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Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid System Project

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HIPC Funded Projects (2002-2005): What Impact?

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The Government of Ghana opted for the country to be classified as a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) in order to take advantage of the improved macroeconomic stability and the substantial external assistance associated with the HIPC initiative to implement the reform agenda in the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS)1. Since 2002, District Assemblies have been given various funds under the HIPC initiative to undertake poverty reduction projects. The study assessed the impact of first generation (2002-2005) HIPC funded projects in the 42 resource-poor districts in Ghana in the areas of Education, Health and Water & Sanitation. Our findings show that availability of essential services has increased in most districts. However, accessibility to, and effective utilisation of these facilities are mixed. The study posits that making facilities available is good but their effective utilisation by intended beneficiaries is of greater importance to eradicate poverty. The study further explored the causes of abandonment and ineffective use of facilities. The main findings of the study are described as follows:

Availability, Utilisation and Accessibility
1. The HIPC initiative has improved the availability of essential services in most districts. Out of the total 836 projects considered, about 89.2% are available and in use while 10.8% have been abandoned.
2. However, not all of the 89.2% available and utilised projects were in effective use. Where facilities were in effective use, improved changes were observed in those communities.
3. The health sector, which benefited least in terms of project distribution compared to the education and water & sanitation sectors, ranked highest in terms of abandoned projects. Taking southern Ghana as an isolated case, approximately 34.2% of health projects have been abandoned.
4. A comparative assessment of the performance of the northern and southern Ghana indicated that the former outperformed the latter in terms of management of HIPC funds to ensure functional projects.
5. Distribution of development projects under HIPC was not equitable in relation to People With Disability (PWD). Specialized establishments such as special schools for the blind etc were not supported under the initiative. Again, with the exception of the Yendi and Savelugu Nanton districts, all other DAs failed to incorporate the special needs of PWD in the design of physical projects.

Changes associated with Projects
6. School management improved tremendously in most communities after the completion of classroom blocks and/ or teachers’ quarters. Schools which operated under trees/ sheds and in shifts now have classrooms and operate in one stream.
7. Generally, enrolment improved in HIPC funded schools which benefited classroom facilities. But unlike the observation in northern Ghana which was consistent with national trend, a decline in enrolment was observed in southern Ghana. Poverty and ignorance about the importance of education were noted to underlie the problem of low enrolment. Accessibility to classroom projects in northern Ghana was enhanced due to the sensitization and support
activities provided by some NGOs which resulted in increased enrolment in the northern zone.
8. Maternal deaths and fatalities associated with emergencies reduced in communities with functional clinics/CHPS centres.
9. Most of the facilities expected to be community owned such as the KVIPs suffered ownership and management problems. Fundamental to these problems is the low capacity of some assembly members and the ineffectiveness of the sub-structures of the district assemblies which resulted in the low participation of the grassroots in decision-making.

Factors affecting Project Availability, Accessibility and Effective Utilisation
10. Inadequate and irregular release of funds from the Ministry of Finance coupled with some counterproductive directives from the Auditor-General’s Department; indebtedness of some DAs to contractors; poor commitment of some contractors, consultants and DAs; and ineffective planning including poor coordination between some DAs and the decentralised departments were observed to constitute the main determinants for the unavailability of some projects.
11. Poor stakeholder involvement in the selection and implementation of projects accounted for the poor access and ineffective utilisation of some facilities.

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