CDD-Ghana issues statement on PAC hearings
CDD-GHANA’S STATEMENT ON THE PUBLIC HEARINGS OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE OF PARLIAMENT AND RELATED MATTERS
The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) joins Ghanaians in congratulating the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament for the important initiative it has taken recently to demand accountability from officials in our Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) entrusted with the use and management of public funds and other resources. We commend the Committee’s members for the spirit of non-partisanship and professionalism with which they approached this very important task. We hope that the decision of the Committee to hold public hearings into findings contained in the Auditor-General’s Report would become institutionalized as part of the tradition of the Parliament of the Fourth Republic.
We strongly implore Parliament’s other Committees, especially the sector-specific committees, to emulate the PAC’s example. We also hope that the same spirit of non-partisanship and singleness of purpose that characterized the PAC public hearings would guide the Majority and Minority parties in Parliament when the full report of the Committee is brought for consideration by the House. The widespread abuse and misapplication of budgeted funds in the MDAs that became apparent from the PAC proceedings confirms the need for parliamentary committees, especially sector-specific committees, to be proactive in the exercise of their mandates. Had Parliament’s sector-specific committees acted in a pro-active manner or taken their oversight responsibilities more seriously, some of the abuses that came to light at the PAC hearings may well have been averted.
It also provides yet another occasion to reiterate the long-held view of CDD-Ghana and others that Parliament must amend its Standing Orders to allow the parliamentary committees to sit in public. The PAC disclosures further underscore the continuing need to strengthen the independence and capacity of the Auditor-General, Parliament, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Accountant-General’s Department and other key agencies of horizontal accountability. The improvements in the capacity of the Audit Service and particularly, the appointment since 2003 of a constitutionally-tenured Auditor-General have, no doubt, helped to improve PAC’s oversight role. These improvements have in turn helped to improve the quality and timeliness of the Auditor- General’s Reports. All this goes to affirm the importance of improving security of tenure for the heads of key anti-corruption and public protection agencies.
It also raises anew, the Center’s long-standing recommendation for statutory limits to be placed on the length of time the President and other authorities who appoint these key officials are allowed to keep such officials in an “acting” capacity, thereby undermining their security of tenure which these officials are supposed to enjoy under the law. The revelations and disclosures at the PAC public hearings have raised public awareness of the alarming gaps in the nation’s financial management and control systems. However, it is our hope that the hearings and the alarming revelations will not be the end of the story, but, rather, only the beginning. In this regard, we call on the law enforcement agencies, including the Attorney-General, CHRAJ, and SFO, to follow up diligently on these revelations and ensure that the applicable laws are enforced to bring to book those found to have abused public funds. Failure in the past to follow up on these abuses, as well as the lack of credible sanctions against culprits, has contributed to the pervasive culture of impunity within our MDAs, as amply demonstrated by the wanton disregard for public financial management regulations. The institutional failures in the MDAs that have been brought to light by the PAC hearings should serve as a chilling reminder of the fact that, despite making progress in democratizing government, Ghana continues to suffer major weaknesses in its public administration. Unless steps are taken to reform and re-orient our public institutions and restore integrity and accountability in the management of national resources, Ghana indeed risks falling victim to the “resource curse,” at a time when the nation is poised to receive and invest the proceeds of the US$750 million raised recently through the issue of sovereign bonds, and as we anticipate the revenue stream from the recently-discovered oil-rich wells in our continental shelf.
The revelations at the PAC confirm a clear need to accelerate and deepen the implementation of the Internal Audit, Procurement and Financial Administration laws. In light of the revelations coming from the PAC hearings, and the public and media reactions to them, CDD-Ghana views the recent call by the elements of Ghana’s political class for the law on willfully causing financial loss to the State to be repealed as highly self-serving and deserving of the strongest possible civic rejection. Politicians who in the last few weeks have been canvassing public support for state funding of political party activities and for security protection for individual Members of Parliament must not place themselves in the forefront of attempts to weaken Ghana’s existing, and scarcely adequate, anti-corruption legal regime. At any rate, the continued effectiveness of the Auditor-General, the PAC and other frontline agencies of public accountability in enforcing applicable laws in the MDAs, offers the best opportunity for avoiding the recurrent political problems (including allegations of selective justice and political persecution) associated with the law on causing financial loss to the state in particular, and post-incumbent accountability in general.
Issued by: CDD-Ghana Dated: Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Signed: E. Gyimah-Boadi (Professor) Executive Director, CDD-Ghana
For further information contact Kojo Asante on Tel: 021-776142/763-029