The Committee for Joint Action (CJA) has called on government to immediately prosecute all public officials cited for embezzling about GH¢166.1 million in the 2008 Auditor General’s report.
According to the committee, it will be detrimental for government to ignore the call for accountability on the part of public officials, who have engaged themselves in financial malfeasance and blatant thievery, as has been officially captured by the report.
“Government must, as a matter of urgency, prosecute these crooked officials,” a leading member, Mr. Edward Bawah, charged, insisting that “punitive actions ought to be taken against the offending officials in order to deter others from engaging in similar practice.”
Mr. Bawah, who was speaking at a press conference in Accra, warned that, the CJA will not relent on its call for corrupt officials named in the report to face the law.
He regretted that despite numerous exposures made by the CJA in the past, government, especially the Kufuor-led administration, made no effort at instilling accountability in government agencies by prosecuting offenders. Giving details of the report, Mr. Bawah mentioned that over 20 government agencies, including some ministries were involved in cash irregularities which amounted to GH¢166.1 million, representing 177.4% over that of 2007.
He stated that the cash irregularities accounted for 92.8% of the total financial irregularities mainly due to four factors, which are imprest holders refusing to account for imprests, lack of supervisory controls over revenue collection; failure of officers to obtain supporting documents for funds disbursed, and the ineffectiveness of Internal Audit Units within the Ministries.
Procurement and stores irregularities cost the nation GH¢ 898,350 in 2008, indicating an increase of 24% over that of 2007. Payroll overpayments amounted to GH¢ 762,886, while contract irregularities amounted to GH¢3.4 million.
Stating some specific findings, Mr. Bawah mentioned that the VAT Service acquired the Bannet building, near Busy Internet, Accra, for GH¢874,154. He stated that interestingly, the building was rehabilitated at a cost of GH¢ 2,387,216 although it was leased for only 11 years with no possibility of extension.
He added that three Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs), which reneged on their scheduled payment plan to the tune of GH¢ 2,768,908.00 were not asked for guarantees and have not paid their debts.
MINISTRY OF TRADE
On Ministry of Trade, Mr. Bawah quoted from the report that “contrary to regulation of the Financial Administration Regulation, the Ministry opened and operated an account at the Accra High Street Branch of Barclays Bank in October 2005.”
“An amount of GH¢2 billion was transferred into it from the ministry’s main account which earned an interest of GH¢7.8 million, and the GH¢ 2 billion withdrawn,” he said, adding that the GH¢2 billion was not accounted for, neither was the GH¢7.8 million,” he asserted.
Still on the Ministry of Trade, the report captured that two private enterprises in the garment industry that were given grants totaling GHc288,000 to undertake capacity building abandoned the projects . “No attempt has been made to recover the monies,” he said, pointing out that a draft agreement commissioned at a cost of GHc 4,650 were never utilized. A building in Kumasi that was renovated by the ministry in 2006 at a cost of GHc11,492 was still standing unused in 2008 because additional funds were not made available for completion of the project.
Also, a strategic plan prepared at a cost of GHc45,696 in 2006 has been left to gather dust, he added.
He stated that the ministry made payments amounting to GH¢ 273,310 for repairs and maintenance without certification.
MINISTRY OF INTERIOR
Under the Ministry of Interior, cash irregularities amounted to GH¢286,241 and US$13,485.
These were in respect of misappropriation of proceeds of tender documents; disbursements from revenue collected and unauthorized use of internally generated fund.
MINISTRY OF HARBOURS AND RAILWAYS
Here, management misapplied an amount of GH¢600,000 out of GH¢2,150,000 voted for the payment of end of service benefits for 674 retrenched Railway workers. “It is worth noting that during this period, workers of the Railway company had not been paid for years,” he said, hinting that it may have accounted for the non-payment of salaries.
Mr. Bawah stated that in the Support Services Brigade, cash irregularities totaling GH¢473,61) for repairs was unsatisfactory completed and had no certification.
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
An amount of 76,761 euros which was transferred to the Copenhagen Mission on 2nd August 2006, could not be traced to the Mission’s accounts.
MINISTRY OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC PLANNING
The Audit report captured that, total release from Non-Road Accounts in violation of procedures for accessing funds from the consolidated amounted to GH¢3,066,742.
Also, the ministry failed to collect taxes amounting to GH¢2,590,922 at the Abeka Lapaz DTO alone. CEPS The CJA concluded that post clearance short collections amounted to GH¢13,655,166.