By Agnes Ansah & Maxwell Obiri Yeboah .
After paying GH¢67,380,718.2 judgment debt to construction pioneers in 2015, the Attorney General (AG) yesterday, had to answer questions regarding the payment because her outfit couldn’t produce documents to back their payment.
Although she indicated that the said transactions happened during John Dramani Mahama administration in 2015, that didn’t deter the Public Accounts Committee chaired by the Honorable James Avedzi Klutse to grill the honorable AG.
The woman, who appeared at the sitting in her usual calm and collected manner dazzling in her light pink skirt and blouse with a spectacle to much, had her calm nature distorted as she struggled to answers question related to the said money.
The committee raised two questions pertaining the money. They were first of all concerned as to why there were no documents by the ministry to back the payments they made and the auditors had recommended that the ministry obtain all judgements on the money and other relevant document to authenticate the payment.
The committee was also concerned about the fact that state had to pay huge sums of money to the construction firm.
In response the AG indicated the said money was accrued over the construction of certain roads in the country. She said the country was resisting payment of the money because the amount involved were being challenged hence the construction firm proceeded to the international arbitration at the International Criminal Court.
She indicated that after the construction firm won the case, cabinet in 2013 gave an authorization for the payment of an equivalent sum of $18,455,339.94m of which the ministry has documents to back. e approval was given. She said perhaps the ministry couldn’t furnish the auditors with the information due to record keeping.
Responding to the second concern raised by the committee, the AG indicated that the debts arise because of delay in payment but when they arise they bring it to the attention of the ministry of finance but it’s because of lack of funds that’s why the delay comes in.
What we should do is to avoid the interest that accumulates on it so what we do is to advice the government to pay the money as soon as possible to cut back on our loses.
The committee indicated that the cabinet authorization was in 2013 and the auditor general’s report was in 2016 so the document should have been available at the time of auditing to avoid the query.
Meanwhile the Deputy Minister of Roads and Highways (MoRH), Mr Anthony Abayifaa Puowele Karbo also appeared before the committee to account for some roads signed without financial backing.
The Deputy Minister revealed that many of the abandoned major road projects in the country is as a result of the previous government’s failure to assign contract to contractors without any financial support.
He disclosed that such projects had huge sums of monies ascribed to them and were numerous in nature, but since the ministry currently does not have enough funds to continue them, they had to be truncated and continued later.
Speaking at the Public Accounts Committee in Accra yesterday, Mr. Karbo expressed that this is one of the major challenges hindering the continuation of some of the cocoa, feeder and urban roads that was started by the Mahama-led administration in the country.
The minister came in with this admission after Vice Chairman to the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Edward Kaale-Ewola Dery expressed concern concerning some road contractors who are now in agony due to huge interest rates accrued from unpaid loans they secured to complete some road contracts awarded them.
“Are you aware that most of these contractors go for loans? So Minister, what are you doing so that they would feel comfortable,” Mr. Dery quizzed.
Mr. Karbo went on that these projects had to be realigned or terminated as there were no funds corresponding to them, hence the roads ministry have therefore decided to secure funds before calling on any of those contractors to come back to work.
He explained that the more these contractors delayed in delivering the projects, the more the state would have to pay in terms of delayed payments, which eventually end up in “judgement debts.”
“So, moving forward, the ministry has therefore decided to work on projects that has funds matched to them. Of course, this would make work easier for the contractor and it makes work easier for the employer and this is the posture the minister has adopted to make sure that we stay within budgets,” he said.
The Deputy Minister also touched on a second problem he ‘inherited’ which is the Axle Load Management and the toll booth centers. According to him, majority of the toll booth centers that were under the management of some private entities would soon go under a restructuring process since their contracts have ended.
This would help to prevent the drop in revenue collection.
“The ministry is going to reform the entire toll booth and axle load regime to ensure that they curb revenue leakages. This measure by MoRH, is coming to ensure there are no revenue leakages at the toll booth centers in the country,” he added. Mr. Karbo was emphatic that, by May this year, all toll booths in the country would be automated to simplify revenue collection and workload at the centers.