Mr Speaker, I beg to support the Motion on the 2015 Annual Budget Estimates for the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, ably moved by the Hon Minister and which is before us. And in doing so, I have a few comments to make.
Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that the role of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is so key in the socioeconomic development of this nation, due principally to its decentralised nature and character.
Mr Speaker, this is a Ministry which is mandated to ensure a balanced development of all the Metropolitan, Municipal and Distr ict Assemblies throughout the country, the success of which undoubtedly, would ensure the sustainable and equitable economic growth of the country simultaneously, and by so doing, there is no doubt that poverty would be reduced to the barest minimum.
This can only be achieved if all approved budgetary allocations to the Ministry itself and its associated agencies and departments are released timeously.
Mr Speaker, the Committee's Report as presented by the Chairman has scheduled a number of successes achieved by the Ministry in the year 2014, which is under review.
But the fact remains that the Ministry, together with all its departments, have been operating and continue to operate under very difficult circumstances. The donor dependency syndrome of the
Ministry as captured in the Report of the Committee on page 19, paragraph 10.1.6, is extremely worrying. On that page, we are told that for the year under review, almost 65 per cent of the Ministry's budgetary allocation is donor dependent while the 2015 forecast even raises it to 85 per cent.
Mr Speaker, it is very worrying in the sense that in such a situation, should anything happen and the foreign or donor counterpart fails to come, it means that the budgetary allocation and for that matter, the operations and the performance of the whole Ministry and its agencies and departments would be thrown out of gear.
This is a key Ministry, as I have already said, that ensures balanced development across the nation at any particular time throughout the year. It is therefore, important that this aspect is watched critically to ensure that future budgets are reduced significantly to enable us to depend more on the Government of Ghana portion of the budget.
If we turn to page 7 of the Report, under Table D, the situation is very clear, and in our Report, it is stated on page 18, that for the year under review, we have had 81 per cent of budgetary releases. But Mr Speaker, the expenditure table found on page 7, Table D shows that the donor release of GH¢126,794,656.38 for the year alone forms almost 81 per cent of the monies being released and expended by the Ministry, with the exception of compensation which comes in the form of salaries and wages and has a budgetary overrun of almost three per cent.
It is very sad to observe that, under Goods and Services, out of the approved budget of GH¢28,158,677.40, only a little of over four million has been released, representing 14.49 per cent. Under Assets of the GH¢11,002,353.60 allocated to the Ministry, not a pesewa has been released in 2014 and for that matter, nothing has
been expended. But if you look at Table B on page 6, the 2014 budgetary allocations to the various cost centres and look at the column on Assets, Sanitation alone should have attracted a little over in 2014. The Births and Deaths Registry should have attracted GH¢400,000.00 under Assets and the same applies to the Department of Parks and Gardens and other core centres, but not even a cedi was released up to date.
Mr Speaker, it is therefore, not surprising that without these releases to enable these core centres to acquire the necessary equipment needed for their performance and operations, cholera took over our cities and hundreds of our citizens died because they lived in filth; what should have gone into sanitation and waste management did not happen.
Both Tables C and E also show a very sorry state of the Ministry. Various sectors therefore, suffered and continue to suffer and we are only hoping that releases would be on target at least, for this last quarter because the figures here cover between January and September.
This is because of this erratic releases of funds, all the sectors are suffering; School Feeding, Births and Deaths Department and the Department of Parks and Gardens. Available statistics show that even school enrolment under school feeding has increased up to 1.7 million children in 2014, covering 4,881 schools. We know the importance of school feeding, which apart from reducing poverty, has health implications on our children.
Even our farmers benefit if this programme is well-sustained. It is therefore, a worrying situation that all these important sectors are suffering.
Mr Speaker, if we go to page 13 of your Committee's Report, the last paragraph - 7.5.5, under Births and Deaths Department, it is interesting to observe that, that Department managed to get the statistics of births and deaths in the country and the statistics show that 372,590 out of 628,751 births were registered, representing only 59.2 per cent.
The Department managed to know the number of births in the country but they registered a little over half because they did not have the resources to do their work. And even if you look at death, the situation is more worrying; the Department has the mechanism to know that 39,194 out of the 204,140 deaths were registered, representing only 19.1 per cent.
But Mr Speaker, we know the importance of births and deaths even in the development of our nation, and if we should starve such an important Department of resources, then where are we heading towards as a nation?
Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I would want to draw the Government's attention to its commitment of counterpart funding if we want to see equitable development in our nation and if we want to continue to solicit and receive the donor support from the international community.
Mr Speaker, pages 24 and 25 of the Committee's Report bring this situation out clearly. Mr Speaker, under Ghana Social Opportunities Project, this country and the Ministry should have made use of a whooping sum of US$5,000,000 under its Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme.
This could not materialise for two main reasons; one of the reasons was that, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection could not do an assessment of a target household figure of GH¢80,000 and more importantly, the Government