A report from Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has revealed that 63 assemblies misappropriated a total of GH¢ 6.1 million between 2010-2012.
The money, which was expected to be used for developmental projects during the years under review, was rather spent on recurrent expenditure, a practice which is not allowed under the Local Government Act, 1993.
This came to light when PAC presented its report on the report of the Auditor General on the management and utilisation of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) for the financial years 2010, 2011, and 2012 to Parliament.
A lot of communities have in recent times complained about poor infrastructure in their localities. Schools have been left in a dilapidated state while road networks are in deplorable conditions. Hospitals and other projects that are meant to improve the welfare of the people are all lagging.
The committee, in its report, therefore, urged the Ministry of Local Government and Development to ensure that any Metropolitan, Municipal District Assembly (MMDA) which intends to utilise its DACF should seek approval from the Ministry of Finance.
The committee also observed that in the years under review, imprest holders in 48 assemblies failed to retire an amount totalling to GH¢ 1.3 million.
It said this was due to the laxity on the part of finance officers who failed to enforce the regulations governing retirement of imprest.
It also pointed out that some chief executive officers and coordinating directors of MMDAs who should ensure that officers did not go contrary to the rules were themselves found culpable.
PAC also noted that 145 assemblies made payments amounting to GH¢ 15.5 million without attaching the relevant documents to authenticate the payments.
Procurement and stores irregularities
The committee observed that 59 assemblies made procurement totaling GH¢ 2.8 million without alternative quotations or through competitive bidding.
It also noted that 62 assemblies had made purchases worth GH¢ 2.7 million but failed to take them on store ledgers, a situation which was due to poor supervision of storekeepers by management of MMDAs.
It also found out that 52 assemblies failed to deduct taxes totalling GH¢ 140,888 from payments made for goods and services thereby denying government the timely inflow of revenue.
It further observed that an amount of GH¢ 87,325 out of the non-withholding tax of GH¢ 140,888 recorded had been deducted and paid to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), leaving an outstanding amount of GH¢ 53,563.
Overpayment of contract sum
The committee also indicated that in the year 2010, the Suhum Kraboa Coaltar District assembly overpaid a contract sum by GH¢ 712.50, while the Wassa Amenfi District also overpaid a contract sum by GH¢ 1,074 in 2011.
It said the Shai Osudoku District Assembly also overpaid a contract sum by GH¢ 26,887.
Calls for sanctions
PAC, in its recommendations, stated that the irregularities were repetitive in nature which suggested that management of the various assemblies had blatantly refused to perform their roles efficiently.
It said the auditor general’s annual recommendation for effective monitoring and follow-up mechanisms had been ignored and by implication, the various Audit Report Implementation committees (ARICs) at the assemblies are not working as the law requires.
It pointed out that the repetitive nature of the infractions with both financial and administrative lapses underscored the need for punitive sanctions to act as a deterrent to officials charged with the responsibility of protecting the public purse.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Abuakwa South, Mr Samuel Attah Kyea, speaking on the floor of the house, called for the need to sanction and prosecute all those who would be found culpable to these misappropriations.
He said the country often lost sight in terms of monitoring at the micro level where lots of money were being embezzled.
The MP for Shai Osudoku, Mr David Tetteh-Assumeng, also called on the house to come out with measures to tackle such issues.
“These are not politicians but public servants who are embezzling funds meant for development and there should be sanctions for that,” he stated.
“We keep fighting ourselves as politicians when it comes to the embezzling of public funds while the real people embezzling these funds are public servants,” he added.
The MP for Tamale South, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, also added that spending DACF on recurrent expenditure should not be tolerated at all and urged the house to come out with steps to stop it.