The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has started its hearings again and as usual very chilling stories have started emerging. After three days of hearing, the stories already include the auctioning of 24 vehicles by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ghana Health Service, involving nine cars, without due process.
To add insult to injury, an auctioneer, who did not appear serious at the hearing, was also paid GH¢33,000 for what the Auditor-General’s report described as “no work done.”
We believe in the coming days, there will be more of such irksome stories and accounts of how public and civil servants and bureaucrats have misapplied or misappropriated public funds, and on many occasions, those incidents happen through the lack of due process.
In the public sector, following laid-down procedure is a non-negotiable part of the protocols. The procedures, rules and regulations constitute the framework and mortar that hold the bricks together. Side-stepping them, therefore, amounts to a serious offence under our laws which should not be countenanced.
However, what has pertained in the public service, as captured in the A-G’s report and fleshed out by the PAC, is what appears to be the wanton dissipation of funds and an issue of officials going about their duties with careless abandon.
How on earth should public sector officials pay an auctioneer a huge sum of money when that auctioneer only did an armchair execution of work, thus working from the comfort of his home or office when the job at hand was “auctioneering,” which requires his physical presence at the auction grounds to secure the public interest.
Although tonnes of these infractions occurred in the past, the men and women in charge of departments and units will often claim that those who were at the helm of affairs at the time of a particular transaction or incident were either on leave, travelled out of the country or had retired.
The current officers, who visibly would have taken no remedial measures to secure the interest of the state and the taxpayer, go ahead to apologise and pledge to prevent a recurrence. But the sun will not set before they renege on their pledges. If that had not been the case, stories emanating from this year’s hearings would have been substantial improvements on the status quo.
At last year’s hearings, the Chairman of PAC, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, now the Minister of Health, provided a moratorium and issued a stern warning to public officials that such aberrations would no longer be countenanced.
The Daily Graphic wants to urge the current PAC under the chairmanship of Mr James Klutse Avedzi to endeavour to enforce the laws this time round.
The PAC should use the legal means to mete out the appropriate punishment to errant officials. Those who fail to act on the wrongs of others, but simply plead and pledge a better future, should also receive the punishment they deserve.
Until state institutions such as Parliament begin to take people to task for their actions and inaction, the PAC public hearings would continue to remain a nonchalant formality.
The Daily Graphic is, therefore, calling on Parliament, the Auditor-General’s Department, as well as the Attorney-General’s Department and the Ministry of Justice, to join forces to invoke the country’s laws and bring public officials found culpable to book.
Parliament holds the public purse of the government and we plead with it to withhold the passage of the Appropriation Bill in future if public officials continue to dissipate public funds with careless abandon.