We Should Make The Governance Systems Work - K. B. Asante Writes

The Solicitor-General is reported to have told the Commission of Inquiry into payments of Judgement Debts that lack of coordination among key stakeholders resulted in either double payments or over-payments. Absence of coordination between the Attorney-General’s Department, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the Lands Commission was blamed for the huge judgement debts which you and I have to pay. It is important to note that payments by government are payments by you and me. Government money is the money collected from us in direct and indirect taxes. We should, therefore, be very annoyed when government wastes money while we are desperately short of funds for essential needs. Our concern for waste of money should not depend upon whether NDC or NPP is in government. Money wasted through corruption or inefficient administration makes you the citizen poorer. We should be scathing in our comments about corruption in government, but dealing with this kind of corruption is not enough. Bad administrative systems and official inefficiency are greatly responsible for much of the financial loss to the State. We feel good when we attack the NDC or NPP administration for judgement debts and similar financial losses to the nation, but we should also leave the greater condemnation for administrative inefficiencies. What the Solicitor-General calls lack of coordination is a euphemism for gross inefficiency. The suggestion that the key stakeholders should reconcile their accounts with other agencies such as the Bank of Ghana and the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department is to engage in a wild-goose chase after the harm has been done. The public should insist on fundamentals. Money should be budgeted for before it is appropriated. In case of emergencies, supplementary provision can be made or adjustments made in the approved budget in accordance with accepted procedures to meet the unforeseen necessary expenditure. The President’s office is not an “Ahenfie” where the chief decides or is persuaded that something should be done and it is done. Budgetary rules affect even the President. It was because Dr Nkrumah wanted some spending flexibility that a Contingency Fund was approved for him by Parliament and incorporated in the budget. Therefore, unless a budgetary allocation is made for him, even the President cannot give any directions for expenditure. Even if expenditure is provided for in the budget, the Ministry of Finance should be consulted before disbursement procedures are initiated. This is because revenue does not flow uniformly and the Ministry of Finance should, therefore, advise if money is available. Once expenditure is approved, the procedures are clear. The Controller and Accountant-General releases the funds and the Bank of Ghana effectively comes in when government issues a cheque for money it has not got. There is no need for the one who issues a cheque for approved payment to reconcile its accounts with other institutions to prevent over-payments and judgement debts as is being suggested. If there is an over-payment then the one who paid was inefficient and should be sanctioned in accordance with the rules. Dismissal alone should not be sufficient punishment. If someone says he or she has not been paid, there is no need to consult all and sundry. Receipts and other documents should prove payment. If a government agency is accused of not discharging its financial obligations and proceedings are instituted in court, the Attorney-General is normally informed to act on its behalf even if the agent has its own legal advisers. Perhaps this is an old-fashioned rule which is no longer in operation, but the procedure should be followed. The Attorney-General should be the ultimate legal adviser of government and should represent government in court if necessary. If the normal system is followed, records of judgement debts should be readily available in the Attorney-General’s office and the agencies responsible for the debt and its payment. Archives are the first casualty of a fraudulent system. Records show what happened and their destruction or unavailability is the first defence of the corrupt official or “politician.” Knowledge of the governance system will enable us to brush irrelevant issues aside and weaken the influence of corrupt politicians and the like who mislead our leaders. The lack of full understanding of how the government machinery works leads to acceptances of decisions which hurt us and impoverish the nation. The Electricity Company of Ghana has been running advertisements that it has been compelled to undertake emergency load-shedding due to supply shortfall. They regret their action but warn that the unfortunate situation will continue for some time until they are advised otherwise by their suppliers. What this means is that they are not supplied with sufficient power by VRA and others. Life is unnecessarily harsh for those of us who have no generators but have invested in a few gadgets that run on electricity to make life less costly and more comfortable. Apart from the ruin of our electrical appliances, we are paying more for products which depend on electricity. In fact, some enterprises are folding up because of the unreliability of our energy system. Such happenings do not grow the economy. In fact, they lead to unemployment and economic stress. We should, therefore, ask why the Electricity Company is not supplied with sufficient power. The rumour is that VRA and its associates have to buy more oil or whatever is required to generate more electricity. If they do, we the consumers will have to pay more for electricity. The question is whether we should pay more to have continuous supply of electricity. This is not the time to entertain childish views about government popularity. Facts must be faced. We nearly ruined Ghana Commercial Bank by asking it to pump money into TOR so that we might have cheap petrol. We should let the public utilities pricing authorities know that we prefer realistic pricing to sloppy decisions which are popular but eventually lead to personal and national economic distress. We should understand how government works and insist that those who govern take the necessary and appropriate decisions to promote economic growth and social well-being. We should make it clear that we elect governments to promote true development and not to please a vocal minority in the hope of being re-elected. Arbitrary interference in the established financial administrative system by the President, influential Minister or powerful Party Official may precipitate judgement debts and other serious financial losses to the State. Such acts which are not in accordance with the governance system impoverish the country. That is why we should understand how the government machinery works. Bashing political opponents may make us feel good, but the rot is only uprooted by insisting that the approved governance system is followed and by punishing those who flout the rules and procedures.