THE PUBLIC Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday expressed disgust at the spate of financial malfeasance in the public sector of the economy.
“When corruption is mentioned, it is only politicians who come into focus, while some other people are hiding behind the scene chopping proper,” a member of the committee, Hon Balado Manu imputed.
At its third-day sitting, during which the Minister of State at the Ministry of Transportation, Godfrey Bayon Tangu led a good number of his officers to answer queries based on financial improprieties at his ministry, it was revealed that large amounts of monies running into several billions of cedis had been either diverted or not properly accounted for.
The improper accounts resulted from delays in execution of projects, unremitted withholding tax, unapproved contract advances, non-recovery of mobilization advances and embezzlement of withholding tax deductions.
For instance, it was disclosed that the non-recovery of mobilization advances of ¢41.78 billion was on the blind side of laid-down procedures.
It also came to light that the completion of 50 projects with a total contract sum of ¢114.03 billion had delayed for periods ranging between one and three years, instead of satisfying the statutory condition which requires the contractors to commence work on the start date.
Another area of worry was the inability of the Department of Urban Roads (DUR) to pay withholding taxes totaling ¢164 million it deducted from 15 contractors to the commissioner, since 2002.
Management of DUR, in spite of the time lapse, failed to provide any reasonable explanation for its failure to honour the statutory obligation.
On unapproved contract variation amounting to ¢3.25 billion, it was noted that five contracts awarded at a total cost of ¢9.5 billion, which were varied upwards to ¢12.7 billion resulting in excess payment to contractors of ¢1.817 billion, did not receive the approval of the Regional Tender Board.
Another startling revelation was the ¢4.948 billion contract awarded to Messrs Musket Engineering Limited for the reconstruction of Pamploshie and Sowa Gbobilor roads.
A visit to the site on June 13, 2005, seven months later, revealed that the contractor had not started work.
The Auditor-General's report recommended that the contract be terminated and the mobilization advance of ¢621.5 million be retrieved from the contractor with interest at current bank rate.
Three contractors, namely Messrs Kenpong Construction Limited, Expocom Company Limited and Ackofi Construction Limited had their contracts terminated due to non-performance and unnecessary delays.
At the time of the termination, advances paid to them totaling ¢1.709 billion were not fully recovered.
It was recommended that an outstanding advance of ¢163.3 million be recovered from them.
The PAC was informed however that Expocom Company Limited on Wednesday refunded ¢50 million out of the balance of ¢130,532,348 and the committee gave them up to Monday, October 29 to pay the difference.
An Accounts officer of the Denu Office of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Michael Adzadza failed to account for ¢18.884 million and the report recommended to management to recover the amount and take disciplinary action against him.
The report also recommended that an amount of ¢1.26 billion be recovered from Messrs A.E. Kaati, Mahama Sulemana, E.D. Seidu and other accomplices, and the culprits prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.
Mr. A.E. Kaati, Principal Accountant and later Chief Accountant of the DUR, raised 90 payment vouchers and fraudulently diverted ¢1.26 billion into his private account at the Takoradi Branch of the Bank of Ghana.
As a measure to curb the unacceptable high incidence of financial improprieties in the sector, the team vowed to put in place workable measures including competitive supervision and evaluation to promote efficiency.
By Frank Muzzu