The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) must be reformed. Part 2

Public Accounts Committee File photo: Members of the committee at a sitting

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 Source: Issah Fuseini

My proposal to parliament on Public Account Committee (PAC) has to do with the modalities and recommendations that are not well implemented. First, the involvement of the Audit Report Implementation Committee (ARIC), intradepartmental unit charged with enforcing the Auditor General's proposals. Section 16(8) of the Internal Audit Agency Act, 2003 (Act 658) also mandate ARIC to implement internal audit recommendations. Yet they are nonexistent in a significant number of Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) and District Assemblies (DAs). Consequently, the findings and recommendations from external and internal audit are not implemented.

Consideration should be given to punitive measures, including withholding allocations meant for public offices which have not established ARIC or failed to implement audit recommendations.

Secondly, I also proposed an amendment to the Financial Administration Act, 2003 (Act 654) to ensure that the Financial Administration Tribunal is established. Section 66(1) of the Act 654 stipulates the establishment of the Financial Administration Tribunal, an independent body with responsibility to enforce Parliament's recommendations on the Auditor General's reports, in theory, this is to complement the work of Audit Report Implementation Committee (ARIC's).

What it means is that, the Financial Administration Tribunal (FAT) also has powers to make orders for recovery of monies or other assets owe to the state. The Tribunal, which is granted the enforcement powers of a High Court, comprises a Justice of the High Court (Chairperson), a chartered accountant, and a management accountant or professional value. Act 654, however, hands the responsibility for nominating the Tribunal members to the chief Justice, with the president appointing as it is done with the Special Prosecutor. More than fourteen years after Act 654 was enacted, the Tribunal has not been established.

Some of the key reason for this delay owes to the fact that the judiciary is loath to exercising the power to nominate the Tribunal members, as it considers that to be a non-judicial authority. I strongly recommend that the house amend the financial administration law to remove the judicial link. Parliament could take up the responsibility of nominating the Tribunal members, this is a proposal some senior parliamentarians welcome. Overall, the Financial Administration Tribunal (FAT) could make significant contribution in the important areas of public financial management. Thus its establishment should be a matter of priority.

Columnist: Issah Fuseini