The Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Kwabena Duffuor, has for the last three years turned a blind eye on a section of the Public Procurement Act that enjoins him to submit annual reports to Parliament on public procurement activities in the country.
This arrangement has been put in place to ensure proper accountability and transparency in the awards of public contracts. Many contracts awarded under the NDC government are done through sole-sourcing, a practice which is very susceptible to corruption through inflated contract costs.
Even though the previous NPP government appointed technocrats to head the Public Procurement Authority, the situation is now different under the NDC where the Chairman of the Authority is a presidential staffer, whilst the Chief Executive Officer is a former NDC MP. Section 13 of the Public Procurement Act (Act 663) states: “The [Public Procurement] Board shall within three months after the end of each year, submit to the Minister [of Finance] a written report indicating the activities and operations of the Board in respect of the preceding year.” It adds: “The annual report shall include a copy of the audited accounts together with the Auditor-General’s report and the Minister shall as soon as practicable after receipt of the annual report submit the report to Parliament with such comment as the Minister considers necessary.” Information available to the New Statesman indicates that even though the Public Procurement Board has been submitting its annual reports to the Finance and Economic Planning Minister, he has failed to make them available to Parliament for the required scrutiny to be done on how the public purse is being spent on procurements.
Insiders say leading functionaries of the Mahama-Amissah-Arthur led National Democratic Congress government have been prevailing on the minister not to submit the reports to Parliament, for fear of exposing the alleged corrupt deals of the government in respect of awards of contracts, especially the highly inflated nature of the costs involved. Many well-meaning Ghanaians and groups, including the New Patriotic Party and its Presidential Candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, have been expressing much worry about the contract sums of projects being executed by the NDC government.
During his recent lecture on “Why Ghana Cannot Afford Corruption”, Nana Akufo-Addo lamented “the inexplicable rises in the cost of government projects”, explaining: “A six-unit classroom block that was being built at some GH¢85,000 4 years ago, under the NPP, is now priced at over GH¢240,000.” This, according to the NPP leader, means the NDC is spending three times more money to build the same type of schools that the NPP was building, a practice which he says undermines confidence in government and limits the nation’s capacity to develop.
Reports even indicate that a six-unit classroom block is now being built at a whopping contract sum of GH¢428,159.78 in some parts of the country under the watch of President John Dramani Mahama. Again, while the construction of one kilometre of asphalted road was in the range of $450,000 and $600,000 under the NPP administration, it now costs between $1.4 million and $1.6 million under the NDC. According to Nana Akufo-Addo, the consequence of this kind of inflated cost of construction is that in the last four years, less than 1,000km of roads had been added to the road network as compared to the annual NPP average of 4,750km. The NPP Presidential Candidate also bemoans the current trend whereby public contracts are now awarded mainly through sole sourcing. “Public contracts are now routinely awarded by sole sourcing.
Very worrying is the fact that this sole sourcing regime is most prevalent in contracts awarded from two key ministries, Education and Roads,” he added. Nana Akufo-Addo noted in his recent lecture that the blatant disregard for the legal requirement to subject public contracts to a competitive tender process was denying the people of Ghana value for their money, explaining that this was part of the main reasons why the Public Procurement Act had provided for the Minister to submit a report to Parliament and to explain why certain procurements were done through sole sourcing. He expressed further worries about the undue delay in laying the Auditor-General’s Report in Parliament, a situation he believes undermines transparency in the financial administration of the public sector.
The 2011 Auditor-General’s Report is yet to be laid in Parliament even it ought to have been done by the end of June 2012. “If one recalls that it was the 2010 report, which was laid on the due date, that exposed the judgment debts scandals, one wonders if there are any more such scandals lurking within the report to explain the delay in the laying of the 2011 Auditor-General’s Report,” Nana Akufo-Addo observed.
Source: Kwabena Amankwah/.thestatesmanonline.com