General News of Monday, 3 June 2013

Source: The Scandal

COMMENT: Ghana's public account leaks like a sieve

The consolidated fund is the state’s purse. It is the ‘pot’ into which all of Ghana’s revenue with the exception of monies dedicated to specific projects or to special funds like the GETfund or the National Health Insurance Levy or any other levy.

The consolidated fund is sometimes also called the public account of Ghana and the Auditor-General is mandated by Article 187(5) of the constitution of Ghana, and Section 23(1) of the Audit Service Act 2000, to at least, once a year, examine the accounts and present a report to parliament.

The Scandal has been looking at the 2010 and 2011 Auditor-General’s Reports, and one thing is clear; Ghana’s Consolidated Fund is leaking like a sieve. It appears revenue and expenditure are the only things that interest our ‘big men’. The country’s assets mean very little or nothing at all to them.

The reports are replete with stories of how some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) and the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) appear to have shirked their responsibilities and have literally thrown away millions of dollars belonging to the country.

Government properties are sold, and nobody follows up to collect the monies. Government buys interests in private companies and actually pays for the shares, but nobody follows up to make sure the records are updated to reflect the new shareholding structure and nobody bothers to follow up on dividends or returns on the investment.

In some cases, government give loans to private companies and these are not even recorded or reported in the public accounts. In some cases, there are no agreements covering these loans. Where there are agreements, no one actually works to recover the loans.

In the 2011 Auditor Generals Report, there are stories about how poor treasury management in the year resulted in the loss of over GHc75 million in bank charges alone. Also, an amount of GHc5.8m of non-tax revenue, which was supposed to be paid in the consolidated fund, has since not been paid. There are also stories of multiple payments of salaries and pensions, multiple dormant bank accounts, and of course the infamous judgment debt.

In this report, the Auditor General categorically states that GHc218m was paid as judgment debt in 2011, and described these debts as “reckless and avoidable.” The Sole Commissioner on Judgment Debt seems to agree with this statement.

A fortnight ago, the Scandal reported on how a total amount of GHc8.3m accrued from the sale of seven state enterprises since 2010, had still not been paid to the consolidated account. As you read this story in May 2013, these monies have still not been paid. Unfortunately, our ‘big men’ don’t think Ghanaians deserve any answers.

Last week, we again reported on how US$8.2m worth of government’s assets were transferred to an American Company- Prairie Volta in April 2008 and up until today, (June 2013) no documentation has been prepared to cover the transfer, either as equity in the company or as a loan to the company; no one wants to know.

There is the special case of how government's ten per cent shareholding in ten different mining operations in Ghana, including Newmont Gh. Gold Ltd., Ghacem, Kosmos Energy and LushennEternit Energy Ltd have not been disclosed, not accounted for in the books and not followed up on. In fact, these assets have been totally ignored according to the Auditor General. In the midst of all these, the government has reported a shortfall in revenue for the first quarter and is requesting parliament to approve new import levies, excise duties, fee and charges, as well as a five per cent stabilization levy on companies.

We await parliament’s reaction on this one.