The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has, according to a report carried by the Daily Graphic yesterday, referred more than 100 public institutions in six regions to the Ghana Police Service for investigations towards prosecution. According to the Committee, the institutions had breached some procurement laws flagged by the 2018 Auditor-General’s report.
These institutions, according to the report, are universities and district and municipal assemblies in the Bono, Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper West and Upper East regions. The paper further quoted the Chairman of PAC, Dr. James Klutse Avedzi, as saying in Sunyani the previous day that his outfit was determined to refer these institutions for prosecution, especially when it came to procurement irregularities.
“In the five northern regions, we have a number of institutions that we are referring for prosecution. Here in Sunyani, we will do the same thing. By the time we finish with the whole country, we will have a tall list of candidates for prosecution,” he stated.
He said, in the past, the Committee used a system in which it advised entities that breached the Auditor-General’s report to go back to do the right thing. However, PAC had realised that those pieces of advice were not being taken seriously, so it had begun to apply the law. “It is not the Committee that is going to prosecute them; we will recommend to the Attorney-General and Police to take up the prosecution mandate,” he said.
It is an undeniable fact that one of the major problems confronting this country is how public funds are dissipated. These infractions are recounted year in and out during the sittings of PAC, but as the Chairman pointed out, nothing is being done to remedy the situation. It is important to note that anytime corruption is mentioned, the minds of the public go to the politician. The gospel truth, however, is that civil and public servants are doing the worst form of it.
These civil and public servants are well verse in the Public Procurement Law, yet the Auditor General always detects breaches when it comes to the application of the law. This, in our view, is happening because they have realised that apart from the public rebuke they will get when they appear before the PAC, nothing else will happen to them. Unfortunately, PAC, which has constitutionally been mandated to review the Auditor General’s Report, has no power to initiate criminal proceedings, as such powers are vested in the Attorney General.
In our candid opinion, therefore, Parliament should be given constitutional powers to prosecute cases involving infractions in the Auditor General’s Report, but before that happens, PAC should keep referring the cases to the police for investigation and prosecution. If people are sent to jail because they failed to properly protect the public purse, it will send strong signals to others to always sit up.
Sometimes heads of these public institutions take certain decisions that they would not have otherwise taken if the institutions they are heading belonged to them. But this Ghanaian mentality of ‘government work’ pushes them to rip-off the very institutions employing them. Some of them even sometimes disregard their boards and sign dodgy contracts that do not inure to the benefit of the institution. All these, we dare say, will cease if Chief Executives and their subordinates are punished for wrongdoings. We need to allow the law to bite, otherwise they become useless in our statute books.