General News of Saturday, 4 March 2017
An economist with the University of Ghana has called for a forensic audit of the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC).
Dr Eric Osei-Assibey who is also a Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), also advocated reforms regarding the mandate of the public utility regulator.
In the first of a series of reports of an audit of financial records at the Commission, Joy News’ Kwetey Nettey, reports that some curious expenditure has been noticed.
An amount of GHC435, 087, made up two separate transfers were made into the personal accounts of the Executive Secretary of PURC, Samuel Sarpong.
The money was part of GHC1,225, 000 paid by five major utility companies to the PURC for the 2013 tariff review hearings nationwide.
The funds were supposed to be lodged in the account of the PURC, however, documents sighted by Joy News indicate that GHC271,500 was paid into Mr. Sarpong’s accounts.
Details of the deposit voucher reveal the money was paid on February 16, 2013, at the Gulf House Branch of ADB.
Former Head of Finance at PURC, Isaac Assan, who made the payments into the account, said he did this on the instructions of the Executive Secretary.
Another payment of GH¢163, 587 was also made into Mr. Sarpong’s Gulf House account on June 7, 2013. Mr. Assan told Kwetey Nettey that although it is not the norm for a public institution to transfer money into private accounts of an official, his boss thought it was convenient.
An internal memo dated June 5, 2013, intercepted by Joy News reveals that PURC approved GHc164,000 to cover expenses of stakeholder consultation on tariff review with chiefs in Kumasi.
Key expenses for that programme were over 86,000 paid as per diem and allowances, 32,000 cedis for hotel accommodation, and 20,000 as protocol payment to Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
But speaking on Joy FM/MultiTV’s news analysis program, Newsfile, Saturday, Dr Osei-Assibey said with the nation moving toward deregulation environment, “the time has come when we all have to look at how we reform PURC in this new era.”
“They seem to be deviating from their core function of regulating prices and making sure consumers’ interest are protected.