GH¢403.7 m ‘missing money’; PIAC rejects Finance Ministry’s explanation

Dr Steve Manteaw addressing the press conference.

Dr Steve Manteaw addressing the press conference.

THE Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) has said it remains dissatisfied with the explanation given by the Finance Ministry about the whereabouts of an amount of GH¢403.7 million meant to support the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) for 2017 from the country’s petroleum revenue.

The Ghanaian Times on Monday, October 8, 2018  reported the PIAC Vice Chairman, Dr Thomas Stevens, as saying that out of an allocation of GH¢736.03 million to support the ABFA, only GH¢332.29 million was spent, leaving an unspent amount of GH¢403.7 million.

But the Ministry in a statement signed by its Chief Director, said, the ABFA receipt in 2017 was GH¢733.2 million out of which “GH¢329.5 million was used to pay for projects.”

According to the Ministry, “an amount of GHC403.7 million was transferred into the Treasury Main Account in 2017. This transfer is in line with the provisions of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in Section 46 of the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA), 2016, (Act 921) that requires that all government balances should be part of TSA.”

In a rebuttal, to the clarification given by the Ministry, the Chairman of the PIAC, Dr Steve Manteaw, at a media briefing in Accra yesterday asked: “When was this said transfer into the treasury account effected?” and “how is the specific amount of GHC403.7 million, being petroleum revenue accounted for?”

According to the PIAC Chairman “assuming without admitting that this transfer is in accordance with the law, it does not absolve the ministry of the responsibility of accounting to the public the use of this money.”

Dr Manteaw noted that as a matter of logic, if the ministry’s explanation was to stand, then it defeats the entire purpose of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), 2011, Act 815 which was enacted to “provide the framework for the collection, allocation and management of petroleum revenue in a responsible, transparent, accountable and sustainable manner.”

Dr Manteaw said that in the view of the Committee, the “sweeping” of the unspent amount into an account other than the Petroleum Holding Fund and “co-mingling it with other funds does not only open the floodgates for potential derailment of mechanisms in Act 815 to ensure its judicious use.”

He said the Ministry’s argument that the transfer was to avoid government cash balances sitting in various accounts whiles government borrowed at expensive rates to finance important expenditures suggested that the money had been spent ostensibly on programmes and activities not budgeted for under the ABFA.

“The Committee remains dissatisfied with the response of the Ministry and insists on further and better particulars as to the whereabouts or utilisation of the amount,” he said adding that the PIAC, in the interest of the citizens of Ghana, “will relentlessly follow matters to its logical conclusion.”

Responding to question as to what it would do to establish the truth or otherwise of the Ministry’s explanation, Dr Manteaw said the PIAC may refer the matter to audit investigations or engage the services of the Special Prosecutor and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to determine the whereabouts of the ‘missing’ money.

Enumerating what he said were frustrations arising out of the non-response of the Ministry to some of its work related queries, the PIAC Chairman said the Committee was yet to receive either an acknowledgment or an explanation from the Ministry on the whereabouts of the GHC403.7 million to a letter dated June 19, 2018.

“Not even a reminder to the Ministry sent about a month ago has elicited a response. As we speak, our request for the half-year data for 2018 has not been fully responded.

“We requested for the data on  July 17, 2018 to enable us put together our half-year report. The Ministry has so far provided data on ABFA allocations but has failed to release data on expenditure and as a result, PIAC has not been able to meet its statutory reporting timeline of September 15 for the report in question,” Dr  Steve Manteaw stated.

 BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI & DAVID TAKYI

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