‘Don’t scrap COVID-19 Levy  …establish separate account, ensure accountability’ – SEND Ghana

‘Don’t scrap COVID-19 Levy  …establish separate account, ensure accountability’ – SEND Ghana

• Mrs Harriet Agyemang speaking at the forum

Unlike other groups that describe the COVID-19 Levy as “nuisance tax,” Civil Society Group, SEND Ghana has asked the government not to scrap the levy which was intro­duced about two years ago.

Rather, it wants the levy redirect­ed to addressing existing challenges in the health sector and a separate account established for it.

It said the current arrangement, where the contributions were paid into the Consolidated Fund, made it difficult to independently track how much revenue had accrued from the levy.

Mrs Harriet Agyemang, Senior Pro­grammes Officer, made the call after presenting details of SEND Ghana’s analysis of the 2023 Budget State­ment and Economic Policy read in No­vember last year by Finance Minister, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta.

While advising prudent manage­ment of the funds, she said the dis­tinct account for the COVID-19 Levy should as well spell out how the tax was managed and what it would be used for.”

“Until the Finance Ministry comes out to say how much it has collected, you cannot track it [the levy] as you would. This is why we suggest the levy should have [an account] so we know what we are going to use the fund for, who is managing it and how it is being managed so we can call for some accountability every now and then,” she explained.

Mrs. Agyemang added that there were still gaps in the health sector in terms of number and distribution of health professionals across the country, unavailability of equipment, among other challenges, therefore, it was important to put aside adequate resources to address them.

“When COVID-19 struck, we all saw that our health system was not resilient. Communication and health promotion needs to be funded, we need to step up surveil­lance so that some of these diseases could be identified and nipped in the bud.

“Surveillance is not done only by health professionals but it starts in the communities and we need money to do these. If we were doing it, I am sure the impact of COVID-19 would have been lesser than we felt it,” she added.

She further noted that the decline in donor support for the health sector implied that the government ought to do more to fund the health system and make it more resilient.

Touching on other sectors of the economy, the Programmes Officer urged the Ministry of Finance to release the funds promptly for the projects, initiatives, and interven­tions captured in the 2023 budget.

“Beyond the budget statement, the ministry should release the funds for their intended purposes. When the funds get to the sector ministries they should also utilise the funds,” Mrs. Agyemang stated.

SEND Ghana, in other parts of its analysis, said although the services sector continued to boom, the gov­ernment needed to increase invest­ment in the agriculture sector to help reduce importation of essential and basic food commodities.

By Ernest Nutsugah

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