Ghana has over the years made significant strides in its socio-economic development sector with the implementation of a number of social protection policies such as Free SHS, the School Feeding Programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the Mental Health Act among others. Although some significant successes have been chalked while implementing these policies, it is worth noting that impeding factors such as poor governance, weak institutions, systemic corruption, and inadequate budgetary allocation make access to health and education services in Ghana a critical problem, especially for vulnerable groups.
This, coupled with the continuous shrinking of civic engagement, has called for the need to build our understanding of “what works” and how to design better approaches and improve on existing ones to increase citizen participation and empowerment for better access to health, education, resource utilization, and overall development of communities in Ghana.
In light of this, Penplusbytes in collaboration with SEND-Ghana and Songtaba is organizing a one-day Social Accountability Forum on the theme ‘Institutionalizing Social Accountability in Local Governance: Successes, Gaps, and the Way Forward,” scheduled for Wednesday, July 5, 2023, in Tamale.
The forum is a crucial part of Penplusbytes’ 2-year “HERE (Health, Education, Resource Equity) and Now” Project funded by the Open Society Foundation is being implemented in Ghana and Mali. The project which seeks “to promote citizens’ access to quality, inclusive public goods in the health and education sectors as fundamental rights by supporting movement building and empowering citizens to fight corruption in the delivery and access to these services,” will convene civil society organizations, duty bearers and other stakeholders in the social accountability space to dialogue and share experiences on best practices in social accountability.
The forum will also provide the opportunity for social accountability actors to discuss and share ideas on closing the feedback loop using new digital tools and media as enablers for social accountability practice in Ghana.
Touching on what necessitated the forum, the Executive Director at Penplusbytes, Jerry Sam asserted that, “Social accountability is the cornerstone of achieving economic justice in Ghana as it empowers citizens to actively participate in decision-making processes, demand transparency, and hold public officials accountable for the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities”
“By fostering a culture of social accountability, we can create a society where every Ghanaian has equal access to social protection, ensuring a more just and inclusive economy for all.” He added
Under the project, Penplusbytes has deployed a mobile application (the #ShortChanged App) and created community monitoring groups in both Ghana and Mali to enable citizens to understand the various social protection policies and actively monitor and provide feedback on how best the selected policies should be implemented in their communities.
Feedback collated from the citizens’ monitoring and on the mobile app served as evidence-based information used to generate policy briefs on selected social protection programs such as Free SHS, the School Feeding Programme, the NHIS, the Mental Health Act, and others.
The policy briefs have so far been presented to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Secretariat, and the Mental Health Authority.
This forum would seek to have stakeholders share experiences and best practices in social accountability practice as well as influence policy and promote constructive engagement between citizens and government for improved development.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in the following key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, climate and well-being, and enhancing oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.