The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) is proposing harsh penalties for public servants and state institutions cited by the Auditor General for embezzlement of funds.
PAC has been reviewing Auditor General reports on the public accounts of state institutions and, where irregularities are discovered, enforcing Auditor General recommendations.
The Chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, James Klutse Avedzi, told Citi News that simply recommending that embezzled funds be recovered is not enough of a deterrent.
“Sometimes when you look at it, you realized that, the offence is so severe that, recovery of the money alone is not sufficient. It must come with some other punishments either in the form of paying interest on the money.”
According to a recent report by the Auditor General, more than GHS 21 billion was mobilised for the fight against COVID-19, but only GHS 5.5 billion was spent on health.
The remainder was spent on budget line items such as government programmes including Free SHS and LEAP, among others.
Some of the funds were used for unapproved expenses or purchases that have yet to be delivered. As a result, the Auditor General’s report recommended that such funds be returned to the state.
“I think what we should be doing in future is that we go beyond the mere recovery to other sanctions either prosecution or paying interest to serve as a deterrent to people who find spending state funds lucrative”, James Klutse Avedzi further suggested.
In the wake of the Auditor General’s report on the government’s COVID-19 spending, former Auditor General Daniel Yao Domelevo has renewed calls for the prosecution of individuals and institutions accused of misusing public funds.
The concerned former Auditor General argued that if state institutions such as the Auditor General and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) collaborate to trigger the appropriate prosecutorial processes, the era of people who flout financial laws could come to an end.
“The part of the audit that bothers on criminality should be handed over to the Office of the Special Prosecutor and I think he should work hand-in-hand with the Auditor General and see people being dragged to court and prosecuted in addition to the recovery of the monies. It will bring deterrence into the system. One of the things I expect in this collaboration is to get the necessary evidence that the OSP will use in court”, he stressed.