Minister Of Finance, Controller Appears Before PAC

The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament yesterday began hearing the reports of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) for the years ending December 31, 2012 and 2013.

The first batch of officials to appear before the committee comprised the Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Tekper and one of his deputies, Mr Cassiel Ato Forson.

The Controller and Accountant-General, Ms Grace Adzroe, and other officials of the Controller and Accountant-General's Department and the Ghana Revenue Authority were also present.

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the committee, Mr Kwaku Agyeman - Manu, said the essence of the hearing was to unravel the mysteries behind some of the issues raised in the report by the Auditor - General and how far such issues had been addressed.

The Deputy Ranking Member, Mr George Loh, said the forum was not to intimidate any individual or organisation but to solicit answers to improve upon the financial accounting process in the country.

Mr Agyeman -Manu expressed concern about poor records keeping and lack of follow - up implementation of the recommendations of the committee.

He expressed worry over judgement debts which were imposing heavy financial challenges on the economy and advised the Mnistry of Finance and the Auditor - General to sensitise ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and public officials to resist the temptation of incurring such debts.

Some members of the committee were also of the view that politicians should be educated on the implications of interference in the award and abrogation of government contracts which resulted in judgement debt.

They were also of the view that the Attorney-General had also been slow in enforcing the recommendations of the committee.

For instance, a member of the committee, Mr Richard Quarshigah, said even though his father died two years ago, the Accountant-General continued to pay his pension.

He said an amount of GH¢18,000 which was paid into his father's account after his death had still not been returned to government chest in spite of efforts he had made to ensure that the government retrieved the money.

He added that he had contacted the Accountant-General, as well as officials of the bank which held the account into which his late father's monthly pension allowance was paid but that had not yielded any results.

Mr Quarshigah wondered why recommendations made with regard to the discontinuation of pension payments to deceased pensioners had not been implemented.

Members of the committee expressed regret that the Auditor - General's Department had also not acted on recommendations on the appropriate penalties for tax defaulters and institutions which collected taxes on behalf of the government.

With regard to loan transactions from some donor partners to institutions such as the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), government organisations and individuals, the members were not happy that the government had failed to retrieve them.

Mr Forson, answering questions on the huge judgement debts paid by the government, said MDAS had been warned that if they created judgement debts, the liability would be on them and that the government would ensure that the monies would be charged on their account.

Using the Ghana Police Service as an example, he said, the organisation engaged in activities that resulted in people heading to the courts and seeking percuniary compensation.

He said the Ministry of Finance had made institutions to understand that any financial liability on the government as a result of the activities of the police would be deducted from their allocation.

Since then, he said, most of the institutions as well as MDAs had been careful.

Ms Adzroe said efforts were being made to address the numerous challenges facing her office.

On the issue of continued payment of allowances to deceased pensioners, she said the banks had been instructed to pay such monies into suspense accounts at the banks and subsequently into government chest.

She found it surprising that such a situation persisted.

The committee members were not pleased with her explanations.

Mr Agyeman-Manu described her explanations as "plenty of talk" and said ways needed to be found to address the problem.