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General News Tue, 10 Feb 2009

No ex-gratia funds released – AG

The controversy over the payment of ex-gratia has deepened with the claim by the Controller and Accountant-General (CAG), Mr Christian Sottie, that no money has yet been transferred from any government account for disbursement to Members of Parliament (MPs).

The source of the money reported to have been paid to some MPs got even more puzzling when parliamentary sources also denied the existence of any other means by which money could have been secured for the payment of the ex-gratia.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, Mr Sortie said if some MPs claimed that they bad cashed their benefits or found the amounts in their accounts, then that money would have come from elsewhere because "it did not originate from us".

Reacting to reports that at least six former and current MPs had collected their money, Mr Sottie stated that “no money was transferred at all to Parliament’s accounts at the Bank of Ghana” and wondered where Parliament got the money to effect those payments.

He explained that following the administrative approval asking for the payment to be made to the Executive and Legislature, he sent it back to the Ministry of Finance arid Economic Planning for counter approval because there had been an earlier directive from the Office of the President asking that prior approval be sought on all such payments before they were effected.

Mr Sottie said following the approval by Mr Moses Asaga, who was a member of the three-member team tasked with responsibility for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, an advice was sent to the Bank of Ghana (BoG) on January 26, 2009 for the payments to be effected.

He said even before the BoG could act on the advice from the CAG, there was another directive asking that the payments be suspended.

Mr Sottie said based on that, he again sent a second advice to the BoG on February 2, 2009 cancelling the January 26, 2009 advice.

Asked if the payments could not have taken place before the second advice cancelling the first order reached the BoG, he answered in the negative.

"The money was not released. It did not reflect in our accounts," he stated.

According to him, the Controller and Accountant-General's Department did not pay individuals. What it did was to release bulk money into the accounts of the various ministries, departments and agencies, as well as other organisations, which in turn made the disbursement into individual accounts.

He explained that even before the directive seeking prior approval was issued, the procedure by the CAGD was to ensure that claims were legitimate before payments were effected.

When Parliament was reached with the disclosure of the CAGD, sources dose to the House told the Daily Graphic that Parliament had no other source of generating its own income from which it could have paid its staff or MPs.

They hinted that in such a circumstance, it was the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning which could help unravel the puzzle as to whether there had been any payments at all and if so where the money came from.

When the Chief Director of the ministry, Nana Juaben-Boaten Siriboe, was reached for a confirmation of the source of the ex-gratia which was earlier reported to have been paid to the MPs, he could not immediately react to it because he was locked up in a meeting.

The January 16, 2009 release letter, signed by the Chief Director of the ministry, asked that the expenditure of GH¢25,048,083.00 (¢250 billion) "should be charged to Reserve Fund Account at the Bank of Ghana".

The letter, which was addressed to the CAG, was copied to the Clerk of Parliament, the Secretary to the President, the Chairman of the Economic Subcommittee of the Transitional Team, the Auditor-General, the Director of Budget and the accounts branch, both of the ministry.

Members of the Executive were to receive GH¢10,176,129 (¢101 billion), while GH¢14,871,954 (¢148 billion) was due those of Legislature to meet resettlement grants and the payment of ex-gratia.

A former MP, Mr John Ndebugre, said something was really amiss and called for an investigation into the matter.

"I am sure someone is not telling us the truth," he said.

Source: Daily Graphic
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