Innovation, which forms an integral part of development, is not left out in the GSOP/LIPW implementation delivery process. After 4 years of project implementation, the Ghana Social Opportunities Project (GSOP) under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), introduced the use of Community Facilitators (CFs) from the 2016 implementation year in LIPW subproject communities..
Their roles and responsibilities are geared towards achieving the organizational objectives of prompt E-payments, transparency, accountability, community participation, community ownership as well as quick redress of emerging cases related to LIPW in sub project sites thus enhancing the smooth implementation of LIPW deliverables at the grass root.
Facilitative attitudes as identified by Kelsey and Plumb (2014) includes respect and compassion for all group members; a positive attitude and outlook, flexibility, a non-defensive posture, neutrality and non-judgemental approach and willingness to operate as a servant leader, asking what is best for the group as a whole. To instil in CFs such a facilitative altitude, TRCO trained 74 CFs to serve as liaison officers between the project community and other stakeholders in November 2015. As part of their roles, the CFs are to ensure free flow of information, transparency, report on field related cases or issues and facilitate the smooth redress of cases for LIPW beneficiaries.
The engagement of the Community Facilitators since December 2015 has really been very useful for LIPW delivery. Immediately after their training, all Community Facilitators were at the forefront of informing and mobilizing community members for sensitization. This led to increase in number of people in attendance over the previous implementation years (minimum of 65 people for year 2015 and 105 people for 2016 in attendance) and a better understanding of issues. This is because community members both present and absent during the forum, had the chance to seek for further clarification from the CFs on their own aside sensitization team members using them as interpreters when the need arose.
Targeting, selection and initial registration in all 2016 sub project communities went on smoothly with no delays. In TRCO, immediately after one week of sensitization, CFs were able to compile list of selected beneficiaries and submitted it to their respective districts for compilation for electronic registration unlike the three weeks encountered in 2015 when GSOP started electronic registration. Participating Financial Institutions (PFI) were given the contact numbers of all CFs within their jurisdiction to call and agree on time and date for E registration of selected beneficiaries. Except where the network was a challenge or there were shortage of EZWICH cards, due to the effective mobilization of community members by CFs, PFIs used a maximum of 15 instead of 40 hours in 2015 per subproject for E registration. CFs assisted the PFI to access power, locations for strong internet connectivity, place and logistics for the mass registration. They equally had to look for and call absentee selected beneficiaries to be enrolled for the electronic registration.
CFs has also contributed immensely towards reducing time lapse between cut-off dates and electronic payment of wages to beneficiaries from average of 25 days in year 2015 to 15 days as at November 2016. In most cases CFs submits completed DASH the same day or a day after the cut off date depending on distance to the DAs office. CFs constantly call DA and TRCO to check on the status of the DASH they submitted. As a result, DAs have adopted a system of checking in attendance record in GMIS PRO and saving 1st DASH in wait for the 2nd one to make up for the monthly payment request unlike the 2015 implementation year where most DAs would have waited for all the two DASHs before entering data to process payroll. With the constant reminders and follow ups by CFs, currently, District Data Entry Personnel uses a maximum of 2 days to input data, RCO uses a day to validate, commit data and send signed authorization sheets to NCO/GHIPPS. Once cards are credited and withdrawal report submitted by GHIPPS, PFIs uses a maximum of 4 days to effect payment to beneficiaries if they do not want to be disturbed by frequent calls from CFs.
Comparatively, the management of Transparency and Accountability Board (TAB) in 2016 under the role of the CF is much better than 2015 when TAB was entrusted to Community Focal Persons, With the CFs, periodic update of the TAB including pasting of DASH, payroll and cash out report, keeps beneficiaries well informed. This has deepened transparency, accountability and number of reported cases or grievances through the use of hotline numbers displayed on the TABs for community members to call. With the frequent education of beneficiaries by CFs on information on the TABs, it has become relatively difficult to ‘silence’ beneficiaries when something is not right especially with their individual earnings and issues that directly affect quality delivery.
The engagement of CFs, aside contributing to the success in LIPW service delivery process, has equally improved the living standard of those engaged as CF in the LIPW project communities. For instance, CF for Nkanchina No.1 Ogegerege Feeder Road in Kpandai district testify that his life has changed drastically ever since he was engage as a CF, he stated ‘‘I completed SHS and was not able to further my education because of financial difficulties. l have been jobless since then. Now under GSOP, the Kpandai DA has employed me as a CF, I have saved my monthly allowance and applied for Teacher Training College. I have also opened a small scale enterprise in my community which would enable me to pay for my fees when given admission’. Another CF for Tong Dugout in Karaga district stated that “l am now the hero in my community. I have gained respect and confidence from my community members. Hitherto, this was practically absent. With the training received on GSOP, my interpersonal relation has improved tremendously. Giving the chance, l can work in any environment and interact with all sorts of people because of the experience gained on LIPW as a CF”
With all the successes enjoyed from engaging CFs in LIPW service delivery, we cannot overlook some challenges they face in carrying out their duties in the communities. One of such is that heavy winds, sunlight and rain fades or washes off the items like DASH, payroll and Cash-out reports pasted on the TABs or they are ‘stolen’ by unpatriotic community members from the board. If copies in the possession of CFs are all used, such reports are only available for public consumption after extra copies are once again obtained from the DA and PFI. In places like Abrumase in East Gonja and Dugli in Bole districts, there is no communication networks for CFs to call, in such cases, CFs would have to move to nearby communities before they can call and make follow ups. Again in a place like Natigu, though in Karaga district, is only accessible through Gushiegu district making the distance and cost to the district capital expensive.
In view of the critical roles CFs are performing, TRCO says “TIPAYA”, “NETUMA PAM” and ASHAN KUSHI”.to all its cherished 74 CFs. May you continue to work hard so that GSOP can reduce poverty through the provision of conditional cash transfer to the rural poor satisfactorily.
Source: GSOP Tamale Regional Coordinating Office