Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), Dr Patrick Asuming, has asked the government to channel energy into blocking loopholes that enable public officers to syphon money from the national purse.
This is to ensure that while measures are taken to shore up revenue and manage the government’s expenditure efficiently, funds allocated to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and Municipal, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) are accounted for.
Dr Asuming explained that secrecy and discretion allowed various MDAs and MMDAs to have easy access to public funds and spend without proper accountability.
In an interview with The Ghana Report, Dr Asuming lamented inadequate punitive measures to deter such people from continually spending public funds in such a detrimental manner.
His comment follows the mid-year budget review delivered by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, on Thursday, July 29.
“Despite all the public sector reforms, people in government still manage to keep so much secrecy… Every year, when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) goes over the financial reports, and you hear what people in authority are doing with taxpayers’ money, you will just get surprised,” he said.
“There is too much discretion, and some people have way too much leeway in the public sector. There are also underhand dealings where contracts get overblown.
“Even in the central government, there are off-budget expenses, and all these make it too easy for people to have access to public funds and spend,” Dr Asuming bemoaned.
He criticised corruption, noting that the situation has heightened the lack of trust by the public over the government’s efficient utilisation of funds.
As a result, many Ghanaians have developed hesitancy in paying taxes to support national development.
“We don’t punish people enough. The punitive regime for corruption in this country is very weak, especially those related to politicians, and I think sometimes, the loopholes are deliberately created for people to manoeuvre their way,” he said.
He has therefore asked the government to institute measures to ensure all loopholes are sealed quickly.
Furthermore, he wants transparency in allocating funds to MDAs and MMDAs, by implementing recommendations by PAC.
“Transparency will help because politicians are afraid of public opinion. When the people don’t know, they get away with it, but when they know the pressure that would be brought to bear on the politicians will make them stop”.
PAC has uncovered several financial infractions by various institutions and officials over the years.
In July 2021, for example, PAC tasked the Auditor-General to ensure that government agencies complied with the accounting systems and procedures specified by the office of the Accountant-General.
PAC cited officials of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) for several infractions in the 2017 Auditor-General’s Report.
The Report indicted the MoGCSP for the unauthorised investment of GH¢ 16,000,000 from the Ghana School Feeding Programme funds into schemes at Dalex Finance and CAL Bank.
This was about its failure to pay withholding tax of GH¢ 9,461,880 to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and unretired imprest of GH¢79,500 contrary to Regulation 282 of Financial Administration Regulation 2004.
Other infractions the report detected included payment of unearned salary at its Sekondi Social Welfare Office and an unearned salary totalling GH¢ 6,047.64 paid to a Social Development Assistant at Accra Head Office after the officer vacated the post from January to December 2016.