fbpx

A-G’s 2021 report: Finance Ministry implicated in GH¢67.9m transactions

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila
Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister

THE Auditor General, Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, has implicated the Ministry of Finance for financial negligence that led to the wrongful payments of money to individuals and institutions in 2020 and 2021.

The wrongful transactions, which were catalogued in the 2021 Auditor General’s Report on the audit of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of central government and the courts for the year ended December 31, 2021, amounted to GH¢67.9 million.

They included unrecovered loans, payment of salaries to people not on the ministry’s payroll (also known as ‘ghosts’), failure to withhold taxes on particular payments and engaging in uncompetitive tenders.

The Auditor General, therefore, urged the ministry and its chief director in particular to take appropriate steps to recover the money, rectify the payments and/or sanction the individuals involved.

The findings were contained in the report that was forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament last month.

Unrecovered loans

Giving a detailed report of financial infractions involving the ministry, which manages the country’s finances, the Auditor General said the ministry failed to recover GH¢10.01 million being loans and advances granted to public sector workers last year.

“We recommended that the chief director of the ministry should liaise with the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department to have the outstanding amounts deducted from the salaries of the staff involved,” the report said.

It also noted that the Ministry of Finance failed to withhold taxes on payments made to Bloomberg Finance LP, a non-resident person, in respect of service charges for the use of their terminals and buyout fees.

It said the taxes amounted to GH¢70,102.68 and further recommended that “the chief director should ensure the Ministry of Finance pays the amount to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA)”.

Garnishee accounts

The Auditor General also noted that five accounts of the ministry were garnished in 2021 as a result of cases brought against other government institutions.

“We noted that the Ministry of Finance’s sub-consolidated fund and chief director’s bank accounts were garnished by a court in July 2021.

“We also noted that in March 2022, three other accounts of the ministry, namely the Special Fiscal Programmes & Payments, Investor Relations Payments and Ghana Cares Accounts, were also garnished and as a result, the ministry was unable to use the five accounts for any transactions.

“Our review showed that Sweater & Sock Factory Ltd, D.K. Owusu & 85 Others, Togbe Anku Woade and Chude Mba obtained judgements against four MDAs and the courts garnished the said accounts for the payment of judgement debts,” the report said.

Explanation

The report said the ministry explained that most of the garnishee orders were occasioned by other MDAs that did not pay for goods and services supplied and judgement debts arising from cases brought against them.

“The MoF also indicated that in many instances, the ministry was not informed about the court proceedings and subsequent garnishee orders to enable its Legal Unit to make presentation at the courts.

“We recommended that the chief director should engage the Attorney-General on how the accounts could be assessed and also ensure that the cause of the garnishee is investigated, and appropriate sanctions applied to anyone found culpable,” the report said.

Salaries to ghosts

The Auditor General also found further that the ministry had paid GH¢1.1 million between January 2020 and December 2021 to three persons who were neither staff nor consultants of the ministry.

It said the payment was in contravention of Regulation 86 of the Public Financial Management Regulations, 2019 (L.I. 2378) which states that a principal spending officer of a covered entity shall ensure that only the names of personnel who are eligible to receive payment for work done are kept on the payment voucher and keep records of the nominal roll of the covered entity in a manner that ensures that the correct amount of emolument is paid.

The report, therefore, recommended that the said amount of GH¢1.1 million should be recovered from the chief director and the payroll validators of MoF.

Uncompetitive procurement

The report also noted that in 15 instances, the ministry handpicked service providers to provide accommodation with conference facilities costing GH¢2.32 million without subjecting the transactions to any prescribed procurement procedures.

“Further, the transactions were not contained in the procurement plan of the ministry for the 2021 financial year.

It said such acts flouted Section 18 of the Public Procurement Act, 2016 (Act 914).

The section states that the head of a procurement entity shall ensure that provisions in the Public Procurement Act are complied with, and each stage of the procurement activity and procedures prescribed have been followed.

The Auditor General said “the chief director should investigate the cause of the procurement infractions and officers found culpable should be appropriately sanctioned”.