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HIV Fund to be operationalised end of year

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene answering questions before the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, Accra. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR
Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene answering questions before the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, Accra. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR

The National HIV/AIDS Fund will become operational by the end of the year, four years after its creation by law. 

The fund will mobilise domestic resources for the local production of medicines for prompt HIV/AIDS response in the country.

The Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Mr. Steve Kyeremeh Atuahene, who disclosed this yesterday when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, said the launch of the fund was part of a decision to support the local production of drugs for the treatment of the disease.

"Negotiations and arrangements are ongoing towards this initiative and we hope that it will ensure the constant supply of medicines and cut down the cost of importing drugs.

"We hope that when all things are finalised, we will be able to resolve the problem of shortages of medicine permanently,” he said.

PAC sitting

Mr. Atuahene was responding to queries in the 2017 Auditor-General's report.

Officials of the Nurses and Midwifery Council (N&MC), led by its Registrar, Mr. Felix Nyante, also appeared before the committee.


In addition, agencies under the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR), including the Lands Commission, the Survey and Mapping Division, the Ghana School of Survey and Mapping, and the Land Valuation Division, were at the PAC sitting, after they had been citied for various financial and operational irregularities or uncertainties.

HIV/AIDS Fund

Parliament passed the Ghana AIDS Commission Act, 2015 to give legal backing for the establishment of the Ghana AIDS Commission and the National HIV/AIDS Fund.

Among other things, the act contains anti-stigma provisions to promote and protect the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Per the act, the focus for resource mobilisation should be on local resources from within the country before external sources are considered.

The sources of money for the fund, as spelt out in Act 938, include money approved by Parliament for the fund, grants, donations, gifts, other voluntary contributions, and returns on investment of funds by the commission.

Per the arrangements, there is a provision that the Minister of Finance may determine, with the approval of Parliament, any other money or property that may become lawfully payable and vested in the board for the fund.

Almost four years after the passage of the act, the fund is yet to be operationalised.

Bold step

However, at yesterday’s sitting of the PAC, Mr. Atuahene said the commission was focused on a paradigm shift from the importation of anti-retroviral drugs and other medical products for HIV/AIDS patients to local production.

That, he said, would be done within the context of the operationalisation of the National HIV/AIDS Fund.

He added that the operationalisation of the fund would help address the over-reliance on donors to fund the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients in the country.

He also said presently, donors expected that the government would pay for two-thirds of the medicines required for the treatment of patients in the country.

"The donors also expect that the government will be responsible for the cost of all HIV test kits and also bear the cost of all laboratory activities. With the passage of Act 938, the fund for HIV/AIDS response will help address that," he said.

Nurses

When the N&MC took its turn at the PAC sitting, the main issue had to do with the failure to recover GH¢19,900 in loans and advances from some members of staff.

The officials from the N&MC, led by Mr. Nyante, explained that the loans had been retired.

He also said the practice of extending loans to staff had been stopped to prevent the recurrence of that situation.

Lands Commission

The Auditor-General’s report revealed that the Lands Commission had failed to recover money owed it in ground rents for over four decades.

Among other things, it cited the commission and the other agencies of the MLNR for poor record-keeping, unrecovered loans from staff, incurring expenditure without supporting documents, and the lack of policy documents.

At the PAC sitting, it came to light that the Lands Commission had not been able to recover debts from ground rent dating as far back as 1975.

The Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr. Suleiman Dawuda Mahama, said the commission was rolling out a comprehensive action plan to recover all arrears in ground rent and also clamp down on the encroachment of state lands.

He said the plan had already been submitted to the MLNR for consideration and would include the use of a private consultant for debt recovery.

He added that the commission's reform agenda would be private sector-led and focus on updating its records through digitisation.

Responding to the query on improper keeping of records, Mr. Mahama said the volume of work that was done manually and the inadequacy of technical staff, such as land economists and estate managers, made it difficult to keep up-to-date records.

A Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in charge of Forestry, Mr. Benito Owusu-Bio, who was at the PAC sitting to respond to policy issues, said the new Lands Commission Act would be taken to the President for assent soon.