MEMBERS OF Parliament from both sides of the House yesterday acknowledged their failure to exercise proper oversight responsibility on the expenditure of public institutions.
This critical self-analysis followed the presentation of the Public Accounts Committee's report on the Auditor-General's concerning the Public Accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) for the year ended December 31, 2005.
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Samuel Sallas-Mensah, said: “The 2005 accounts of the consolidated fund have once again been qualified by the Auditor-General as a result of the overdrawn cash balance of ¢4,565.3 billion and the irrecoverability of loans totaling ¢6,710.3 billion.
“The committee therefore wishes to urge the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the Controller and Accountant-General's Department to urgently take steps to address the over-drawn cash balance and the outstanding loans in order to avoid the accounts being qualified in future by the Auditor-General.”
The committee recommended that the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and the Controller and Accountant-General should jointly sign the financial statements of the country's public accounts.
Obviously not happy with the handling of public accounts, the Minority Spokesman on Finance, Dr. Benjamin Kunbuor was forthright when he told his colleagues, “Parliamentary oversight responsibilities over the Ministries, Departments and Agencies are not carried out effectively. We don't even follow up on procurement procedures, progress reports, etc.”
He said it was inappropriate that special audit reports by the Auditor-General's Department were not captured in annual reports.
“If we were exercising proper oversight responsibilities, most of these issues wouldn't even be subjects of comment. Parliament is to ensure that public money is well spent,” he intimated.
Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, MP for Tamale South, estimated the country had lost about ¢10 billion through irregularities, wastes and debts.
He called for increased support for the Auditor-General, adding, “This House has failed him because we do not go beyond the debate of the report.”
The MP for Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa, Hon. P.C Appiah-Ofori also bemoaned the irregularities in the system, stressing it was a shame they had persisted for several years.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Hon. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu announced that his outfit had given some money to the Judiciary for the establishment of Financial Administration Tribunals to handle issues related to financial impropriety.
He called on the House to find out from the Judiciary why the said tribunals had not yet been established.
Hon. Baah-Wiredu commended the Public Accounts Committee for doing a thorough job.