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General News of Monday, 25 February 2019

Source: Graphic.com.gh

PIAC and EOCO sign agreement to investigate petroleum revenues

The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), on Monday, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to work together to investigate the utilisation of state revenue from petroleum and gas to prevent wanton embezzlement and criminal abuse.

The investigations, which would begin from 2011, when the nation started receiving petroleum revenue would ensure that all monies accrued to the State are accounted for so that all persons or institutions found culpable would be dealt with in accordance with the Law.

The MoU would thus enable the partners to collaborate towards safeguarding the petroleum revenues from criminal abuses with the view of combating economic and organised crimes, relating to the management and use of the revenues.

It would also ensure efficient, transparent and accountable management of the revenue to support national infrastructural development and welfare of the people.

At the signing ceremony in Accra, Dr Steve Manteaw, the Chairman of PIAC, said since the inception of PIAC in 2011, it had been constrained by the law that established it and, thus, lacked the legal capacity to prosecute and enforce recommendations from its findings.

It was against that backdrop that the two institutions, with distinct, but mutually reinforcing mandates, agreed to work together.

Dr Manteaw initialed on behalf of PIAC, while Mr Kwasi Korankye Amoah, the Executive Director of EOCO, signed on behalf of his Office.

Outlining the terms of reference of the Agreement, Dr Manteaw said PIAC would invite EOCO to the launch of its semi-annual and annual reports, submit copies of the Report to EOCO, highlighting relevant sections that required consideration and further investigate and furnish EOCO with accompanying documents that related to the highlighted sections.

Additionally, PIAC would avail itself to EOCO during investigations, where and when necessary, while EOCO was supposed to update PIAC at regular intervals on the progress made on its investigations.

Consequently, upon the conclusion of its investigations, EOCO is supposed to submit a formal report to PIAC, highlighting its investigative findings and intended actions.

However, the MoU would not restrict PIAC from participating in similar activities or arrangements with other entities or government agencies.

More so, the Agreement would last for five years from the date of signature, unless revised or terminated by written agreement of the Parties and they might review the provisions of the MoU annually for successful implementation.

“It is our conviction that the PIAC-EOCO collaboration will serve as a useful example of how state agencies with similar mandates can collaborate, rather than compete to achieve their common objective, Dr Manteaw, pointed out.

“We are hopeful and looking forward to serving the national interest much better, through the collaborative pursuit of our respective accountability mandates”.

Mr Amoah, for his part, said the agreement would open up its scope of investigations, explaining that, the law that established the Office mandated it to investigate financial matters affecting the State.

Again, the Office could investigate economic issues the State had an interest in it, including tax evasions, money laundering and serious offences that affected the nation.

He said EOCO had collaborated with international agencies, such as Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria and local State agencies to unravel financial malfeasances.

“In time past, people saw EOCO as a monster institution and that one was not supposed to go to, and sometimes when you invited a friend to visit EOCO, they would come with a lawyer,” he stated.

“That system is fading out rapidly that explains why we have a Charter. In the Charter, you lodge your complaint with us and you later come and ask the state of the complaint that was reported, and we have every right to tell you where we have reached and where we’re going,” Mr Amoah stated.

The EOCO Boss gave the assurance that it would work together with PIAC and sometimes invite them to join the investigations so that it would be knowledgeable about the outcome of the investigation.

After the investigation, he said, the report would be submitted to the Attorney-General’s Office and it was within the purview of the Attorney-General to determine whether to proceed with the prosecution of a case or otherwise.