General News of Fri, 16 Nov 200781
Attempts To "Remote Control" PAC
Chairman threatens resignationThe Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC), Samuel Sallas-Mensah, has threatened to resign from his position if the attempts to remote control the activities of the committee were not halted.
He alleged that following the public hearings that the committee held recently, immense pressures were being brought on the leadership of Parliament to slow down activities of the committee.
Mr. Sallas-Mensah, however, observed hat it was too late for anybody to slow down the activities of the committee and "if they (referring to the powers that be) do not top, I am prepared to resign my position on the committee."
His comments came in the wake of a near clash he had with the Majority Leader of Parliament and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Abraham Ossei Aidooh over his authority to request the Auditor-General to audit the accounts of the Bank of Ghana (BoG).
While contributing to a statement made by the chairman of the PAC on the need for the country to resource adequately the Audit Service to enable it perform efficiently, Mr. Aidooh referred to a letter Mr. Sallas-Mensah wrote to the Auditor-General and questioned his authority to issue such a letter.
He said "if what I read in the papers are true, the chairman of the PAC has no authority to order the Auditor-General to audit the accounts of BoG. He has no such mandate." He said as Parliament, there was the need to respect the independence of Auditor-General.
But when Mr. Sallas-Mensah corrected him that he did not order the Auditor General and explained that it was a request he sent him, the Majority Leader still insisted that "you have no power to request the Auditor-General to conduct an audit."
This statement seemed to have angered the chairman of the PAC who got up to tell his colleague that, as chairman of the PAC, he could take certain actions without recourse to his members and quoted sections of the Audit Act to support his position.
He retorted that "the Majority Leader cannot teach me how to do my work and if he wants, he can take over the chairmanship of the PAC."
In order to avert further confrontation on the issue, the Speaker of Parliament, Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes drew the curtains on the contributions.
Following the declaration of the Governor of the BoG early this month that it used a total sum of $66.2m on the re-denomination exercise, Mr. Sallas-Mensah wrote a letter to the Auditor-General requesting him to audit the exercise.
The letter stated, "in order to com¬plete the accountability cycle, and given that this is a one-off expenditure that would not be repeated in subsequent years, the Public Accounts Committee would be grateful if you could conduct a special audit of expenditure on the redenomination as early as practicable and the committee and Parliament informed accordingly."
He recognised the independence of the Audit Service and stressed that even the President of the nation "cannot order the Auditor-General to audit any accounts," adding, "that is why in the letter I included, "kindly indicate if this request is agreeable to you."
He, therefore, debunked the claims by the Majority Leader that he was ordering the Auditor-General.
In the substantive statement, he appealed to the government to resource the service adequately to enable it perform its mandated functions.
All the MPs who contributed on the matter acknowledged the important role of the service and the need to remunerate, particularly the staff in order to fight corruption in the system.
The MP for Amansie West, Kofi Krah Mensah, for instance, suggested that Parliament should suspend its Standing Orders to do the unconstitutional thing, "if even for once to raise the budgetary allocation for the service."
For his part, the MP for Asawase, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, also suggested that the service be allowed to charge Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) that it audits a minimum percentage of what they would have paid to private audit firms for the same service to raise some funds for its functions.
That, he explained, would enable the service to carry out more audit service of the various MDAs whose accounts remained unaudited due to lack of resources.