Parliament urged to release PAC reports on time

hon._kwaku_agyeman-manuThe report on a research commissioned by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) has called on Parliament to produce and release all Public Accounts Committee Reports on time.

It suggested that the reports must reach the respective Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) early, to ensure prompt action on remedial actions for financial accountability.

Dr. Patrick Osei-Kufour, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Cape Coast, the consultants who undertook the project, made this known at the launch of the report of the study on the status of the implementation of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommendations among MMDAs, titled: “Beyond the PAC Report: What Next?  Public Account Committee’s Recommendations to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies in Ghana.”

He said the study, funded by Star Ghana, was a follow-up to an earlier one commissioned by the GACC in 2011. The 2011 study on “Tracking the implementation of the PAC recommendations In Ghana” covered  MDAs which could not respond satisfactorily to the PAC reports for the years ending 31 December, 2005 and 31December, 2006 as well as those that had outstanding issues in the 2004 PAC Report.

The findings of that study had revealed, among other things, that most MDAs did not receive copies of the PAC’s report and were, thus, unaware of the recommendations made in it for their outfit: The recommendations were not implemented and those which were implemented did not have reports on status of implementation while management members of the MDAs and MMDAs did not know they were legally mandated by section 30(2) of the Audit Service Act to send the status reports to The Office of the President and Parliament.

These factors therefore ensured recurrence of issues of financial misuse cited in the PAC reports as well as the Auditor General’s Reports, thus the need to undertake further study which sought to specifically examine the status of implementation of PAC recommendations by MMDAs spanning January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2007.

Using both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection, the study also sought to examine specific remedial actions taken by the respective MMDAs through their Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICs) on PAC recommendations and assess the internal and external control mechanisms introduced by the ARICs to strengthen financial accountability at the MMDAs.

The study found persistent non compliance with laws and regulations that guide the management of public accounts in Ghana, which Dr. Osei-Kuffour stressed, was a problem that needed to be tackled.  Follow up to PAC recommendations were generally poor, with management of the MMDAs and ARICs saying they hardly ever received PAC reports, let alone follow-up on them. Some (9 out of 17) had acted on at least one query and only six were able to provide evidence to indicate that some actions had been taken on the recommendations.

Dr. Osei-Kufour noted that there was the need to look at other mechanisms of safeguarding the public purse, in view of the findings.

He said challenges such as irregularity in tabling the PAC’s  reports on the floor of Parliament, difficulties in accessing the PAC Reports, although they were public documents, weaknesses in internal control, managerial ineffectiveness and low levels of commitment by Accountants and Coordinating Directors towards ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Financial Memoranda for MMDAs, 2004, the Financial Administration Regulations 2004 and the Public Procurement Act, 2003 as well as a lack of political will on the part of management of MMDAs to sanction officers for financial irregularity.

The report also recommended that the PAC reports be made available to the general public, especially civil society organisations, in order to enhance accountability.

“The ARICs at the MMDAs should be strengthened and membership reconstituted by management of the assemblies to give substantial powers to organizations or individuals external to the management of the MMDAs, to enable them to follow-up on PAC recommendations and other audit queries on financial irregularity,” it said.

Mr. Joseph Winful, Chairman of Financial Accountability and Transparency (FAT)-Africa and former senior partner at KPMG, however, argued that there was a need to take a hard look at how institutions were structured and how they were staffed, since there was too much focus on the politics of things, which was costing the nation, instead of wasting money on PACs, ARICs and study without implementing them.

He lamented Ghanaians’ apparent lack of interest in demanding accountability from public officials for misappropriation of public funds which could have been used for development projects.

“It looks as if Ghanaians are not interested in holding people accountable for misappropriation of funds. Ghanaians don’t want to be harsh with each other. This is not acceptable. All Ghanaians should be indicted for allowing this to happen. We should go back and do our homework,” he stated.

He said there should be action plans and timelines for addressing remedial actions when the PAC reports were released.

The report was launched by Mrs. Roberta Assiamah-Appiah, Deputy Auditor-General in-charge of Commercial Audit Department, who urged relevant stakeholders to address the challenges to the implementation of the PAC recommendations, since failure to do so would hinder the quest to ensure public financial accountability.

–GNA

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