown of the cost incurred in procuring items and services were not provided, thereby making, “it difficult to tell whether or not all funds received have been exhausted or there are more funds left unaccounted”.
“No fund receipt and expenditure information related to 2021 was provided as part of the data collected”.
Mr Agyarko noted the failure of the government to honour its promise of providing front-line Health workers in the districts with a special package impacted negatively on the commitment levels of the health workers towards addressing the health threat the pandemic posed to the people.
“The initial shortage of N95 in August 2020 also affected the district’s response to the pandemic, at least for the period of the shortage and despite the setting up of the committee to lead the COVID-19 response work in the district, it appeared the members had no idea about the exact amount and sources of the funds received for the District’s COVID-19 response”.
Currently, he added the rapid response committee had lost track of the COVID 19 response program in the District, saying there were no updates, meetings to discuss pandemics, and poor communication among the committee members.
“It, thus, appears the Kintampo South District is back to default despite the fact that COVID-19 is still glaring at the people’s faces”, he said and called for the reactivation of the District’s COVID-19 rapid response committee to enforce adherence to the safety protocols.
Further engagement on procurement methods and analysis for items which cost exceeded the GH¢10,000 thresholds required to conduct procurement analysis”, he added, stressing the pandemic still exists and relaxing efforts especially on adherence to the protocols could increase the risk of further infections.
Mr Imoro Abdulai, the Project Officer, GACC, later told the press similar infractions had been identified in the utilization of the COVID-19 funds in other project implementing districts, saying the findings would be released soon.