Education Minister parades 70 officials before PAC to answer for infractions

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The Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, on Thursday stunned parliamentarians and journalists when he marched his regional and district directors of education to Parliament to answer infractions they caused in the 2015 Auditor-General’s Report.

The officials were made to swear an oath at the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament in Accra and took turns to answer questions on unapproved and unjustified disbursement, unpresented payment vouchers, unauthorised use of funds, unauthorised purchases, among other financial infractions.

Before the commencement of the hearing, Dr Prempeh had told the committee that he had brought all the directors cited in the report to answer for their actions.

He, nonetheless, intermittently explained to the committee the steps his directors had taken to correct some of the anomalies detected in the report.

For instance, he told the PAC that the Auditor-General had cleared the director in the Assin North Municipal Education Office who was initially cited for making unsupported payment totalling GH¢124,960 on 49 payment vouchers.

Nkwanta South

There was a misunderstanding between the minister and the Auditor-General’s representative on the PAC when the issue of an alleged unsubstantiated payment of GH¢102,822.50 came up.

According to the minister, the Auditor-General, in a letter dated June 21, 2017, had cleared the district office of any infractions after it had successfully answered queries arising out of that payment.

The minister said it was, therefore, wrong for the representative to claim that no such letter had been issued, without verifying from his superiors.

More than 10 directors of education took turns to answer questions before the committee.

Some of the accountants and the directors were found wanting when the minister and the committee members put them on the spot to account for their work in 2015.

Observation

It also emerged that most of the directors and the accountants balanced the books after they had been invited by the PAC to answer queries.

The dates on some of the certificates of clearance from the Auditor-General’s Department provided evidence to that effect.

Some of the certificates were dated less than a month old, with one particular certificate being dated August 9, 2017.

The Chairman of the PAC, Mr James Avedzi, asked the affected directors whether they had taken steps to correct their breaches because they were to appear before the committee, to which they answered in the affirmative.

He then advised them to desist from taking decisions that would cause further infractions in the near future.

Finance Ministry

Earlier, a Deputy Minister of Finance, Mrs Abena Osei-Asare, had led a team from the ministry and the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) to explain issues relating to the sector, as captured in the Auditor-General’s Report.

The Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Eugene Ofosuhene, assured the committee that he would ensure that infractions that had been recorded in the 2015 Auditor-General’s Report would not be repeated in the future.

Ghana Revenue Authority

With regard to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Auditor-General said the report of 253 returned cheques totaling GH¢1 million had been resolved.

The acting Commissioner-General of the GRA, Mr Emmanuel Kofi Nti, told the PAC that the GRA had retrieved GH¢815,792, with a balance of GH¢454,777 remaining.

He said a man named Mark Asiedu owed the GRA GH¢152,000 and indicated that the authority was working to take legal action against Mr Asiedu and other defaulters.

The GRA boss said the GRA had rolled out some initiatives to halt incidents of dud cheques.

He said the GRA now accepted cash payments and bankers’ draft from clients, adding that offending companies would also be blacklisted, making it impossible for them to be issued with tax clearance certificates.

On the issue of rent tax, he said his outfit had projected to raise GH¢310 million on domestic revenue, including rent tax, in 2017.

Credit: Graphic.com

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