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25.03.2004 General News

HIPC Watch asked to suspend its activities in Krachi District

By GNA

Ho, March 25, GNA - HIPC Watch, a non-governmental organisation monitoring highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Fund projects in 24 districts in the Northern, Upper-West and Upper East Regions and Krachi District in the Volta Region has been ordered to suspend its activities in the Krachi District.

The Reverend Moses Bakar, Co-ordinator of the Organisation, told the opening session of the fifth Development Dialogue Series in Ho that, the letter suspending its activities was received just when its representatives were about to set off to participate in the Dialogue.

The Dialogue which focused on the participation of the poor in decision- making and implementation the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) was under the theme: "Decentralising the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy: Deepening the Involvement of Poor People in Problem Definition and Solution"

Rev Bakar explained that the suspension letter, signed by Mr J. K. Ntorsu, District Chief Executive (DCE), directed the organisation to seek permission from the Volta Regional Minister, Mr Kwasi Owusu-Yeboa before it could resume its operation but did not assign any reasons or allegations warranting the suspension.

Rev. Bakar said the organisation's 15 member local team was constituted to reflect the diversity of interest groups in the District.

He said during its monitoring work the organisation found out that a number of HIPC projects were executed in a shoddy manner while a KVIP project designated for Dambai market, which according to records was 80 per cent completed in June 2003 did not exist, but the consultant could not provide any tangible reason when his attention was drawn to the reality.

Rev Bakar said a teacher's quarters at Osramani and a toilet at Bamboden, which were completed in 2003, were not being used.

He said the Chief of Bamboden told the monitoring team that the community was not using the toilet because "they (community) do not have eyes to see so when those who have the eyes to see asked them to use it they would".

He explained to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the organisation is being funded by some organisations abroad and was therefore not dependent on the District Assembly for funds except for a request for a safe towards the reactivation of Credit Union at Krachi on which the organisation spent one million cedis.

Rev Bakar said the organisation was only committed to helping to realise the objectives of the HIPC Funds and that the three Northern Regions were gaining tremendously from the work of the organisation. While not assigning any specific wrong doing to HIPC Watch, Mr Owusu-Yeboa said there was proliferation of NGOs in the Region, whose operations were undefined and have become conduits for their officials to exploit the public to enrich themselves.

He said the operations of such organisations were not guided by any laws and regulations and were, therefore, accountable to nobody and not transparent though they demanded accountability from public institutions whose operations were guided by laws and regulations.

Mr Owusu-Yeboa alleged that some of the organisations also tended to rely on the District Assemblies and Regional Co-ordinating Councils for financial assistance sometimes applying blackmail to achieve their objectives.

He said such organisations in the Region have persistently refused to organise themselves into one identifiable body for purposes of easy identification and contact.

Meanwhile some participants taking part in the Dialogue said the suspension of HIPC Watch was in bad taste, ill conceived, unlawful and against the principles of accountability and transparency. Dr Nicholas Amponsah of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana said the suspension was contrary to the government's stated goal of ensuring accountability and transparency in governance. He said if the Krachi District Assembly and the Regional Coordinating Council had any misgivings about the work of HIPC Watch, it would have been better to dialogue rather than being high-handed.

Dr Amponsah said there might be genuine concerns about the operations of NGOs in the country but genuine ones, which have distinguished themselves, should be commended and supported rather than intimidated. Togbe Ggogbi V, Paramount Chief of Adaklu traditional area said the suspension was unfortunate and appeared to be a reprisal for the exposures arising from the work of the organisation.

He said the monitoring work of the organisation was rather in the interest of the District Assembly and the government, because of lack of an effective machinery to carry out effective monitoring of projects. Togbe Gbogbi, therefore, urged the Regional Minister to reverse the decision.

Miss Irene Kpikpi, Executive of Universal Caring Foundation said the suspension had the potential to scare other such organisations from coming into the Region to help improve the lives of the people. She said the action would also send a negative signal to the country's donor partners about official commitment to transparency and accountability.

Miss Kpikpi said the best way to address any differences was to use dialogue rather than the flexing of muscles.

Mr Anetan Akwasi, Vice-Chairman of the Akyode Youth Association, said the suspension of the organisation has the potential of scaring ordinary people away from showing interest in activities meant to assist them to improve their lives.

He said the action was at variance with the core message of the theme of the Dialogue, which is to "deepen the involvement of the poor people in problem definition and solution".

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