96% Of Orphanages In 4 Regions Illegal

Nana Oye Lithur(inset),explaining a point to the public account committee.Photo.Seth OsabukleThe lives of thousands of children are at risk, as they live in orphanages operating illegally.

In the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Western and Northern Regions alone, about 96 per cent of the orphanages are operating illegally.

Because they are not recognised by the state, these residential homes are not monitored by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) to ensure that they operate within the minimum standards set by the law.

As a result, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday invited the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, to appear before it to answer questions on the issue.

The committee, chaired by the Member of Parliament for Dormaa Central, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, was considering a performance audit report on the Regulation of Residential Homes (orphanages) by the Department of Social Welfare.

The report also observed that the DSW was unable to track the progress of the orphanages, as well as the wellbeing of the children there because it had no data on the facilities.

It said the department was unable to track the competencies of the home owners and managers to run such institutions.

Nana Lithur admitted that the ministry was aware of the existence of such orphanages, and had taken steps to address the problem.

She told the committee that the ministry had closed down about 81 orphanages which were operating without proper licences.

“We have closed down those orphanages and have given those running those institutions a period to get the licenses,” the minister said, adding that the owners of the institutions had been given three months to secure licenses.

When asked why those operating these orphanages illegally were not prosecuted, she said the ministry had decided to seek their co-operation to ensure that they secured the appropriate documents and operate within the confines of the law.

However, Nana Oye Lithur said, anyone who operated such institutions without registering with the appropriate institutions would be made to face the law, adding, “From next year, we would begin cracking the whip and rigorously applying the law. We are not waiving the power of prosecution and we do not have the power to waive.”

She said when the ministry manages to register all the facilities it would then get the appropriate data to check the institutions as required by the law.

Nana Oye Lithur said the ministry would amend the Children’s Act to define appropriately when a child could be adopted, because there were no proper guidelines on child adoption in the country.

“We do not want human trafficking in the name of adoption to go on in Ghana. We will raise the fees for adoption. Currently we charge 50 cedis for adoption,” she noted.

In another development, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, (MoFA) and its various departments and agencies appeared before the committee.

The committee was considering the performance audit report of the MoFA’s support to farmers to increase food crop production.

By Yaw Kyei

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