Participants in a public forum on the management of petroleum revenues have strongly recommended penalties for those who divert oil revenue for other purposes.
A report by the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) showed that some petroleum revenues were used for projects outside the four thematic / priority areas for 2011-2016.
The areas include agriculture modernisation, road infrastructure, amortisation and capacity building.
It emerged that the government went out of the four priority areas for 2011-2016 to invest in all the 12 areas including education, energy, works and housing, transport, health, security, water, markets, environment and science, trade and industry with an amount of GH¢786,867,805.13.
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Section 58 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011, (Act 815) (PRMA) states among others that a person who misappropriates the petroleum funds, defrauds, attempts to defraud or conspires with another to defraud the public in relation to petroleum funds commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 500 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years or to both.
The Vice Chairman of the PIAC, Mr Kwame Jantuah, said since the penalties had been provided, it was up to the Ministry of Finance to take up that law and implement it.
“Whether a party or government will be prepared to take its own government to court is another thing but we don’t have the mandate do that. Perhaps the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) can do it,” he said in an interview after the forum at the Shai Osudoku District.
He said for six years running, the Minister of Finance was supposed to prepare a report to Parliament but it had not been done, adding that it was necessary to go by the laws we had as a country.
“The laws categorically state that if oil revenues are not used in the way they are supposed to be used, it is up to the powers that be to enforce those laws. Perhaps the media should take it up and see how far it will go,” he said.
Retrieving diverted revenue
Mr Jantuah, however, explained that it was rather a matter of evidence and taking court action against offenders so they could also explain their side of the story.
Then after, he said, the courts would be able to decipher whether what they did was in good stead or where the diverted money had gone to and how to retrieve it if not.
“For instance, I don’t see why we used petroleum money for bus branding. I don’t see the effect, what is the benefit of that. Could we not have earned money on advertising and even have used that money to invest in the maintenance of the buses?” he inquired.
The forum was organised as part of a field trip by the PIAC, accompanied by some members of the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ), with support from the GIZ for the tracking and monitoring of oil and gas revenue projects in the Greater Accra Region.
The committee deduced that petroleum revenues had been used to tackle too many national problems at the same time.
Mr Jantuah said that had weakened the potential impacts of oil revenues on the social economic development of Ghana.
“PIAC believes that there ought to be properly defined guidelines on the selection of the priority areas. We believe that few legacy projects should be identified and supported by the Annual Budgetary Fund Allocation,” he said.
Spending areas (2011-2016)
The report by PIAC shows that a total of GH¢790,736,394.73 was spent on 182 roads / highway ancillary projects and GH¢786,867,805.13 on other infrastructure.
On educational infrastructure, an amount of GH¢70, 992,432 was spent and GH¢110, 656,071.10 spent on transport infrastructure.
It is made up of professional, pressure and traditional / religious groups who undertake compliance monitoring on petroleum revenues, provide a platform for public debate on them and do independent assessments.
The Numersi of Dodowa, Nene Tei Kwesi Agyemang Okukrobour V, said it was the first time the community had had an engagement with the PIAC and that it was an eye-opener into the six years of petroleum production in the country.