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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Columnist: African Business Intelligence

$20 Million disappears from Ghana’s Ministry of Finance?

African countries have come a long way in improving their image. Today the skylines of Africa and the business climate of Africa is showing promise and a new dawn. Africans are living in hope that their continent is on the brink of something new.

Africa however has one big enemy: endemic corruption and diversion of public funds into the pockets of its ministers , politicians and their cronies. The spectre of corruption that haunts African institutions seems not to go away. Last month, the government of Cameroon discovered that 10 million dollars of state funds had been siphoned away by corrupt officials at its finance and Energy ministry. Similar scandals were found in Niger, Sao Tome and Principe and well as Democratic Republic of Congo. Its President, Joseph Kabila recently set up a commission of enquiry to investigate 3 government officials on allegations of embezzling 80 million dollars of government funds earmarked for road construction projects in the southwest of the country. The spotlight is on Ghana where a financial scandal of alarming proportions is brewing and which the current authorities will have to sooner rather than later address. The corridors of its Ministry of Finance are buzzing with news that a 20 million dollar grant facility from the European Union in 2010 could not be traced when government auditors sought to rebalance the books. Sources close to the Ministry of Finance say this loss has huge implications for the Ghanaian government in its efforts to secure funding for its development agenda. The are several questions that are being asked

1. Does the country have a strong auditing unit to detect anomalies in its financial operations and disbursement structure?

2. Is it not strange that the government ministers in charge of the Ministry has not taken steps to find out where this money has gone?

3. Shouldn’t the National Police investigate or a commission of enquiry be set up to identify how this money got diverted or where this money has gone?

4. How will the President John Mills respond to this looming crisis which may damage Ghana’s financial reputation?

The problem the Ghanaian law enforcement authorities are facing include a deafening silence and refusal of government officials to co-operate with any investigation. Sadly this is common in most African countries . It shows these countries have some way to go to build trust and capacity if they are to improve financial transparency. These grants and loans which unfortunately create a huge public debt if not applied to specific projects, must be accounted for and not go down the drain or be misused .