Mr Samuel Sallas-Mensah, Immediate past Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, on Wednesday called for the provision of adequate resources for the Committee to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
He said the Committee, which currently lacked resources, including support staff, may be stressed up as far as scrutinizing financial and public accounts were concerned and this would remain a major challenge to its effective operation.
Mr. Sallas-Mensah, who was speaking at a workshop on “Effective Financial Management in the Public Sector; The Role of Parliamentary Committees on Finance and Public Accounts,” said PAC, being one of the strong pillars of accountability in the nation’s financial governance system, needed to continuously develop new processes of handling new challenges.
He said the PAC should be adequately resourced and it should also enhance its partnership with other governance institutions and civil society groups to counter challenges such as fraud in various public institutions.
Mr Sallas-Mensah explained that the Committee among its duties was taxed with responsibilities, including the examination of audited accounts of government showing sums granted by parliament to meet public expenditure that was brought to parliament and exercising control over expenditure of money from the Consolidated Fund.
“It is for this reason that the Standing Orders preclude members belonging to the political party controlling the Executive power from chairing the committee. The rationale behind this arrangement is to ensure that the Executive is not a judge and a prosecutor in its own cause,” he said.
The workshop which was jointly organized by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and the KPMG Ghana was among other objectives aimed at providing a platform for enhancing the capacity of the PAC in detecting fraud and also enhancing its partnership with other governance institutions and civil society to counter the its major challenges.
Mr Sallas-Mensah commended the PAC for its contribution towards ensuring effective financing and public accounting by instituting public hearings, which instituted much alertness in accounting officials to put their houses in order and exhibit a high sense of responsibility to both government and the public.
“Open sittings enhanced the importance of the PAC and Parliament in public accountability. The fear of public ‘naming and shaming’ made public officials more responsible in their management of public funds,” he said.
He said inquiries from the Committee were now having special attention from top management, particularly from sector Ministers, adding that for the avoidance of embarrassment, Ministers now paid particular attention to enquiries from the PAC, while others even held mock PAC sittings before appearing before it.
Mr Sallas-Mensah said in spite of all the efforts being made by government and Parliament to tighten the loopholes, some public officials continued to circumvent the control systems.
He said currently, procurement still remained one of the primary conduits for siphoning public funds despite the passage of the Public Procurement Act, Act 663, while misappropriation of public funds, poor supervision by superiors and timeliness of information from the Auditor-General to the PAC had always been identified in public institutions and frustrated its work.
Mr Joseph Winful, Senior Partner, KPMG, who spoke on the topic; “Effective Financial Management in the Public Sector; The Role of the Parliamentary sub-Committees on Finance and Accounts,” said it was important that all members of the PAC had some financial or accounting backgrounds or knowledge to help make them more efficient.
He noted that, while it was possible for some smart accounting officials to outwit both internal and external auditors, stringent efforts must be put in place by the PAC to eliminate all loopholes.
Mr Winful also suggested the use of consultants and volunteers with the requisite backgrounds and capacity to assist members to clear backlogs of audited reports, while members also undertook short causes on areas to look for as an interim measure.
He suggested a revisit to the Public Sector Financial Management Programme (PUFMAP) and the Budget and Public Expenditure Management Systems (BPEMS) and ensure their effectiveness.