Thursday, April 29, 2010

Public needs more education on govt policies (spread)

A renowned economist, Mr Kwame Pianim, and a captain of industry, Nana Owusu Afari, have identified lack of public participation as part of the reason for the poor monitoring and assessment of public sector policies.
They argued that in cases where success indicators were defined, those indicators were not properly communicated to the beneficiaries to enable them to judge whether the objectives had been achieved or not.
Presenting papers at the National Policy Fair in Accra yesterday on the topic, “Bridging the Gap Between the Public and the Private Sectors in Policy Implementation”, the two agreed that a lot more successes could be achieved if the public, who were the main beneficiaries of government projects and programmes, were educated on such activities to enable them to monitor their success or otherwise.
Yesterday’s dialogue session was the second in a series being held on the wings of the five-day fair underway at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) in Accra.
The broad theme of the fair is “Engaging the Citizenry for A Better Ghana” and it is meant to open the doors of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to Ghanaians and enable the citizenry to engage with the leadership of those institutions to appreciate their policies, programmes and activities.
Present at the function were the Minister of Environment and Science, Ms Sherry Ayettey; the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Dr Kwasi Apea-Kubi; the Deputy Minister of Environment and Science, Dr Kofi Omane-Boamah; a Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, and the Chairman of the Policy Evaluation Unit at the Presidency, Dr Tony Aidoo.
The Minister of Information, Mr John Tia Akologo, was the Chairman for the occasion.
Addressing the participants, Mr Pianim gave a number of reasons responsible for the gaps in policy implementation and identified lack of public involvement in policy formulation, failure to educate and inform the public on the rationale for the policies and their benefits to the public, as well as the opportunity cost of their implementation.
He touched on the lack of adequate institutional capacity in terms of public policy think tank to mount an effective and objective public debate to educate and inform the public on policy issues.
Mr Pianim, who declared his membership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the function, suggested that political parties should be well resourced to enable them to undertake policy research to broaden their policy options and also be able to mount effective public debate to promote their policies and critique the policies of others.
He underscored the need to resource private sector trade associations and non-governmental organisations to participate in public policy dialogue with the government and its agencies to ensure results.
He, however, stated that “Perhaps the most critical source of gaps in policy implementation between the public and the private sectors is the Ghanaian cultural orientation that undermines any attempt at disciplined and orderly implementation of policies,” he declared.
For his part, the President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Nana Owusu Afari, pointed out that when policies were developed, there was the need for a clear feedback mechanism to check whether they were functioning or not.
“The feedback mechanism should not be limited to the government functionaries implementing the policy; the direct beneficiaries should also be actively involved,” he stressed.
Nana Owusu Afari said when policies were kept unknown to others, the result was the situation where sometimes conflicting views on the success of government policy programmes were given by policy makers and the beneficiaries of those policies.
“For example, what are the success indicators of the National Health Insurance Scheme? How many people were projected to benefit from it before it would be considered a success? And within what time frame? If this information exists, has it been well communicated to the public?” he asked.
“I submit that when the citizenry is well informed about policies, their formulation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and the results achieved, governance is appreciated and our ‘better Ghana’ agenda is enhanced,” he observed.
As part of the dialogue, the public was allowed to ask questions and those at the high table took turns to answer them.
There was high participation in the fair where 110 MDAs have mounted their stands, creating the platform for them to hold discussions with the public.