PAC Replies President Mahama

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has swiftly responded to President John Mahama’s bashing of the committee.

The President had earlier suggested that opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) had turned the PAC sittings into a public show, castigating the ruling government and tarnishing its image without coming out with appropriate recommendations to deal with the ills in the financial administration of the country.

But at the commencement of its hearing yesterday, chairman of the committee said President Mahama’s views about the work of PAC were unfortunate and misconceived.

He explained that the committee had always made recommendations to Parliament for consideration and that most of the reports and recommendations by the committee were still hanging.

According to him, since the issue raised by the President bordered on the work of Parliament, he would urge the Speaker to meet the President over the matter as early as practicable to thrash the matter out.

He however said this year’s committee had set up a sub-committee to follow-up on its recommendations because it had come to its notice that most of the recommendations made in its report were not being implemented by the ministries, departments and agencies concerned.

“We are going to be serious about this and if we find out that public institutions are failing to implement our recommendations, we would summon them before the committee again in the full glare of the press and query them,” he said.
Appearing before the committee yesterday were officials of the Ministry of Finance led by the Minister, Seth Terkper, Controller and Accountant-General, officials of the Bank of Ghana, COCOBOD, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and Minerals Commission.

The official who had the first baptism of fire was the deputy chief executive officer of COCOBOD, William Mensah, who was grilled by members over huge discrepancies in cocoa exported between 2010 and 2012 and foreign exchange earned for the country.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Bosomtwe, Simon Osei-Mensah had raised serious concerns over figures emanating from the Bank of Ghana that COCOBOD realized $654.3 million in the first half of 2011 when 381,749 tonnes of cocoa were exported, while the nation got $302.7 million from 503,517 tonnes of cocoa exported in the first half of 2012.

In raising the alarm, Simon Osei-Mensah said it was so baffling for such receipts to be made to the Bank of Ghana in 2012 with greater tonnage when prices of cocoa had also gone up as compared to the previous year.

Mr Mensah, who is also in charge of finance and administration at COCOBOD, had tried to justify the foreign exchange earned within the period by saying that COCOBOD goes for loans to finance cocoa purchases and retains some percentage for costs and inputs.

But the MP for Bosomtwe, who is a banker and an economist, said indeed COCOBOD, through the government, normally goes for syndicated loans and lodges them with the Bank of Ghana. The monies are then released to licensed buying companies for the purchase of cocoa and the export proceeds put in a collateral account at the Bank of Ghana and released from time to time to repay the loans.

He said the receipts recorded did not correspond with the amount of export, and therefore there was the need for COCOBOD to furnish the committee with figures of export of cocoa within the period under consideration, the prices of cocoa sold at the world market and receipts made at the Bank of Ghana within the same period.

The committee agreed with Mr Osei-Mensah for COCOBOD to bring such details for consideration by the committee, so that the basis for the significant shortfalls in the receipts deposited at the Bank of Ghana could be determined.

The committee members were also not happy about how the Minerals Commission does its tracking of gold produced by gold producing companies and how receipts are surrendered to the Bank of Ghana.

The committee noted, for instance, that a small mining company like Chiraa Goldmines Limited in the Brong Ahafo Region could surrender $60,975,435 as 30 percent of its exports to the government for its foreign exchange transactions, but a big mining company like Ashantigold at Obuasi with higher production could only surrender $63,510,870 as 20 percent of its exports to the government for the same purpose.

Chairman of the committee noticed a lot of discrepancies in the figures given to the committee by the Bank of Ghana for their work and asked it to reconcile the figures to help the committee in its work.

The committee continues sitting today and those expected to appear before it are officials of the Ministry of Health and its allied bodies to answer questions on performance audit report of the Auditor-General on the management and distribution of anti-retroviral drugs in Ghana.