Parliament Goofed

The Member of Parliament for Asikuma/Odoben/Brakwa, Hon. Paul Collins Appiah Ofori has noted that Parliament would have been absolved from blame by Auditor-General's report if the Finance Committee had upheld his objection to the approval of $11.8 million for the [email protected] Secretariat. He recalled that he opposed the approval of the $11.8 million at the Finance Committee meeting on grounds that the then Chief of Staff, Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani, had not accounted for the first $20 million the House had earlier approved. But he was overruled by many of the members and consequently the money was given the light. He explained that the two installments of $20 million and $11.8 million respectively demanded by the Government for the [email protected] Secretariat were in the 2007 Budget Statement as an appendix; but the amounts did not form part of the Appropriation Act because they were captured in dollars in the budget. And once the budget was approved,it meant that they were to be brought to Parliament for approval. "At that meeting I raised objections to the approval of the $11.8 million by Parliament. The reason being that the first $ 20million should be accounted for to Parliament by the Chief of Staff before more monies could be used but the objection was overruled by majority of members, therefore it went through," he told Public Agenda in an interview on the Audit Report of the [email protected] Secretariat. The Report accuses Parliament of glossing over the fact that neither the "Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning nor the Secretariat presented budgets estimates in accordance with Article 179(2) and (8) of the 1992 Constitution and approved amounts of $20 million and $11.8 million for the Secretariat." The Report which spans May 2006 and December 2008 indicts Parliament for failing to exercise oversight responsibility on [email protected] Secretariat. It says the aberration led to a situation where the Secretariat, was left with the option of spending the amount allocated according to its own discretion. "Whatever the Secretariat spent in excess of the total amount $31.8 million did not have prior approval of Parliament and therefore the Secretariat acted ultra vires, hence unconstitutional and illegal," he submitted. Quoting the Loans Act, Hon. Appiah-Ofori argues that the Act expressly provides in Section 10 that any loan guaranteed by the government, the terms and conditions pertaining to the loan must have prior approval of Parliament in the same way as obtains when a government is contracting a loan. "So the guarantee of loans by the National Planning Committee (NPC) which were contracted by certain institutions and were accessed and used without prior Parliamentary approval was illegal. Again, according to Article 181(4) of the Constitution, the proceeds from the loan must be paid into the Consolidated Fund but there is no evidence that this was complied with," he stated. He further observes, "The disbursements of money, including the $31.8 million, were not in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Administration Act and the Financial Administration Regulations. The provisions of the Procurement Act and the Internal Audit Agency Act were also not complied with. "Accordingly, those who handled the money must be called upon to explain their conduct, and if as a result of the non-compliance with the Constitution, the Financial Administration Act, 203; the Financial Administration Regulation, 2004 the Procurement Act, 2004, and the Internal Audit Act the State incurred any financial loss, then the Office of the Chief of Staff and the [email protected] Secretariat must be held blamable." Additionally, he notes that Section 62 of the Financial Administration Act states that any public officer connected with the disbursement of public funds who makes opportunities for anybody to commit an offence and if found guilty goes to prison for 10 years and section 179(a)(3) of the Criminal Code also says that "Any person through whose willful action or omission the State incurs any financial loss commits an offence, then all those connected with the disbursement of the funds have a case to answer. "Therefore the law should be allowed to take its course to serve as deterrent to all public officers," he maintained. Thus Hon. Appiah-Ofori concurs with the Auditor-General that Parliament failed to discharge its oversight responsibility. He made a shocking revelation, "Indeed, I personally paid a visit to the [email protected] Secretariat during its operations and was unhappy about the way they were doing things. I did not see any cash book for the recording of disbursements of funds being made by the Secretariat, so I was not surprise that the Auditor-General had made negative findings against the authorities involved." He notes that certain media personnel who have been contending that the Chief of Staff was at one time in Parliament to furnish MPs with detailed disbursements of the monies allocated are doing so out of ignorance in that it was after the expenditure by the Secretariat that Parliament invited the Chief of Staff to come and explain. "The procedure is that he should have provided Parliament with the details before spending so that the House can hold the Secretariat accountable".