The Attorney General and Ministry of Justice says it received cabinet approval for the payment of GH¢67.3 million to Construction Pioneers as judgement debt as far back as 2013.
This was after the 2016 Auditor General’s Report cited the ministry for infractions resulting from failure to comply with the Ministry of Finance Budget Implementation Instructions 3.8, which requires that all judgement debt claims exceeding GH¢10 million should be submitted to cabinet for approval prior to final settlement and payment.
When queried, the report explained that the ministry could not provide any documentation with regards to the court judgement adding that the failure of management to investigate the cause of the direct debit for appropriate action resulted in the anomaly.
However, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo, told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament in Accra yesterday that the ministry was authorised by Cabinet through a letter dated July 29, 2013 to pay the above amount to Construction Pioneers.
She said payments were made in two tranches in February and April of 2015.
“The judgement debt was after arbitration between Construction Pioneers and the government of Ghana. The authorisation from cabinet was received way back in 2013 but we did not have it readily available to furnish the Auditor General during the query. We apologise for the delay in presenting it,” she stated.
On why the Ministry released GH¢250,000 to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) without any documentation, Madam Akuffo stated that the sum was to fund a special operation which was not to be disclosed.
She said disclosure of the details and nature of the operation would have jeopardised the exercise and the intended purpose.
Quizzed on why the Ministry took GH¢1.1 million from the Registrar-General’s Department to be able to meet expenditures on conferences and seminars, the Attorney General said her outfit was forced to seek financial assistance due to inadequate budgetary allocation.
“Mr. Chairman, I agree there is no legal backing for the support we receive from our agency. The fact is if these support do not come in, our activities and the work, which sometimes include foreign engagement, we do for the country will come to a halt and the consequences will not be desiring. Budget allocation to the ministry is wholly inadequate for the work we do. But we have taken note of the recommendations in the Auditor General’s Report to account for it and we have done that,” she added.
She stated that the ministry has also closed four bank accounts, which were dormant and was against the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) directives to maintain a single treasury account, and had transferred the balances to the government chest.
Deputy Minister of Roads and Highways, Anthony Karbo also told the committee that his outfit was realigning the scope of some road projects to curb growing debt owed contractors in the country.
The debt, he said was as a result of project contracts being awarded without the availability of earmarked funds.
“We have taken a different approach and this is to realign the scope or terminate some contract as recommended by the Auditor General. The realignment is that if a contractor has been engaged on a project which was not budgeted for, we agree to halt the project and pay for the work done. Going forward, the strategy is that no contract will be awarded without a matching fund,” he said.
In order to deal with leakages in the collection of road tolls, Offei-Annor, Acting Chief Director, Ministry of Roads and Highways, said the ministry was awaiting approvals to automate all toll booths to help in revenue generation.
By Claude Nyarko Adams