The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has revealed that 23 children could not be accounted for in eight orphanages in the country in 2011.
It said the home managers informed the audit team of the Auditor-General’s Department that the children had been reunited with their families.
The PAC indicated that, unfortunately, officials of the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) could not confirm whether “these children have truly been reunited with their families”.
It, therefore, tasked the DSW to furnish the PAC with a report to confirm whether the 23 children had been reunited with their families.
These were contained in the PAC’s report on the performance audit report of the Auditor-General on the regulation of residential homes for children (RHC) or orphanages by the DSW.
The PAC report, which was presented by the Chairman of the PAC, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, was adopted by the House after the Members of Parliament (MPs) had debated it.
The audit, which was conducted from 2011 to 2012, focused on the licensing, inspection and reporting activities of DSW in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Northern and Western regional offices of DSW from 2008 to 2012.
It was commissioned by the Auditor-General following media reports of child abuse, molestation and neglect by childcare professionals in orphanages.
The PAC’s report said inadequate data on orphanages would result in the inability of the DSW to monitor the operations of orphanages effectively or account for children in their care.
It, therefore, urged the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to identify a period within the year and direct the orphanages to submit their annual reports for scrutiny.
“The committee also recommends that disciplinary action be taken against any RHC which does not meet the deadline for submission of annual reports by DSW,” it said.
The report said the absence of a clear system of adoption had resulted in an increased rate of adoption in the country.
It said due to the decentralisation of the adoption process, district officers and courts were able to grant adoptions without the knowledge of the head of the DSW.
“In a particular year, for instance, 150 children were taken out of the country. The preceding year also saw 300 children taken to a particular country outside Ghana for adoption,” it said.
To arrest the situation, the report said the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection was proposing an amendment to the Children’s Act, 1988 (Act 560) to define a child that could be adopted.
Again, it said the ministry was preparing a draft Adoption and Foster Care Regulation to take care of the licensing of orphanages.
The report indicated that at the time of the audit, 82 out of 85 orphanages in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Northern and Western regions were operating without the required licences.
It said the licences of the three orphanages had expired.
Members of Parliament (MPs) who contributed to the debate stressed the need for measures to be taken to safeguard the interest of children in orphanages.
They called for sanctions against orphanages which violated the rights of children under their care.