Stop manifesto budgets - Kan Dapaah tells governments

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Albert kan DapaahA former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, has charged governments to stop the practice of using their manifestos as the plans of their financial expenditures.

“Stop manifesto budgets,” he declared at this year’s public forum organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), with the support of STAR Ghana, on accountability in governance.

Making a presentation on “Ensuring Financial Accountability: the Role of Parliament,” Mr Dapaah said  there were checks and balances in the constitution and several laws in the country to ensure accountability.

But those measures, he said, found in the formulation, approval, implementation and auditing phases of the budgeting processes of the country were not allowed to work or had been eroded.

For instance, Mr Dapaah said, it was stipulated in the constitution that budgets should be linked to the medium- term development plans (MTDP) of the country drawn up by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC).

“Development plans or strategies, upon which budgets are drawn are rather linked to manifestos. But manifestos are not plans for development, but plans to win power,” Mr Dapaah, who is currently the Executive Director of the Financial Accountability & Transparency – Africa (FAT-Africa) explained.

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The result, he said, was that in the formulation phase of a budget, the checks and balances to ensure accountability were eroded.

Mr Dapaah said most ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) in the country were unable to capture and record all the accounting transactions they made in the year, and were also unable to produce end of year financial statements.

With no accounting system to monitor public expenditure, he wondered how the public would be surprised when over- expenditure by the government was reported, as there were no plans to guide ministers in their expenditures and they did not resort to the budget approved by the Parliament in spending.

In approving the budget of the executive, Parliament was timorous, as the ruling majority often would not critique the document in a bid to catch the eye of the executive for appointments, and since they were in the majority, they had their way.

The supervisory role of parliament as a check and balance over the public purse was, thus, also eroded.

When it came to auditing, he insisted that the independence of the Auditor- General as stipulated in the constitution had not been fully realised, resulting in a situation where that independence was not fully asserted in the responsibility of auditing the expenditures of the government.

Mr Dapaah emphasised that any public financial management system was as strong as the check and balance inherent within it, while the responsibility of ensuring public accountability was a tripartite one consisting of the executive, parliament and the Auditor General.

He, therefore, asked everybody in a responsible position to rise up to the task, while charging civil society organisations and the media to pick up the challenge to highlight weaknesses for the reforms needed to stem corruption which was a threat to the country’s democracy.

When he took his turn, the Founding President of the IMANI Centre for Policy and Education, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, said a total disregard and lack of discipline on the part of public officials to undertake due diligence exercises on government projects was the cause of the laxity in the public accountability system in the country.

Speaking on “Economic Accountability in Ghana,” he said the lack of preparation on the major economic projects announced by governments and their subsequent collapse occasioned the lax system.

He cited the CBD Loan, the STX Housing Project, the Military shoe Factory, as cases in point.

Mr Cudjoe, proposed an Administrator General to vet all government projects to ensure the elimination of several of the challenges associated with government initiatives, and ensure they were in line with the country’s development plans.

By Caroline Boateng/Daily Graphic/Ghana