Ghana’s level of accountability in the early fiscal policy response to COVID-19 has been described as limited by the International Budget Partnership Group.
In a report entitled “Managing COVID Funds–The Accountability Gap”, the group stated that “the main finding from our research is that governments are falling short of managing their fiscal policy response to the crisis in a transparent and accountable manner”.
“More than two-thirds of the governments we looked at, across many regions and income levels, have only provided limited or minimal levels of accountability in the introduction and implementation of their early fiscal policy responses,” the group said.
Ghana is among 55 countries whose level of accountability was found to be limited out of the 120 countries surveyed.
The others are Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Cameroon, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, São Tomé e Príncipe, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Zambia.
According to the report, “by the end of 2020, governments had already mobilised US$14tn in fiscal policy responses of different types. These included additional spending measures, tax relief programmes, and loans and loan guarantees—all aimed at funding necessary health services, addressing income losses, and keeping economies afloat.”
The report cited Australia, Norway, Peru and Philippines as the only countries whose level of accountability in early COVID-19 fiscal policy responses was adequate, whilst Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Fiji, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States were cited as showing “some” accountability.
Among the 120 countries covered, 22 published information on policy initiatives specifically targeted towards women (this includes pregnant or lactating women, female entrepreneurs, female heads of households, victims of domestic violence, etc.), but only three (Canada, the Philippines and Sweden) included a Gender Impact Assessment of their COVID-19 response.
Some African countries that were cited as examples of good practice include Sierra Leone, where the Audit Service used real-time auditing approaches honed during the Ebola crisis to publish a report on COVID-19 spending that led to the Anti-Corruption Commission taking up a number of investigations and detaining top government officials.
And in Togo, the government set up a cash transfer programme that gave more money to women than men.
The report recommended that governments should publish monthly progress reports on policy implementation (or regularly update implementation information on web portals), including data and analysis on budget execution and performance, disaggregated by impact on disadvantaged groups, including women and girls.
It further urged governments to “disclose all details related to procurement contracts linked to emergency spending, wherever possible in open formats whilst restoring the role of legislatures as keepers of the public purse, including approving expenditures, consulting with the public and interest groups, monitoring policy implementation, and following up on audit findings.”