CJA Chastises Parliament

The Committee for Joint Action (CJA), a pressure group, has observed that the inability of Parliament to implement the recommendations of the Auditor-General’s Report into public accounts has made the country lose huge sums of resources to corrupt civil and public servants. It cited the 2008 report in which total cash irregularities alone amounted to GH¢166.1 million, an increase of 177.4 per cent, over that of 2007. A leading member of the CJA, Mr Edward Bawa, who made the allegations at a press conference by the Committee, chastised Parliament for always seeking its own interest, especially in the areas of remuneration and ex-gratia, but failing to protect the public purse. “It is not enough to hold public hearings where officials are made to answer questions. Serious punitive actions ought to be taken against the offending officials in order to deter others from engaging in similar practices,” Mr Bawa said. Going into some specifies of the 2008 report, he said the VAT Service acquired the Barnett building near Busy Internet in Accra for GH¢847,154 and rehabilitated it at GH¢2,387,216, even though it only acquired the building for an 11-year lease. He said three oil marketing companies which reneged on their scheduled payment plan to the tune of GH¢2,768,908 were not asked for guarantees and they were also not paying their debts, while the Ministry of Finance sat doing nothing. He said contrary to regulation 14(1) of the Financial Administration Regulation, the Ministry of Trade and Industry opened and operated an account at the High Street branch of Barclays Bank with an amount GH¢2 billion in 2005. He said the account yielded interest of GH¢7.8million but both the principal and the interest were not accounted for. Mr Bawa also noted that management within the Ministry of Ports and Harbours misapplied GH¢600,000 which was meant to be used to pay the end-of-service benefits of 674 retrenched workers of the Ghana Railway Company. According to him, the Ministry of Defence also experienced cash irregularities of GH¢473,061 for repairs that had no certificate of satisfactory completion at the Support Services Brigade. He said at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, total releases from Non-Roads Accounts, in violation of procedures for accessing funds from the Consolidated Fund, amounted to GH¢3,066,742. He said the report also found that in 2006 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs transferred €76,761 to the Copenhagen Mission but could not trace this sum in the mission’s accounts. He said according to the report, several administrative weaknesses that contributed to those irregularities were observed. “These included lack of supervisory control, non-application of procurement procedures, overpayments, purchases that were not covered by VAT receipts, purchases that were not accounted for, lack of diligence by internal audits, under-payment of taxes and unauthorised advance payments to contractors,” Mr Bawa added. In total, the report found that the Ministry of Energy was the ministry with the greatest amount of irregularities, with GH ¢450,711,663 in irregularities.