The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, has asked Ghanaians, particularly public servants, to resist the temptation to be corrupt, even if the issue of corruption is still a perception.
He said it was important for people to disassociate themselves from anything which bordered on corruption because Ghana had the history of people being executed because they were perceived to be corrupt.
Speaking at the two-day annual delegates' conference of the Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD) in Accra yesterday, Mr Baah-Wiredu said there was the need for stringent measures to fight the problem at all levels.
The objective of the conference is for the management and staff of the department to assess their performance during the previous year and chart a new course to improve upon service delivery to the government and the public.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said in a country such as Ghana where public resources were scarce, it was necessary that sound financial management practices were applied to maximise the use of those resources.
He said in that direction, the government had committed resources to accelerate the implementation of various reform programmes aimed at improving the financial management system.
He mentioned the programmes as aligning the budget to support the implementation of the country's development framework, the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II), rolling out the Budget and Public Expenditure Management System (BPEMS) to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and implementation of the Financial Administration Act of 2003 and its regulations.
Others are an independent Audit Service with the Audit Service Act 2000, the Procurement Act 2003, the Internal Audit Act 2003, the introduction of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Database II (IPPD II), integrating the payroll of subvented organisations to avoid overruns, among other initiatives.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said these were, among other aims, to promote transparency and accountability in the use of public funds and prevent financial malpractice and minimise corruption.
The Finance Minister said those initiatives enabled the country to move from a C- to a B+ rating by Standard and Poors and a “B Positive Outlook” by Fitch Ratings.
He explained that those ratings confirmed Ghana's sustained track record in prudent economic and financial management and, hence, put the country at par with countries such as Turkey, Brazil and Indonesia in terms of sovereign credit risk.
“Currently, the IMF has just successfully completed an annual review of the country's management of the overall macro and fiscal performance and the conclusion points towards confidence in the fundamentals of the economy,” he said.
He commended staff of the CAGD for playing a role in that success story but cautioned them not to be complacent but work hard to identify the weaknesses in the internal control systems which allowed some personnel to indulge in fraud involving huge sums of state funds.
In his welcoming address, the Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Christian T. Sottie, said in addition to other initiatives, the department was developing an accounting manual to serve as an effective guide and reference document to accounting staff in the MDAs in the discharge of their responsibilities.
He said there were plans to decentralise the pension process to solve the problem where pensioners had to travel to Accra, adding that preparations so far included the provision of fully-equipped offices in all the regions, the installation of cameras and computers and the training of staff to start processing identification (ID) cards at the regional levels.
Mr Sottie said the department, in recent times, had implemented programmes such as the installation of a clocking machine to check attendance-related issues and enforce discipline, the introduction of vacation employment for students, employing a number of youth under the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) and also efforts at motivating staff by helping them to purchase vehicles on a hire purchase basis.
He urged the staff to conduct themselves in “the light of professionalism and demonstrate what will constitute the best treatment of government accounts, devoid of malfeasance and manipulation”.
The Chairman for the occasion, the Greater-Accra Regional Minister, Sheikh I. C. Quaye, reminded personnel of the CAGD of their responsibilities as collectors and custodians of state funds and monitors of government expenditure.
Sheikh Quaye said the agitation at the labour front for increased salaries and wages could be met only if the country was able to mobilise sufficient resources and manage them to the benefit of all its people.
Story by Lucy Adoma Yeboah