Opinion leaders, traditional authorities and experts in Ghana’s petroleum industry have called on the police, the judiciary and other relevant agencies to deal swiftly with public officials who misuse the country’s oil revenues.
Reports from the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) for the period 2011-2016 revealed petroleum revenues were used for projects outside the four priority areas stipulated in the law.
Consultant with the Natural Resource and Governance Institute (NRGI), Mr Emmanuel Kuyole called for swift investigations by the police into circumstances leading to the diversion of oil funds into other purposes and appealed to the judiciary not to waste time in on such matters when they come before them.
He lamented that the clear case of corruption goes beyond the misuse of petroleum revenues, noting “this is part of the public financial management challenges we face in Ghana; the Public Accounts Committee, the Auditor-Generals Department year in year out list numerous violations and infractions of our laws and the culprits are not sanctioned”
According to him, the appropriate institutions must insist that people who fall foul of the law are severely sanctioned.
“Enhancing our sanctions regime is the surest way to go so that it serves as a deterrent to others and makes corruption very expensive,” he indicated.
Chief of Korle-Gonno at James Town, Nii Yartey Obedru (I) who spoke to this paper after one of the several forums held by the PIAC called for the necessary sanctions to be invoked by the appropriate agencies to deal with persons found to have misused oil funds.
PIAC’s startling findings- diversion of oil revenue
Government between 2011 and 2016 invested an amount of GH¢786,867,805.13 into education, energy, works and housing, transport, health, security, water, markets, environment and science, trade and industry all captured under ‘other infrastructure.’
On educational infrastructure, an amount of GH¢70, 992,432 was spent and GH¢110, 656,071.10 spent on transport infrastructure within the same period.
Under capacity building alone a whopping GH¢317million was spent on social interventions between 2011 and 2016.
Visits by PIAC with members of the Institute for Finanancial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ) to areas such as Bekwai and Kwabre East Municipal Assemblies in the Ashanti Region to inspect projects being funded with oil money revealed abandoned or uncompleted projects due to shortage of Funds.
Priority Areas for 2011-2016
The Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011, (Act 815) (PRMA) identifies four priority areas which are agriculture modernisation, road and other infrastructure, amortisation and capacity building.
Concerns/reactions of citizens
Chiefs, assembly members and members of professional associations were amazed at the revelations from PIAC’s reports and analysis.
At separate forums held by the Committee in parts of the Greater Accra region, specifically Shai OsuDoku and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, participants made a strong call for PIAC or the Attorney-General to act on its findings and ensure that those who had diverted oil funds for other purposes were sanctioned.
Some expressed amazement at revelations that not a single official had been prosecuted for the offences committed.
“There must be sanctions, there should be penalties to deter people from using our monies anyhow; in the absence of penalties people do what they want,” one participant told this paper.
“Why should petroleum money be used to brand buses? What is the benefit of that when we could have asked private companies to advertise on the buses so we earn some money?” another participant queried.
What the PRMA says about offenders
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.
PIAC’s position on retrieving diverted revenue
Vice Chairman of the PIAC, Mr Kwame Jantuah explained that it was a matter of evidence and taking court action against offenders so they could also explain their side of the story.
The courts, he indicated 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.
Mr Jantuah said since the penalties had been provided in the law, 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.
Source: The Finder
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