The Public Account Committee (PAC) must be reformed

Public Accounts Committee File photo

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 Source: Issah Fuseini

Since 1994, Parliament has gone through the annual rituals of reading and debating the Public Accounts Committee's reports only for the reports to end up on shelves to gather dust or in some cases some of them find their way into the hands of groundnut and roasted plantain sellers and nothing is done about them.

One of the key problems we are facing as Ghanaians is the limited capacity to Parliament and, in particular, it’s Public Account Committee (PAC), to effectively prosecute its oversight role. This is demonstrated by examples of Parliament failing to insist on budget estimates when approving spending and in the Parliamentary Account Committee’s (PAC) frustrated, albeit laudable, attempts to encourage effective financial management at the district level.

I have some three recommendations to improve the oversight of the public finances in Ghana. First, I suggest that the financial and technical capacity of the Parliamentary Account Committee (PAC) be enhanced. This could be complemented by providing adequate and independent financing Audit Service, on whose reports the committee bases it actions. Secondary, dedicated unit within government departments should be created to implement both external and internal audits. And finally, the amendment of the Financial Administration Act 2003 should be made to remove any obstacles to the creation of the Financial Administration Tribunal, a body that would complement the work of the Parliamentary Account Committee (PAC) in enforcing recommendations relating to the Auditor Generals' reports.

The Auditor general reports in Ghana are both predictable and gloomy. The predictability of the reports lie in the fact that, year-on-year, identical cases of misappropriation of public funds are documented, often within the same government departments and District Assemblies (DAs). The amounts siphoned from public revenues paints a gloomy picture for the country's long term economic development. Ghanaians are our own enemy in terms of development and progress of our beloved country. God bless Ghana.

Ghana recent discovery of oil in commercial quantities and the anticipated petroleum revenue flows has raised serious expectations about the future economic development of the country. Yet Ghana poor record in the area of public financial management under the past administration, as demonstrated by many of the Auditor General's reports, raises serious doubts about the ability of government revenues to be used effectively. The weak internal controls in the public sector, and failure to enforce corrective measures, explains a significant number of irregularities relating to public funds.

Columnist: Issah Fuseini