The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday directed state agencies in the energy sector to stop charging in dollars in compliance with the Foreign Exchange Act, 2006 (Act 723).
The chairman of the committee, Dr James Klutse Avedzi, tasked the Sector Minister, Dr Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, who appeared before the committee with the head of the agencies, to ensure that they complied.
“Stop charging in dollars,” he said at the committee meeting which was probing sector agencies on the Auditor General’s Report on Public Boards and Corporations and other statutory institutions for the period ending 2020.
The act prohibits companies, institutions, and individuals from engaging in foreign exchange business without a licence issued by the Bank of Ghana (BoG); or pricing, advertising, receipting, or making payments for goods and services in foreign currency in Ghana, without BoG’s authorisation.
Such violations are punishable on summary conviction, by a fine of up to 700 penalty units or a term of imprisonment of not more than 18 months, or both.
The dollar issue came up when the Chief Executive of the Bui Power Authority, Kofi Dzamesi, expressed concern about the Electricity Company of Ghana’s indebtedness of 386 million dollars to the Authority in 2019.
Confirming the practice of charging in the foreign currency, Dr Prempeh said aside from the ECG’s debts which were often in dollars, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) tariffs were in dollars while independent power producers were also charging in the same currency.
He said the Ministry was working with the Ministry of Finance to resolve the problem to bring relief to the sector because of the impact of cedi depreciation.
On inter-agency debt which appeared to run through all the agencies that appeared before the committee, he said the Ministry had taken steps to resolve the issue gradually.
Earlier, when the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) took its turn, the Chief Executive, Dr Mustapha Hamid, justified the payment of GH¢10million to the government without any document from the Minister approving a dividend policy, saying the Ministry of Finance authorised the payment.
But the Chairman of the Committee, Dr Avedzi said the Ministry of Finance did not have the power to write to agencies and demand payment of any sum of money as dividend.
He said per Regulation 197 of the Public Financial Management Regulations 2019, L.I. 2378 the Ministry should rather, upon the advice of the central oversight body, come out with a dividend policy for the payment.
“As a regulatory agency, they are not even supposed to pay dividends. It is only commercial entities that must pay,” he said.
It came to light that a Principal Accounts Clerk, Gilbert Buree who failed to lodge GH¢302,571.86 into the Northern Electricity Distribution Company’s bank account in January 2019 was on the run.
The committee was assured that he had since been dismissed and civil action instituted with efforts ongoing to get an order from the court to use his valuable assets to defray the debt.to stand next has from on of the document long-Billy ex-related been being crimes Advocate
BY JONATHAN DONKOR