$20m Donor Cash Pops Up From Nowhere

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has questioned the Ministry of Finance why an amount of US$20.1 million from Multi Donor Budgetary Support inflow was not captured in the government’s treasury for the year 2012.

The Committee was equally not happy with why the Ministry of Finance also failed to acknowledge disbursements from the various development partners totaling GH¢972,785,355.88 covering a period of three years (2010 to 2012).

These anomalies, together with others, were captured in the Auditor-General’s Report on the verification study of Multi-Donor Budgetary support inflows from 2010 to 2012.

Responding to the query, a deputy Minister of Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, who appeared before the PAC on behalf of the substantive minister, said the US$20.1 million donor cash did not go missing, but was credited into a different account other than where it was supposed to be.

He attributed the anomaly to human error, and assured the PAC that the matter had been resolved after the various accounts operated by the Ministry of Finance were reconciled, an action, he noted, had even been acknowledged by the Auditor-General.

“The whole thing is not about capturing, it is about wrongly credited into a particular account. Yes, it was not captured, because, obviously, if it hit wrong accounts, you will not be able to capture that under the specification or classification. Now, because Account A is in different classification and Account B is in different classification.

“So, if you are auditing one item, you have to look at the relevant account that it relates to and audit accordingly.  So, you will see an inflow coming in obviously being on the advice that it has been done, but you check the accounts and it is not there – so you will say that it has not been captured.

That does not necessarily mean that it is not there. After the final account, you do reconciliation and you realise that Account A is holding an amount that should not be there and which [is] part of human error. These things are normally resolved through normal reconciliation. It doesn’t mean that it should be done. So, we found it, reconciled it, and put it back, and the Auditor acknowledged it,” he noted in an interview with The Chronicle moments after addressing the PAC.

Mr. Forson, together with some other officials of the Ministry of Finance, had appeared before the Kwaku Agyeman-Manu PAC yesterday to answer to questions relating to how the Multi Donor Budgetary Support (MDBS) funds inflows from 2010 to 2012 was received, recorded
and acknowledged in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Development Partners (DPs) and the Ministry of Finance.

The encounter was also to take evidence from the Ministry of Finance, Controller and Accountant General’s Department, and the Ministries Departments and Agencies concerned on how effectively they are harnessing the donors’ fund inflows.

The MDBS Programme is a mechanism through which the development partners provide financial assistance through loans and grants to the Government of Ghana to support growth and poverty reduction activities.

Under the programme, funds are transferred through the Bank of Ghana to the Treasury (Controller and Accountant-General’s Department), where it is mixed with the GoG’s own resources in support of its overall budget. The funds are spent in accordance with the government’s own policies and procedures.

On an annual basis, the MDBS support and project aid contribute about 20% of the national budget, quite a significant contribution. Commenting on the issue of failure to acknowledge funds received, Mr. Ato Forson said that the situation was just that “the acknowledgement wasn’t done as frequently as the Auditor-General
wanted it to be done.”

Nonetheless, he said one could only acknowledge based on an advice, noting that “if you are going to acknowledge every single payment that hits your accounts, you end up acknowledging the one that has wrongly hit your accounts.”

“You can only acknowledge based on an advice. Your bankers will naturally advise you that X amount of money has hit your account. Your bankers will tell you it is coming from Account A or B, but I ask myself, is that sufficient grounds for me to write back to you who transferred the money to me that yes I have received the payment?

I think you also have the responsibility as a partner to write to me telling me that I have paid X amount into your account, and of which if I had received it, I will go ahead and say that thank you very much, I have received it and it is in my bank accounts. If you are going to acknowledge every single payment that hits your account, you end up acknowledging the one that has wrongly hit your account which eventually was reversed,” he noted.

Going forward,  he said the responsibility has been given to the schedule officers at the Ministry of Finance, who are working on individual development partner’s desk, to ensure that the acknowledgment is done by way of insisting on advice from the development partners, and accordingly writing back to acknowledge receipts of the sums disbursed.