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Regional News of Sunday, 5 January 2014

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Children’s homes reeling from inadequate funding

A study carried out from January 2009 to 2012 by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) on Residential Homes for Children (RHC) in Ghana has found that the number of RHCs operating in the country had increased by 169 per cent from 55 in 2005 to 148 in 2012 and they catered for about 4,500 children.

This rise has, however, not been matched by increase in funding for the residential homes, a performance audit report of the Auditor-General from a study conducted on four sampled regions (Greater Accra, Western, Northern, Ashanti) and three other homes in the Central Region has revealed.

According to the A-G’s report on the regulation of residential homes for children (orphanages) by the DSW, the only fund available for use for the DSW’s planned activities was the Government of Ghana (GoG) funds, which excluded salaries and allowances.

The funds were categorised into direct Government of Ghana (GoG) funding, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Internally Generated Funds (IGFs).

Nonetheless, the report indicates that while the amount of money received by the DSW increased by 43 per cent from 2008 to 2009, it dropped by 65 per cent from 2009 to 2010.

Further, GoG funds allocated to the DSW increased by 27 per cent from 2010 to 2011 and 21 per cent from 2011 to 2012.

Funding recorded for DSW activities between 2008 and 2012, as indicated by financial files at the department, shows 2008 figures as GH¢107, 690 for direct GoG funding, GH¢468,516 from LEAP, GH¢180,565 from UNICEF and GH¢7,772 from IGFs, all totalling GH¢764,543.

For 2009, the figures were: GH¢153, 571 from direct funding; GH¢380,048 from LEAP; GH¢152,898 from UNICEF and GH¢8,425 from IGFs, totalling GH¢694,942.

In 2010 direct funding from GoG was GH¢53,499; LEAP funding was GH¢780,331; UNICEF contributed GH¢359,742; IGFs added up to GH¢9,401 and summed up to GH¢1,202,973.

Funding received in 2011 was GH¢68,050 from direct GoG funding, GH¢536,897 from LEAP, GH¢347,012 from UNICEF and GH¢8,619 from IGFs, totalling GH¢960,578.

For 2012, the DSW received GH¢82,067 as direct GoG funding; GH¢639,700 from LEAP; GH¢165,771 from UNICEF and GH¢9,719 from IGFs; all adding up to GH¢897,257.

Therefore, receipts in direct GoG funding for the five years totalled GH¢464,877; LEAP funding added up to GH¢2,805,492; funding from UNICEF amounted to GH¢1,205,988, while IGFs totalled GH¢43,936, with all receipts for the period adding up to GH¢4,520,293.

Child abuse

The study, which was carried out to determine whether the DSW’s regulation of the operations of RHCs was ensuring care and protection of the children, also encountered reports of child abuse, trafficking, unreported movement of children, inadequate caregivers, the absence of infirmaries or sickbays, molestation and neglect at the RHCs.

It lists notable homes of abuse as the Osu Children’s Home and the Peace and Love Orphanage at Adenta (Accra), while most orphanages in the country were reported to be operating illegally and below the standards set by the DSW.

The study found that the DSW had not regulated the RHCs operating in the country to provide care and protection for children admitted into the homes, therefore placing the lives of the children at risk.

While noting that the DSW had not licensed 96 per cent of RHCs operating in the sampled regions, the team found that due to that situation, the DSW was unable to ensure effective supervision of the RHCs, as most of the homes they superintended were not formally registered and recognised.

No effective supervision and monitoring

It was also established that the DSW did not have the required data on the operating RHCs in the sampled regions, which made it difficult to track progress of the RHCs, as well as the wellbeing of the children in the RHCs, assess the competency of the home owners and managers and also recommend corrective measures to the homes.

The study found that the activity plans of the DSW had no monitoring schedule and district officers could not provide reports on visits they had made to the RHCs. As a result, minimum standards for operating the RHCs, as prescribed by the guidelines, were not met and followed by the RHCs.

However, the team found that 17 out of 25 officers did not have activity plans detailing how often inspection of RHCs were to be done. The remaining had activity plans but with programmes such as disbursement of funds and inspection of LEAP beneficiaries, public education on community care and child protection, education on child abuse and domestic violence, other than inspection or supervision of the RHCs.

Official response

The district officers explained that they used to prepare activity and work plans but they were always not implemented because of lack of funds.

They informed the team that their visits to the homes were more ad hoc than quarterly because they lacked the needed manpower at the district level to undertake periodic inspections.

They also complained of the workload on them. According to them, they are responsible for activities such as providing services for the disabled, LEAP support distribution, settling family issues, inspecting RHCs and day care centres and attending court cases on behalf of the department.

Operating without licence

A compilation of records on 85 RHCs operating in the four sampled regions by the DSW, excluding all four government homes in those regions, showed that 82 operated without licenses, while the remaining three worked with expired licences. Also, the audit team found in Gazette Number 34 the names of three RHCs that had obtained licenses as of March 2010, but which were published on May 14, 2010.

According to the audit team, if all the 143 privately owned RHCs had been certified, that would have generated GH¢7,150 at the current fee of GH¢50 and also further revenue from yearly renewal fees.

During a survey of 31 of the unlicensed homes to find out why they operated when they had not been licensed, the team further found that 13 homes had Certificate of Incorporation from the Registrar-General’s Department and NGO certificate of recognition from DSW which enabled entities and individuals to operate NGOs, while the remaining 18 homes had Certificates of Incorporation from the Registrar-General’s Department.

Seventy-one per cent, making up 22 of the 31 unlicensed operators (from the sample), did not know they were to obtain licence from DSW and thought the NGO certificate of recognition was enough mandate for them to operate the RHCs. Ten of the 25 district officers interviewed also believed the use of the Certificate of Recognition was enough mandate to operate a RHC.

Recommendations

The audit team gave a host of recommendations to rectify the anomalies in orphanages and homes across the country. These included ensuring that all operating RHCs applied for licence and were screened, failure of which should culminate in their being closed down.

It was also recommended that the DSW should ensure and insist that activity and work plans were prepared and implemented at the district level, request for all reports due them from the RHCs and sanction RHCs that did not meet the requirements.