Institutions lack capacity to protect public funds

•   Mr. Kan-Dapaah (inset), addressing participants at the forum.         Photo: Seth Adu-Agyei

• Mr. Kan-Dapaah (inset), addressing participants at the forum. Photo: Seth Adu-Agyei

Mr. Albert Kan Dapaah, the immediate past chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, won the hearts of the audience yesterday when he said corruption had become endemic because heads of some state institutions did not have what it took to protect public funds.

He said institutions which have been given the mandate to apply the checks and balances mechanism in the country lacked absolute independence to do so because of their control by the Executive, which he described as tragic.

Making a presentation at this year’s Audit Service Accountability Lectures in Accra on the theme: “Management, protection and accountability of public funds — Who is responsible?,” the former Defence Minister in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Administration pointed out that since 1993 in the democratic dispensation, the Auditor-General, Parliament and the Judiciary had not fared well in the area of bringing people who stole state or government funds to book.

“Mr. Chairman, all the safety nets in our Public Financial Management Systems have deep holes and are totally unable to hold together the crucial checks and balances to protect our public funds.”

“Any institution which is charged to hold the President and government accountable must necessarily be independent. Unfortunately all these three institutions can hardly be said to be independent of the president and his government.”

“The Auditor-General who is appointed by the president in consultation with the Council of State can be dismissed by the president so as the Speaker, Majority Leader and Chief Whip in Parliament as well as the Chief Justice, and Superior court judges – they can never muster the courage to confront the president,” he said.

Mr. Kan Dapaah said that Parliament, which had the oversight roles of ensuring fiscal discipline through Accountability, had been deeply undermined by excessive political and financial decision making power in the hands of the president.

He said as long as the president controlled Parliament, Judiciary and the Auditor-General, including the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, it had never been possible to apply sanctions against people who aligned themselves to a party in government to discourage people from stealing public funds.

“Do not let us give up hope for the simple reason that we cannot afford to. In addressing this problem of protecting and accounting for our public funds, we should re-institute the checks and balances in our public financial management systems and free the accountability institutions from the present state of inactive,” he said amidst thunderous applause from the gathering.

The Minister of Finance, Mr. Seth Terkper, whose address was read on his behalf also said that management, protection and accountability of government funds was a shared responsibility which every Ghanaian must play a part in the interest of the nation.

The Auditor-General, Mr. Richard Quartey charged the media to hold public officials responsible and accountable to ensure proper management and protection of public funds.

Mr. Kabral Blay-Amihere, Chairman of the National Media Commission, asked Parliament to fast-track the passage of the Right to Information Bill to enable the media to have full access to the needed pieces of information to strengthen their watchdog role of expressing corruption in the country.

Other speakers included the Controller and Accountant General, Madam Grace Adzroe, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and MP for Dormaa Central Constituency, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, and a representative from the Attorney-General’s Department.

By Castro Zangina-Tong     

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