|Mr. Abdallah Kassim|
Civil Society Organisations [CSOs] in Northern Ghana have decried the lack of information and openness that currently exists within the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority [SADA] Secretariat and want the Board and Management of the Authority to create a channel that would allow free-flow of information and communication to the public in order to make projects implementation a success.
Information and communication are the lifeblood of any serious organization and it was imperative for SADA in the view of CSOs to embark on intensive awareness creation and information sharing programmes on its financial, fiscal and regulatory incentives and how people could benefit from or take advantage of such incentives for the development of their business.
However, the absence or ineffectiveness of the Public Relations Department of SADA to promote a two-way communication between the Authority and stakeholders has led to a lot of speculations in the media and the general public recently following an expose made by a legislator of Ghana’s parliament regarding millions of investments that had been made on some guinea fowl and afforestation projects.
Against this background, the Northern Ghana Network for Development [NGND] has formed a CSO Platform for Engagement With SADA, intended to constantly monitor the implementation of the Authority’s strategic framework and suggest pertinent changes in order to maintain its relevance and effectiveness in achieving the expected outcomes.
Speaking at the launch of the Coalition of CSOs Platform for Engagement With SADA in Tamale, NGND’s Executive Committee Chairman Abdallah Kassim, said it would also keep alight the quest to maintain the political will and sustain national awareness of the need for fairness in closing the development gap between the North and the South.
He suggested that, SADA could provide information and education, or initiate communication activities, that helped micro-entrepreneurs to re-align their enterprises and prioritise them in ways that enabled them to move away from investing overly in social ventures, to embracing economic investments.
Mr. Kassim maintained that, there must be a two-way communication channel between SADA and its stakeholders that ensures constant flow of information to its stakeholders and to elicit information from them, which could be used to determine the subsequent direction and levels of services provided by SADA.
For instance, worrying reports from civil society indicates that if precautions are not taken, a number of challenges that could derail the gains of SADA would soon emerge and these include, replacement of government funds for normal development activities with SADA funds; inadequate consultations with key stakeholders by SADA; politicization of the programmes and activities of SADA; dependence of SADA’s current funding regime on political will and non-functioning of some structures of the Authority. If these perceptions are anything to go by, it means that the management of SADA would have a lot of work to do regarding explaining things better to the understanding of the public.
|Alhaji G.S. Iddi, SADA CEO|
For more than four decades now residents, in Northern Ghana, have moaned and groaned about how they have been left behind; about how they have little resources; about the “yawning development gap” between the North and the South and about how they need donor intervention and equitable development.
Now the people have SADA: a complete vehicle for speeding up development of the Northern Ecological Zone and catching up with the South. SADA is an independent state agency mandated by an Act 805 of 2010 to coordinate a comprehensive development agenda for the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone. It is a positive venture that intends rapid, concentrated investment in strategic areas of the economy of Northern Ghana in a manner never seen before in the history of the country.
Ironically, SADA has used up four years of its 20-year lifespan and it is yet to find its feet. The Chief Executive Officer was employed in 2011 and some of its staff assumed office just in the first quarter of 2013.
SADA hit the ground running with a lucrative butternut business and other snapshot projects; but just as this success was about to be hailed, the organization inadvertently plunged into the controversial abyss of tree planting scandal and guinea fowl rearing palaver.
SADA is riding on the vision of a “Forested and Green North by 2030”. Its strategy entails a major paradigm-shift in promoting economic growth and sustainable development. It is ensuring that smallholder families and poor farmers develop a long-term stake in agriculture through inter-cropping with economic trees. Revolving around this forested North are complimentary investments in roads, energy and water resources, education and health. It proffers short-term food and livelihoods security measures that also address social protection and peace issues.
Paradoxically, up till now, majority of the people of the North do not know whether SADA is living up to the strategies it is supposed to implement. The SADA Secretariat is not forthcoming; information on its activities seems to be classified. Even most urban based CSOs do not understand what SADA is all about or what it is doing, how much more community based organizations, traditional authorities and rural communities. Of late, SADA has become popular for the wrong reasons. The lack of information about its operations opens it up to speculation and leaves its stakeholders in the dark.
Thus, the Executive Committee Chairman of NGND promised the Coalition of the CSO Platform for Engagement With SADA with membership comprising of NGOs, CBOs, FBOs and individuals especially those in the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone, would positively influence the strategy, programmes, projects and activities of SADA through evidence based advocacy.