Concern are being raised over delays in release and disbursement of funds for the 61st cycle Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) payments to beneficiaries across the country.
While bemoaning on the delays, it has also emerged that approximately 30,000 LEAP households with over 125,000 beneficiaries in 10 districts across the country, were not paid their LEAP cash grants during the 60th bi-monthly payment cycle in June, 2019.
SEND-Ghana, a Civil Society Organization in a Press statement signed by Mr George Osei-Bimpeh, Country Director of SEND-Ghana and copied to Public Agenda, calls on government to immediately transfer funds for payment to the LEAP beneficiaries.
When Public Agenda contacted the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection for reponses as to why beneficiaries are experiencing such delays in payments, officials there could not give a concrete reason but to say that the sector Minister had traveled.
The organization said in the statement, “this development, in our respectful viewpoint, is unfortunate, potential setback to Ghana’s poverty reduction efforts, and a derision of the country’s quest for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1,2 & 10 in particular. For citizens who are living in extreme poverty and who count on LEAP’s regular income to address their basic needs, delays in payment of their bi-monthly cash transfer poses serious threats to their survival and human dignity.”
According to the statement, SEND GHANA, “is fully aware and acknowledges the recent expansion of the LEAP programme to cover more beneficiary households which we consistently advocated for, but that cannot be accepted as a justification or reasonable grounds for the delays and persistent inconsistencies that characterize the disbursement of funds for the smooth implementation of the programme.
“Our checks also revealed that, information regarding the specific reasons for the delays have not been effectively communicated to local stakeholders including LEAP beneficiaries and communities, neither has there been any concrete information as to when the 61st payment would actually happen. These present circumstances, in our firmly held opinion, creates room for speculation, acrimony and anxiety among LEAP beneficiaries as noted by some social welfare officers;
A LEAP officer in one of the communities who spoke to SEND- Ghana on condition of anonymity explained that,“In fact, is been hell for me. As I speak, I’m currently in one of the communities just to explain to the beneficiaries the current challenges we are confronted with, especially for those who haven’t received their cash grants since the last payment in April this year. Some of the beneficiaries are going around and saying that, because I am a new officer, I have succeeded in running away with their monies.”
“For us, we only received information from the national level indicating that, there are some technical challenges. Beyond that, we don’t know what is happening and the question of when the next payment would be done, I have no idea.”
“It appears our people are holding on to tight and sensitive information. The beneficiaries have been calling me and asking but I don’t have a specific response, except to tell them to be patient. Some of them just draw baseless conclusions that, the LEAP programme has been cancelled. I’m afraid these delays have the potential to soil the credibility and integrity of all of us.”
The organization, according to the statement has received numerous reports from some LEAP beneficiaries who lamented about their deteriorating living conditions as a result, and any further delays in the payment of their cash grants will only deepen their plight of long suffering.
“As a Policy Advocacy Organization, dedicated to the promotion of Good Governance and Accountability, we do not wish to sit unconcerned while the poor and vulnerable groups, to whom government has committed to make regular payments to ensure their dignity and help improve their livelihoods, continue to wallow in absolute discomfort and hunger.
“For this reason, we call upon government, to as a matter of urgency, fast track processes leading to the payment of the 61st cycle and pay arrears owed the over 30,000 households across the 10 districts who have since not received their 60th payment that took place in June. We again call on Government to aggressively put in measures to forestall the reoccurrence of this unfortunate situation in subsequent payment cycles.
“We further call on government and the LEAP management secretariat to improve on its information dissemination to MMDAs and the Department of social welfare to enable down streaming of same to communities and beneficiaries, especially in situations where government is faced with practical realities,” it advised.