General News of Sunday, 22 February 2015
Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) has threatened to sue government for failing to publish annual reports on projects implemented with petroleum revenues for the past three years.
Executive Director of ACEP, Dr. Mohammed Amin Adam said the Petroleum Revenue Act, Act 815 Section 48 (2b) required the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, to publish annual report on various stages of projects executed with petroleum revenues and expenditure incurred on them.
However, he said, since 2012 the government had failed to comply with the provisions in the law and that had made it difficult for the ordinary citizen to track down those projects executed with oil revenues.
Dr. Adam, who is an economist, expressed these concerns at a stakeholders’ meeting organized by ACEP and Friends of the Nation (FON), in Takoradi, on Friday, to sensitize various stakeholders on the spending strategies of the petroleum revenues by the government.
He indicated that the country earned about US$2.7 billion dollars in oil revenues over the last four years therefore the people must be adequately informed on how such monies were disbursed and the impacts it had made on the economy.
The event, which was funded by OXFAM, provided a platform for the stakeholders to learn how the country had earned from the sale of crude oil on the international market.
Dr. Amin noted that “Value for money audit” undertaken by ACEP revealed that some projects which government claimed it had executed with oil revenues is non-existence thus, giving an impression that the petroleum revenues were not being used judiciously.
He cited Teshie Agriculture College administrative block which government claimed petroleum revenue had been released for its construction and yet, nothing was done.
He also mentioned the $57 million dollars allocated to the Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC) however authorities of the GNGC claimed they had not received the money.
Dr. Amin Adam said the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) required government to maximize the rate of economic development and promote equality of economic opportunity with a view of ensuring the well-being of the citizenry.
He added that the law required government to undertake even and balanced development of the regions, however, these clear objectives had not been strictly adhered to by the government.
The economist pointed out that the budget allocations to selected ministries and departments in 2012 showed that the Office of the President received more money in oil revenues than agriculture sector.
The Office of the President was allocated GHc65 million in 2012 as against GHC53 million allocated to an important sector like agriculture, he lamented.
He also expressed regret that no clear guidelines were provided to the ministries and departments on the utilization of the petroleum revenues therefore monies were not applied to priority projects as required.
He cited Ghana Highway Authority oil revenue allocation of $24 million dollars last year, which was spent on 63 road projects and said due to the small amount allocated to each of them, no meaningful work was done on those roads.
Dr. Amin Adam indicated that ACEP and FON had been championing increase in oil revenue to agriculture and education since 2013 in view of the important roles they play towards the country’s development efforts.
He explained that the campaign aimed at influencing three investment decisions with the use of oil revenue including, prioritizing agricultural investment as part of the four priority areas for the use of oil revenues.
And ensuring that government apply agricultural investments to smallholder farming to boost productivity with a focus on extension services, input subsidy, agriculture mechanisation, post-harvest management, as well as access to credit and markets.
He expressed delight that government heeded to their call and allocated GHc53 million in the 2012 budget even exceeding its expenditure by spending GHc72, 471,824 on agriculture sector.
Dr. Amin Adam added that in 2013, government budgeted GHc20, 000,000.00 towards agriculture modernization and eventually expended GHc13, 604,329. However, he expressed regret that last year GHc136 million was budgeted for the agriculture sector but a paltry GHc8.9 million was expended on agriculture and, therefore, asked government to explain what the rest of the money was used for since the country achieved its revenue target in crude oil sales.
The participants suggested that any future campaigns on tracking down oil revenues should include allocations, disbursements and impacts made by oil revenues and the need to sanction public office holders who misappropriated public funds.