PAC slams Min. over GETFund

hon._kwaku_agyeman-manuThe failure of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to release funds due the  GETFund came under scrutiny yesterday, at the third sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC),  of Parliament to consider Reports of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) for the years ending December 31, 2012 and 2013.

Organisations which appeared before the committee were the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Controller and Accountant-General’s Department, Ghana Revenue Authority and the Economic and Organised Crime Unit.

The committee expressed misgivings about the failure of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to release the funds due GETFund, to enable it to pay for contracts awarded for the construction of school buildings.

Some of the members were not happy with the answers given by the Deputy Minister, Mr Casely Ato-Forson, on the issue.

That resulted in an argument among the members of the committee which prompted Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Chairman, to intervene to ensure that the Deputy Minister of Finance  thoroughly explained the issue.

The Chairman said the failure of the ministry to honour its statutory obligation to GETFund was a breach of the country’s financial laws, pointing out that

“even if the amount due the GETFund, which is part of  VAT,  is a pittance, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning is obliged  to release the said  amount to the Fund.”

Mr Agyeman-Manu wondered how GETFund would pay its suppliers and companies which had worked for the Fund when the ministry had not released monies due the GETFund.

Explaining the cause of the delay in releasing the funds, the Deputy Minister said the government faced liquidity challenges and, therefore, could not release the money to the GETFund.

He said arrangements had been made to pay the monies and that the first tranche would be paid in the second half of this year, while the final tranche would be honoured in the first half of 2016.

“Our economy has expanded. We are now charging VAT on financial services, which government was not doing and we will raise money to pay the arrears to GETFund,” he said.

The committee also expressed concern about government’s payment of commitment fee of GHc41.8 million under the China Development Bank (CDB) loan even when the  bank had not disbursed  the loan.

Mr. Ato-Forson explained that the payment of the commitment fee is part of the agreement under the Master Facility Agreement on the CDB loan.

He said the Master Facility was renegotiated and the government had saved the country a colossal amount.

A member of the committee, Simon Osei-Mensah, said the country needs money for its development projects and it was unacceptable for public funds to be dissipated.

He entreated the Auditor-General’s Department to address pilfering and dissipation of public funds, which he described as “systemic failure and weakness in the system.”

“The GH¢41.8 million which has gone down the drain could have been used to construct toilets for the numerous communities in my constituency which do not have access to sanitation facilities,” he said.

Among other queries which were raised in the 2012/2013 Auditor General’s report and came under scrutiny were the arrears to the District Assemblies Common Fund to the tune GH¢571 million   and the non-payment of  workers’ SSNIT contribution to the tune of  GH¢826 million.

On the issue of non-payment of SSNIT contributions, the Deputy Minister explained that government currently is not owing the SSNIT.

He explained that, government had converted the monies owed SSNIT into loans which would be paid to the Trust.

By Kingsley Asare

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