GII: Give more powers to PAC

29 October 2014

CroppedImage250250 Gyasi

The Board Chairman of the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Mr Kwame Gyasi, says the failure of the Constitution to grant prosecuting powers to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, has rendered the committee toothless, to check increasing financial irregularities at ministries, departments and agencies.

He said despite all the enormous powers given to the committee by the Constitution, the work of the committee had been reduced to an exercise in futility and wrong-doers and fraudulent persons who appeared before it always walked away with impunity.

“These fraudulent civil public servants often leave to commit greater fraud and also provide examples for other criminal minds to follow their footsteps,” he stated.

Speaking at the launch of the “Show me the money” report in Accra, Mr Gyasi stated that “the time has come for a constitutional amendment to be passed to give the PAC powers of prosecution to implement its own recommendations and that of the Auditor-General.

“The time has come for this nation to name and shame and also jail fraudulent fraudsters who play their greedy gluttony on the national resources as these criminals, either elected or appointed to entrusted positions, have taken the nation for granted for too long,” he said.

The report is an abridged version of the audit findings and observations of the Auditor General in five selected ministries. They are the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Sports and Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department.

The three-year project, from 2009 to 2011, was undertaken by the GII and funded by the STAR Ghana.

The report highlights various financial irregularities uncovered in the audit report of those ministries, including actions taken.

Mr Gyasi said in spite of all the enormous powers the 1992 Constitution granted to the PAC, it “deliberately failed” to give any prosecuting power to the committee.

“As such the public sittings of the PAC have been reduced to a show piece where members only express personal indications of all the numerous irregularities unearthed by the Auditor-General,” he stated, and hoped an amendment would be made to give prosecuting powers to the committee.

Giving an overview of the report, a former Chairman of the PAC, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, for the three years that the research team examined the Auditor General’s reports of the various ministries, the ministries did not comply with the statutory financial reporting requirement demanded by the Financial Administration Act, 2003 (Act 654).

The Act requires MDAs to prepare annual financial statements and submit them to the Audit General for audit examination, but the ministries had “refused to comply with such requirement since 2003.”

He stated that financial irregularities had become an annual ritual in most ministries because of lack of monitoring and supervision and non-adherence to financial laws and regulations. He blamed the situation on chief directors of those ministries, whom he described as “key financial spenders.”

He also stated that the ministries were required to establish the Audit Report Implementation Committee (ARIC) to ensure that the recommendations of the Auditor General’s reports, internal audit reports and the reports of the internal financial monitoring units were implemented.

“Up till date, none of the ministries had a functional ARIC, including the Auditor General’s Department and the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Department, which drafted the law and passed it.

“This is mainly because the members of ARIC comprise of various senior officers of the ministries and how can the same people make recommendations against themselves if financial irregularities are detected,” Mr Kan-Dapaah said, and called for the re-composition of the ARIC in all the ministries.

He called for the appointment of an independent Auditor General who should be well-resourced to discharge his duties.

He also expressed worry over the absence of proper financial accounting system over the years, saying that “this is ridiculous as the non-existence of such system to capture basic financial data causes people to engage in squandering of public resources.”

“For every irregularity, somebody must be sanctioned and punished even when no money was lost, once the person did not go by laid down rules and regulation as pertained in private financial institutions."

The Director General of the Internal Audit Agency, Mr Kwabena Twum Obese-Jecty, blamed rampant financial irregularities in the ministries on the lack of strong public institutions to check and hold leaders accountable to their actions.

“Until we can have such institutions, corruption will continue unabated,” he added.