The country lost 4.3 billion cedis through embezzlement, non-retirement of advances, items not routed through stores, unearned salaries, payments not supported with vouchers and vouchers not presented for audit, among other lapses.
The loss took place in the operations of the erstwhile Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2003.
While the then MOEYS lost 1.4 billion cedis, the MOH lost 2.9 billion cedis. About 582,978.500 cedis out of the loss at the MOH has been recovered, while 185 million cedis out of the amount lost by the MOEYS has also been recovered.
This was contained in the Report of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on the Report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of the country for 2003 on ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the central government.
The report explained that an amount of 535,400 million cedis was reported by the Auditor-General to have been embezzled by some officials of the MOH during the period under review, out of which 111,978,500 cedis had since been recovered.
In the education sector, only 37,456,726 cedis had been recovered, out of a total of 209,549,202 cedis which was paid as unearned salaries to officers of the ministry within the same period, while payments totaling 384,973,705 cedis were made to companies and some individuals without the necessary supporting vouchers.
According to the report, a litany of indebtedness of timber companies to the Forestry Commission at its various offices, totaling 2.8 billion cedis, was noted by the Auditor-General.
The debts were in respect of timber royalties, concession rent, ground rent, stumpage fees and penalties imposed as a result of infringement of forest laws.
The Auditor-General, the report added, detected that a total of 204 billion cedis in taxes was not collected by the Value Added Tax (VAT) Service, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Custom, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) during the year under review.
It explained that CEPS, for instance, failed to collect annual warehouse renewal fees totaling 317.5 million cedis, while the security agencies were also indebted to CEPS to the tune of 30.49 billion cedis, being levies and taxes on oil lifting from the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR).
The Chairman of the Finance Committee, Samuel Sallas-Mensah, who presented the report, called on the Chief Justice to expedite action on the establishment of the Financial Administration Tribunal to deal with people who committed such financial offences against the state.
Members of Parliament (MPs) expressed varied sentiments when the report of the committee was laid before the House on Tuesday.
The MP for Asikuma/Odoben/Brakwa, Mr P. C. Appiah-Ofori, blamed the ineffectiveness of Parliament for the failure to deal with those instances of financial malfeasance.
He said Article 187 (6) of the 1992 Constitution empowered Parliament to appoint committees to deal with people found to have embezzled state funds after the Auditor-General had presented his report to the House.
The said clause reads: “Parliament shall debate the report of the Auditor-General and appoint, where necessary, in the public interest, a committee to deal with any matters arising from it.”
“If the House cannot take advantage of this clause to punish such offenders, then Parliament should be held responsible for such malfeasance within the system,” he said.
He stated that since time immemorial, no concrete action had been taken against people who stole state funds, which had resulted in the precarious situation in which the country found itself.
Mr Appiah-Ofori declared, “You and I owe it a duty to save the nation so that moneys meant for the state will not end up in private pockets.”
His assertion that the Speaker should be held responsible was, however, not supported by the various contributors who said it was the duty of the Business Committee, which directed the business of the House.
The Second Deputy Speaker and MP for Yendi, Alhaji Malik Al-Hasan Yakubu, who had taken over the chair, asked the Finance Committee to make recommendations to the House on how it could deal with such perpetrators.