The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has urged the various government ministers to initiate criminal sanctions against public sector workers who violate the procurement laws with impunity.
According to the committee, failure to adhere to the Public Procurement Act was a criminal offence, which attracted a jail term of up to five years.
The committee, chaired by the Member of Parliament of Dormaa Central, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, entreated the ministers to report officers, who violated the law to the Attorney-General (A-G) for prosecution without fear or favour.
Members of the committee gave the advice when the Minister of Health, Alex Segbefia, led a team from the ministry and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to respond to some procurement irregularities identified by the Auditor General.
The PAC said side-stepping the procurement laws, raised suspicions that the individuals had personally benefitted from the illegality.
The members observed that the infractions reoccurred at all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) every year, because the officials involved were not punished, to deter others.
The GHS was cited for procurement irregularities, sole sourcing without appropriate approval, variations in procurement contracts, procurement of substandard items, among others.
The committee delved into an issue involving officials of GHS who entered into a hire purchase agreement to procure vehicles without recourse to the Procurement Act.
Responding to the query, the Director General of the GHS, Dr. Appiah Denkyirah, admitted that the procurement did not follow due process, and had, therefore, been referred to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) for investigations.
He said the procurement process was halted when the infraction was detected, and added that no vehicle had been purchased under that hire purchase agreement.
Dr. Denkyirah said the issue involved sole sourcing, and added that although sole sourcing was part of the procurement process, it needed approval from the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) before it would be implemented.
He said the contract did not involve the PPA that was why it was referred to EOCO for investigations.
The committee also queried the team on why the GHS spent more than GH1million on male condoms without reference to the procurement laws.
The acting Director of Procurement at GHS, Araba Kudiabor, said the service adhered to the procurement regime to procure the condoms, but added that the procurement documents supporting the purchase could not be found at the time of the audit.
She tendered the documents to the committee, but members on the committee were still not pleased because they could not authenticate the veracity of the documents.
The committee referred the documents to the Auditor-General for proper investigation and report back to the PAC for appropriate recommendation to be made.
Later, the Chief Executive Officer of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr. Gilbert Buckle, appeared before the committee to respond to queries raised by the Auditor General, regarding the hospital.
The auditors, detected overdue salary advances amounting to GH127,285 to workers, who were no longer employees of the hospital.
The CEO said at the time the auditors raised the concern, 141 former employees had taken the amount and noted that measures had been taken to retrieve the amounts.
“Currently, we have reduced the amount to GH10, 700, with only 16 people left. We have invited the Bureau of National investigation (BNI) to help us to trace those people. We cannot find them and we hope the BNI will help us trace them,” he said.
By Yaw Kyei