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General News of Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Source: GNA

Public Accounts Committee needs powers to bite - Chairman

James Avedzi, Chairman of PAC James Avedzi, Chairman of PAC

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament needs to be granted the powers to take some immediate actions against persons cited in the Auditor General’s report for misapplying or misappropriating state funds, Mr James Avedzi, Chairman of PAC has said.

Mr Avedzi, who is also a Member of Parliament for Ketu North, expressed worry about the continued disregard for the public financial management laws saying: “So, these are the problems that we have and that is why we have been saying that the PAC should be given some more powers so that we will be able to take action against some of these things to serve as a deterrent to the rest of the people.”

He was speaking to journalists in Tamale on Monday at the start of a week-long sitting by Members of PAC to consider the 2017 report of the Auditor General for some public institutions in the Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East, and Upper West Regions.

Four reports of the Auditor General being considered during the meeting included the Technical Universities and Polytechnics reports, pre-tertiary educational institutions report, the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies’ report (management and utilisation of the District Assemblies Common Fund, and the Internally Generated Funds and other accounts).

As usual, some of the reports were replete with issues of cash, rent, store, contract, and tax irregularities.

Mr Avedzi said “It is becoming worrying that issues that are being reported on over and over, and recommendations that are made by the Auditor General, some of the institutions seem to be following the recommendations but they keep on also having the same infractions in the report.”

He said “It is a worrying trend that we are all fighting. Probably, we are not biting too strong. You can also see clearly that most of them come to the committee to tell lies because their representations are not really what happened on the ground.”

He spoke about the powers of PAC to fight irregularities contained in the Auditor General’s report, saying as things stood now “PAC can only make recommendations to the house and when the house approves our recommendations, it goes back to the various institutions cited for implementation of the recommendations.”

He added “For instance, these issues cropped up in 2017. We are now looking at them in 2021 simply because we have a backlog of reports that we are working on.

Now when we see these things, and it becomes very clear that an officer is not telling the truth to the Committee, we do not have much power than to recommend for this person to either be prosecuted or be punished in one way or the other and that recommendation will be contained in our report, which also takes some time before the house approves it.

But if we have the powers as the PAC and something of this nature happens, we can even recommend for that person to be locked up by the police.”

Mr Avedzi said “The best we can do now is to ask the person to write a statement then the Executive takes over. But if we have the power to recommend for somebody not only to make a statement but to be locked up until that person is bailed and the bail conditions are fulfilled, then immediately the Executive takes over the person can be prosecuted.

If we have that power and we can carry one, two, three of such powers, you will see clearly that the officers appearing before the Committee will sit up and do the right thing.”

He said “We will be recommending in the report to Parliament to grant the Committee such powers. We are sure to come up with a Private Members Bill to grant such powers to the Committee.”

Kofi Okyere Agyekum, Ranking Member on the PAC said it was necessary to sanction people, who engaged in misappropriation and misapplication of state funds as well as recover the fund for the state.