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PIAC, Finance Ministry banter over 'missing' oil cash needless.

The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), which is a creation under section 51 of Act 815 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, has, for some time now, been making a serious allegation that some payments made into the Annual Budget Funding Account (ABFA) were not utilised, yet, the money has not been returned to government chest.

According to PIAC, the money, amounting to $655 million, cannot be traced and, therefore, describes it as 'missing.'

The government, through the Finance Ministry, on its part, claims the money is not missing as PIAC has been telling Ghanaians, and that it has been lodged into the Treasury Account with the Bank of Ghana. The basis for this action is that, per Public Financial Management Act, 2016, they are not allowed to transfer the unspent funds back to where it came from, and, in this case, the Petroleum Holding Fund.

Whilst PIAC is not disputing the provisions of this law, it contends that the Finance Ministry has not furnished it with any documentation indicating that the money has, indeed, been lodged in the Treasury Account, as is being claimed.

Obviously, this claim and counter-claim by the two parties - PIAC and Finance Ministry - is creating an impression in the minds of Ghanaians that somebody somewhere has misappropriated these huge sums of money. This is the worry of The Chronicle, because we know for a fact that it would be impossible for an individual to just deep his or her hands into this public fund and misuse it. It is clear that the government has used the funds in other sectors of the economy. This, to us, is not stealing, but a matter of what the state considers a priority.

With the open and transparent government being pursued by President Akufo-Addo, The Chronicle expects the Ministry to come out and tell Ghanaians that the money has been used for such and such projects to put the matter to rest. The banter, we dare say, does not inure to the political benefit of the government, and that is why we are suggesting that the Ministry of Finance to come out with the truth surrounding the whereabouts of the money, or the sectors it had spent the money on.

If the issuance of press statement or press conference to set the records straight is not feasible, the Ministry of Finance must honour its pledge to meet with PIAC on a quarterly basis to explain in detail how the ABFA funds are being utilised. PIAC will then come back to inform the public that we raised issues with the oil money lodged into the ABFA, but the Ministry has explained the situation to us, and we are satisfied with that.

Some of the oil producing countries have not known peace because of the perception that people at the top echelon of government are misappropriating the money to themselves. So far, there has not been any official report that a top government official has dipped his or her hands into the oil funds. We have achieved this feat because of the stringent laws that have been enacted to govern the disbursement and use of the oil money for our national development.

Unfortunately, if the PIAC issue is not addressed promptly to erase any fears Ghanaians may have, we will gradually be brainwashing the citizens that some fishy deal is going on, and this is where the danger lies.

Should we wait till we get to this point, our answer is a big no, and that is why we are insisting that both the PIAC and Ministry of Finance should dialogue and collectively brief the public about the status of the funds, to set the doubting 'Thomases' at ease.
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Publication:Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra, Ghana)
Geographic Code:6GHAN
Date:Sep 5, 2019
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