Opinions Sun, 13 Aug 2017

NDC ministers swindle Ghanaians

When the former Minister for Finance, Mr Seth Terkper, announced in Parliament in 2013 that ministers of state, including the President and his vice, were going to donate 10% of their monthly salaries to support the construction of Community-Based Health Planning Services (CHPS) compounds throughout the country, many were Ghanaians who hailed the idea.

What many Ghanaians did not know, however, is that the money was withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund through a letter written to the Accountant General by the Chief of Staff in 2014, whilst in 2015 not even a pesewa was deducted and paid into the fund from the salaries of the ministers, contrary to what they had promised Ghanaians.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Nhyiaeso Constituency, Mr Kennedy Kwasi Kankam, is now questioning the whereabouts of the money withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund account, without the knowledge of Parliament, as specified by law.

To him, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) ministers breached Article 178 of the Constitution, which talks about how monies kept in the Consolidated Fund could be withdrawn.

Article 178 states: “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund, except (a) to meet expenditure that is charged on that Fund by this Constitution, or by an Act of Parliament

(b) where the issue of those moneys has been authorised – (i) by an Appropriation Act.”

According to the MP, as far as he was concerned, there was no Act of Parliament to that effect – concluding that the demands of the said Article had been breached.

The MP raised the issue yesterday, whene Controller and Accountant General’s Department appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, which was working on the 2015 report by the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund), for the year ended 31st December 2015.

The then Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, somewhere in November 2013, announced to Parliament that then President John Dramani Mahama, and his Vice, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, as well as all ministers had decided to take a 10% voluntary deduction from the year 2014.

He said the money realised from the deductions would be used to construct Community-Based Health Planning Services (CHPS) compounds, to provide maternal and neo-natal health care services to rural communities.

According to Mr. Terkper, who was making a presentation of the government’s 2014 budget and financial statement, the decision was to demonstrate leadership on the part of the President and his appointees.

In the Report of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) for the year ended 31st December 2015, the 10% deduction for 2014 was duly acknowledged, but for 2015, nothing was recorded.

Tabled under a subtitle – ‘Trust Monies,’ – the amount, GH¢896,547 was captioned as ‘Political Appointees 10% Salary Cut’.

The MP argued that the acknowledgement of the money meant it was kept in the Consolidated Fund, and that the former ministers should have followed the dictates of Article 178 in withdrawing it.

His argument was rooted in a response from the Deputy Controller General, Kwasi Owusu, that his outfit had been keeping the 10% cut until the then Chief of Staff wrote a letter for its withdrawal, and that no deductions were deposited in the Consolidated Fund in 2015.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle shortly after the day’s sitting, the MP said he just wanted to find out where the money had gone, and whether or not it was used for its intended purpose, as Ghanaians were made to believe.

He explained that it was prudent for Ghanaians to know, because, praises were showered on the Mahama administration for that move, adding that it would be a ‘grand deception’ if the money was not used for what it was meant for.

“We just want to find out where the money was. Even if the zero (for 2015) is nothing to talk about, let us look for the GH¢896,547 – because, before you can withdraw from the Consolidated Fund, there is a constitutional provision for that.

“Article 178 of the Ghana Constitution has a provision on how you can withdraw money from the Consolidated Account. And, so far as I’m concerned, moneys have been paid into the Consolidated Account in 2014.

“Maybe, in 2015, it was not paid into it, but, in 2014, GH¢896,457 was paid into the Consolidated Fund, and we just want to find out how the money was taken from the Consolidated Fund, who took that money from the Consolidated Fund, and that’s our interest,” he said.

Meanwhile, responding to the issue before the PAC, the Deputy Controller General noted: “Chairman, when the policy was initiated by the [previous NDC] Government, we (Controller and Accountant General’s Department) were holding the money in trust.

“Subsequently, they decided that we should bring the money to them. So, as and when we deducted from the payroll, it goes directly to the owner of the money, and that’s why in 2015 you didn’t see anything at all.

“That money was not meant for government, it was their own voluntary money, which, initially, we were holding in trust. So, subsequently, when they said as soon as you deduct give it to us, definitely, you have to send [it] to them; that was the reason,” he remarked.

In a subsequent response, the Deputy Controller General further said: “The then executive wrote to us that these people deduct so much from their salaries, and then when you deduct, then you put it in [the] account at that time. So, subsequently, they wrote that we should release that money, and we released the money accordingly.

He, however, added that when deductions are made for associations and unions, the monies are later on released to them; “That is how we operate. So as to what they have done with the money, that is not an area we can answer, because it wasn’t a statutory deduction,”

Columnist: Maxwell Ofori