A forum to account for the utilization of funds disbursed to members of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFDOs) under the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) has been held in Bongo, capital of the Bongo District.
The forum, organized by the GFDOs in collaboration with the Bongo District Assembly, brought together GFDO members from the two Districts of Bongo and the Kassena-Nankana West in the Upper East Region to give testimonies about the benefits they had derived from the DACF.
An exhibitions was also mounted to showcase businesses undertaken by People with Disabilities (PWDs) and their products such as soaps, parazone, leather products and bags of cereals cultivated, among others.
in a presentation on the DACF, Mr Fredrick Ofosu, Programmes Manager of the National Directorate of the GFD, disclosed that the Disability Fund was first introduced some 13 years ago under former President John Agyekum Kufuor's government.
Mr Ofosu explained that the Fund was designed to set aside a percentage of the Common Fund at periodic intervals to support initiatives and other self-reliant activities of PWDs and had, since, supported and improved on the living standards of many PWDs in Ghana.
He disclosed that the GFD, in 2009, commissioned a study into the effectiveness in the management and use of the Fund which culminated in the development of some guidelines and principles that were outdoored in 2010 to streamline the disbursement and management of the Common Fund for the benefit of PWDs.
He said the guidelines helped to define the purpose of the Fund, including minimizing poverty levels among PWDs, particularly those outside the formal employment sector, and led to the opening of a separate account at each District Assembly solely for purpose of administering the Disability Fund.
Mr Ofosu said, the formation of the Disability Fund Management Committee (DFMC) in each District, which is mandated to receive and vet applications from prospective beneficiaries of the Fund and to make recommendations for various kinds of support as well as monitor the use of funds by beneficiaries, also resulted from the study findings.
He noted that the Bongo District was, by far, doing so well in the organization of GFD groups as well as the disbursement of the Fund and that the District was well-positioned to mentor the Kassena-Nankana Chapter of the GFDOs.
He noted that though the three percent allocation could not cater for the numerous needs of PWDs in the country, the government deserved commendations for increasing it from the initial two percent.
In a statement, Mr Peter Ayinbisa Ayamga, Bongo District Chief Executive (DCE), explained that the Fund was disbursed totally free of charge and was not bound by any repayment clauses, but warned beneficiaries against unproductive and unprofitable application of the funds as that would go against their own welfare.
Mr Ayamga was optimistic that the forum would allow for the sharing of best practices among beneficiaries from the two Districts and also learn from the experiences of their peers so as to derive maximum benefits from whatever amounts they received from the Fund.
The DCE noted that having been implemented for well over a decade, the Fund had undergone some reforms, all geared towards ensuring that the intended impact and purposes for the Fund would be the guiding principle for its disbursement and utilization, adding, for instance, that the rise in the percentage allocation from two to three would definitely trigger an increase in the beneficiary numbers nationwide.
He said all things being equal, the recipients of the funds should have their economic and living conditions improved in the coming months and years.
Mr Ayamga recalled that just last week, the Assembly disbursed over 54,000.00 Ghana Cedis to some beneficiaries and that the Assembly had resolved that henceforth, beneficiaries would be receiving cheques and expected to cash the money themselves to do their purchases.
That, he said, was to enhance the integrity of the system and introduce beneficiaries to the formal banking system.
Mr Ayamga appealed to the GFDO membership to bear with the Assembly regarding delays in disbursing the funds as a lot of paper work and other procedures ought to be followed before the funds eventually hit the Assembly's accounts.
He disclosed that it was just in March 2018 that the Assembly received the monies covering a number of quarters from 2016 to 2017.
A beneficiary from the Kassena-Nankana West District, Madam Mary Awuntungui, said that she used her portion of the fund to start a soap and parazone production business and that she subsequently engaged four apprentices to increase her output as well as pass on her knowledge to them.
According to Madam Awuntungui, being in some form of business had earned her respect from family and community members and that she was also able to fend for her children, adding, with joy, that "family meetings are no longer held without me".
Source: ISD (Peter Atogewe Wedam)