The world experienced one of its devastating shocks and enormous death tolls starting in December 2019 in Wuhan-China. Currently, the total number of lives lost to the Covid-19 pandemic globally is approximately 6.9 million. In Ghana, close to 1,456 lives have been lost, and the total number of cases reported is 167,000. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Europe the epicenter of the pandemic. Ghana recorded its first covid-19 and subsequent cases, which necessitated the temporal shutdown of most economic and social activities involving many people.
Globally over 1 billion vaccines have been administered and many aid reliefs have been granted to many countries, especially those in Africa. Hence the Covid-19 Transparency and Accountability Project in Africa (CTAP) aims to track transparency and accountability in disbursing Covid-19 funds and vaccine equity distribution.
The resources expended in Ghana during the pandemic ranged from grants, private donations, loans, and material support.
BudgIT Ghana, in its CTAP activities, organized a town hall meeting at the Somanya Municipality in the Eastern Region of Ghana on July 27, 2022, to solicit the views of the locals on their Covi-19 activities, government response to the pandemic, vaccine distribution, and Covid-19 relief funds.
The First Chairman of the town hall meeting, Mr. Vicent Tamakloe (Health Services Administrator for Somanya Polyclinic and Yilo Krobo Directorate), in his opening remarks, stated that “… indeed society in which there is no transparency or accountability lacks development.”
During the open discussion phase Ms. Jennifer Moffatt, Communication Lead – BudgIT Ghana and moderator for the town hall led discussions around how the people survived during the heat of pandemic, what government interventions and reliefs did they enjoy and what strategies did they use in their survival.
According to Madam Diana Agboka, stated that when the pandemic started heating up in Ghana, one of the strategies that her community employed before the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccines, was to use motorbikes instead of the “trotro” (public buses) to public places that they need to visit most especially the markets. When they returned they ensured they take off their clothes outside and wash their hands before entering their premises.
In addition, her health facility in Sogakope received aid from the government which includes Veronica Buckets, Hand sanitizers, and some personal protective equipment such as nose masks and gloves. When asked if she can quantify the aid her facility received she said that the donations came in batches so she cannot give a number. Also, she stated that she received two months’ frontline worker salary that was given by the government.
Mr. Michael Dzigbordi Akussah, a data analyst and businessman who was present at the town hall meeting stated that initially, he was skeptical about the potency and efficacy of the covid-19 vaccine because of the development of the vaccine was too quick and its availability too sudden. However, he cited that he personally had to read from authoritative sources like the World Health Organization before he was convinced that the vaccine is safe for immunization.
In regards to the frontline workers debacle, 90% of health workers present at the town hall meeting stated that the definition of a frontline worker is skewed and the selection process politically motivated. Madam Mercy Tettey Nartey in her submission stated that a portion of their salary is being deducted monthly for the tax exemptions for healthcare staff that were implemented in 2020.
Furthermore, 99% of people present at the town hall stated that they did not receive any business or citizen relief that the government disbursed.
Students from the Yilo Krobo Senior High School who attended the town hall meeting made known that due to the pandemic they missed a part of their first year of Senior High School thus they are still trying to catch up on their studies for the final examination. Master Simon Nartey student of Yilo Krobo Senior High School stated that “the covid affected our curriculum and now we have to pay for extra tuition to catch up where we left off before we start our WASSCE on the 1st of August”. His sentiment was supported by his colleague Master Israel Lumor.
In regards to vaccine hesitancy in the Somanya Municipality, Mr. Mohammed Amin (Chairman for Health Volunteer Groups in Somanya District) expressed the need to strongly assimilate volunteer groups in community health outreaches “since the volunteers knows the terrain better than the health workers who are not indigenes and hence cannot effectively convince locals to take the covid-19 vaccine”.
To buttress that, Mr. Joshua another Health Service Volunteer stated that in some of their community outreaches, locals have expressed concerns about the grave economic hardships and are of the belief that, the government fictitiously created the covid-19 situation in Ghana to embezzle funds and make citizens lives rough.
Even though the Ghanaian government responded to the pandemic as swift as possible, in most CTAP Community Engagement and Town hall meetings in Ghana, citizens have expressed the government’s slow response to the COVID-19 Pandemic which led to the high hike in prices of essential goods and services such as food, nose masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and pharmaceutical products.
In Conclusion, there have been many instances of waste by government machineries cited, including mismanagement and blatant corruption in the disbursement of the covid-19 funds.