In a surprise sneak attack last week, Finance Minister, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey launched an audacious attack on his own government's management, putting the blame on the country's fallings on bogus financial management, 'by heart' spending, lack of satisfactory accountability, transparency and corrupt procurement practices.
Scandal-racked Botchwey's brutally frank tirade, delivered at a seminar in Accra, also roped in the Accountant-General for laxity and lapses which he said were making his ministry unable to monitor government spending.
Reminiscent of the crusading fervour of the Auditor-General's indictment last year, Kwesi Botchwey conceded serious failings in the economic policy and performance because of woefully misleading and inadequate projections they made themselves, relying on receipts from increased petroleum sales that never came, shortfall in cocoa production and prices of and lower-than-expected external aid. Other economists like Dr Kofi Apraku had warned the government of the paucity of their projections.
Dr Botchwey said that the government promised far more than they could deliver during the run-up to multi-party elections, and when they tried to correct the mistakes it turned out to be too expensive.
Continuing, he said the ministries were breaching even the basic financial administration regulations that require monthly expenditure returns to his ministry, and when they did, the reports had generally been erratic. Though, the Minister of Finance (MOF) had appointed consultants to straighten things up, officials were still been (sic) reckless and irresponsible, he disclosed.
“They see their role as spenders, and not keepers of accounting data…many in the Civil Service do not consider budget management as a part of their work.” On the bigger picture, Dr. Botchwey again admitted chaotic problems with public expenditure management with the treasury and the spending agencies operating at cross purposes. What is even more serious was Botchwey's revelation that, the country was losing external aid simply because the government bodies do not have a clue as to what is expected of them when they were preparing the necessary requirements.
”In a number of cases, the requirements for local counterpart funding are not known at the Ministry of Finance because projects have been negotiated at the sector level without due regard for the availability of budgetary support.
“Since matching funds are transferred into accounts held in commercial banks and are tied to specific projects, the funds when unutilized are effectively sterilized and are not available for other projects,” he explained. But Dr Kwesi's indignation was sternest on what he described as the “gross abuse” in the procurement system. He said he had evidence to prove that, adding that it is a major cause of government over-expenditure.