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Business News of Sunday, 22 February 2015

Source: Public Agenda

Lack of funds scattering Senchi consensus

The Senchi Consensus is facing serious challenges in its implementation as lack of funds thwart the efforts of the various Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) implementing aspects of the consensus, while data unavailability frustrates the monitoring of progress by the Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) hosted by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) in Accra.

In its first report released in December 2014, a copy of which is in the possession of Public Agenda, the IAG conceded that implementing the Senchi Consensus was encountering difficulties as a result of the inability of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to provide cash, and due to the lack of data.  The Consensus, which was issued after the National Economic Forum was held on May 13-15, 2014, recommended the setting up of the IAG to monitor and report on progress of implementation from time to time. The next progress report is due in July, following the decision of the IAG to report on the progress of the implementation of the Consensus every six months.

“The principal challenge cited by most of the implementing agencies is lack of budgetary resources to undertake the planned activities. The 2014 budget was long approved before the Senchi recommendations, and therefore budgetary resources were not available to take on new activities. For those that were already in the 2014 budget, delayed release of funds by the MoF contributed to slow implementation of interventions,” the report noted.

It revealed that the slow process in securing Cabinet approval for the Municipal Finance Authority Bill and Competition Bill was “a major challenge for achieving the target under the Senchi framework.” It said the MoF reported that the stabilisation provision in petroleum agreements renders it impossible for the government to renew or renegotiate the terms and conditions of existing oil contracts. “The proposed target is, therefore, unachievable,” the report stated.

“Additional challenges reported were: (a) The continued disruption in the supply of gas from the West African Gas Pipeline from August, 2012 through to August 2014, negatively affecting power supply; (b) Decline in gold and cocoa prices, cumulatively affecting output and tax revenues; and (c) Slow disbursement of programme grants from development partners for the third successive year (about 75 per cent below what was pledged to support the budget) contributing to a shortfall in revenue.”

The report also observed that data was not available at the time of reporting. On Strategic Objective 1, it said: “For a significant proportion of the indicators (29%) there was either inadequate data to assess progress or what was submitted was not directly relevant to the indicator and actions to be reported.” Data was non-available for the eighth indicator of Strategic Objective 2. On Strategic Objective 3, it said: “Data were, however, unavailable at the time of reporting on four of the indicators to make assessment.”

According to the report, the IAG encountered the challenge of getting the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to submit their reports within the agreed time-frame. “The reporting on implementation of the Senchi Consensus was fraught with a lack of timely data on a substantial number of activities,” it added.

It continued: “Specific issues relating to agencies reporting on the Senchi commitments include: delayed reporting; providing general information rather than specifics; submitting information not directly relevant to the policy measures and indicators being monitored; gaps in the information submitted; and not submitting any information at all (non-response).”

The report concluded: “Implementation of the activities by the responsible agencies and reporting on them by IAG were constrained from both fronts. On the part of the agencies, budgetary constraints were a major factor affecting implementation. Consequently, the activities implemented generally tended to be those that were either on-going or did not require budgetary resources. Activities that required specific budgetary allocation received limited attention during the reporting period.

“This may be due to the fact that some of the responsibilities were assumed mid-year and had not been previously programmed. It is, therefore, important that the relevant MDAs take the necessary steps to ensure that budgetary provisions are made for the implementation of the activities in 2015 and beyond.”

The report recommended that the MDAs should adopt the matrix as an internal tool for monitoring progress towards their assigned tasks so that pertinent data would be routinely gathered and made available at the appropriate