Parliament directs Gender Ministry to submit report on missing orphans

The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, has given the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection a two week ultimatum to submit to the House a report on the whereabouts of some 23 children who went missing in private orphanages.

The speaker’s directive follows concerns raised by Members of Parliament during the consideration of a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the Performance Audit conducted by the Auditor General on the Regulation of Residential Homes for Children (Orphanages) by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW).

According to the report, 23 children who were hosted in eight out of ten orphanages by the DSW cannot be accounted for.

The report also revealed that 82 out of 85 residential homes for children in four regions were operating without the required licenses.

The law makers during their contributions on the motion on moved on Thursday demanded an investigation into the matter in order to establish whether the children had indeed been united with their relatives.

The Chairman of PAC, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu (NPP Dormaa Central), who presented the committee’s report, said the development was as a result of lack of accurate data on the children in the orphanages.

He said when officials of the DSW appeared before the committee, they could not confirm whether the children had truly been united with their families or not.
He said for instance, a child in the West Mamprusi District in the Northern Region was given out to a foreigner for adoption by a home manager without the knowledge of the DSW.

“The committee noted with grave concern, the absence of a clear system of adoption in the country which has resulted in an increasing rate of adoption,” he said.

He indicated that the ministry told the committee that it was putting measures in place to ensure that orphanages complied with the necessary legislations on adoption before any adoption took place.

As a result, he said ministry had placed a moratorium on adoptions in May 2013 to enable it ensure that the orphanages adhered to the legislations.

Mr. Agyeman-Manu noted that to prevent trafficking of children in the name of adoption, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should ensure that the various interventions put in place by the ministry were implemented as early as possible to protect children in orphanages.

The Ranking Member on the Committee, Alhaji Abubakari Ibrahim Dey (NDC Salaga South), observed that most of the orphanages in the country were not licensed while others had expired licenses.

He expressed concerns over the lack of data in the residential homes which had made it difficult to track children in the homes and urged the gender ministry to put measures in place to address the challenges.

MP for Pusiga, Ms Laadi Ayamba, in her submission questioned why the DSW failed in its responsibility for the upkeep of the children.

“If the department of social welfare was doing its job, why did it not realize that the homes that it was taking the census in did not have license? Why was the department not collecting data at the same time that they were going round? If you listened carefully, you will realize that 23 children cannot be accounted for. Nobody is able to tell us if the children are with their parents, or if they simply left or they passed away? Those orphanages should be able to tell where those children are, because one life is worth more than anything we have on earth,” she said.

Ms Ayamga also called on the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, to work on finding out what happened to the children.

‘Twenty three children is not money. We need to know what has happened to them. They should be able to tell us where the children are. The Ministry of Gender needs to do more to know where these children are

‘Currently, nobody can tell us where they are. Are they indeed with their families? Did they leave? Did they pass away? Are they lost? What exactly happened to them? Mr. Speaker we need to get answers to these questions,’ she said.

“I will suggest that the Minister for Gender needs to do more to find out where these children are. We are well aware that there is child trafficking. I also wish to suggest that all the orphanages that have problems should really be taken on because once they are operating without licenses and nobody cares about them, then they can do anything to these children.”

Isaac Kwame Asiamah (NPP Atwima Mponua) also stressed the need for the government to investigate the matter involving the whereabouts of the 23 children because some unscrupulous persons were trafficking children to the Middle East and other parts of the world.

“Mr. Speaker, we should investigate this matter. Ghanaian children are being abused in the Middle East. The reports keep coming and we need to, as a House, investigate this matter,” he said.

Source: ISD (Gilbert Ankrah & Raymond Kwofie)