The manner, in which the parliament of Ghana has carried out its oversight role, has come under sharp criticism from the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Albert Kan Dapaah, regretting how the majority, over time, had endorsed in an omnibus manner whatever was presented by the executive.
“While we hail the victory of democracy in our country, Parliament which is the central institution of democracy and the key institution in oversight suffers from crisis of credibility,” Mr. Kan Dapaah, who was speaking on the topic, Parliament’s Role In Ensuring Transparency In The Oil & Gas Sector, stated, calling on the media and civil society to be vigilant in their watchdog roles in holding both government and parliament accountable.
Mr. Dapaah, a Chartered Accountant, who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Afigya-Sekyere West Constituency, said politicians were more amenable to serious issues raised by the media and civil society organisations than their political opponents and therefore called on editors to recognize this strength in holding public officials accountable to ensure transparency and accountability in the administration of the country’s resources.
“Transparency, Participation and Accountability that come from an empowered citizenry are the strongest antidotes to corruption,” he stressed.
Mr. Dapaah called for a more serious oversight role of Parliament, to end the perennial situation such as where the House is given just a week to read and approve an important document like a Budget statement and the majority would always endorse government budgets.
With reference to many provisions of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 Mr. Dapaah highlighted transparency, accountability and the public oversight role of Parliament in the management of the country’s oil revenue.
He said even though accountability mechanisms are embedded in the four phases of the Budget Cycle, namely: the preparation phase, approval phase, implementation phase and assurance phase, “the accountability mechanisms are not allowed to work.”
“You can only control expenditure when you know how much you are expected to spend and how much you actually spent,” he lamented, adding that in many instances, there were no accounts for the Auditor-General to audit and therefore it was only transaction audits that took place, a situation which undermined the assurance work of Parliament.
He called for a change in the manner of appointing the Auditor-General, to make that office more independent, recalling how two previous occupants of that position under two different political regimes left office, stressing; “let us end this cycle.”
The event, which was a retreat for editors on; Strengthening Media Oversight of the Extractive Sectors in Ghana, was organized by Revenue Watch Institute, with Penplusbytes as co-ordinators, and had also presentations from Tullow Ghana Limited, the Ministry of Energy, Ghana National Gas Company (Ghana Gas) and the Oil and Gas Capacity Building Project, which is under the Ministry of Energy.
‘Public Accountability means the obligation of authorities to explain publicly, fully and fairly, before and after the fact, how they are carrying out responsibilities that affect the public in important ways,’ Mr. Dapaah emphasized, quoting Henry McCandless.
On the role given the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) Mr. Dapaah wondered whether it would have substantial investigative powers with ability to refer matters to law enforcement agencies as appropriate.
“Will committee members exercise independent judgment and responsibilities?
“Will members be removed only for good cause shown, where good cause is defined as legal cause not political cause, and “In the absence of Right to info Act will Government provide information?”
With a brief background to Ghana’s search for oil, Mr. Dapaah, who was Minister of Energy from 2001 to 2003, under the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, explained to participants why it became necessary to review the fiscal regime in the petroleum agreement, stressing that it became necessary to do so, relying on the legal directorate of the Commonwealth Secretariat, which had contributed to the formulation of the existing fiscal regime.
Source: The Business Analyst