The Attorney General’s Department (AG) has come under fire for paying over Ghc 67 million to a firm – Construction Pioneers as judgement debt without Cabinet’s approval.
In line with government’s attempt to sanitize judgment debts payment system, a debt exceeding GHc 10 million cannot be paid without Cabinet’s prior authorization.
The Attorney General however with the regulations may authorize the payment if it is below the threshold.
But at Tuesday’s Public Accounts Committee sitting, the Auditor General observed in his 2016 Report that Construction Pioneers were paid the monies which exceeded the threshold without the requisite consent.
Per the Auditor General’s 2016 report, “a review of the bank statement of the Ministry disclosed that a payment of GHc67,380,718.20 (direct debit) was made to Construction Pioneers as judgement debt on behalf of the state without any reference to Cabinet.”
The Ministry, according to the report, could not provide any documentation with regards to the Court Judgement and failed to investigate the cause of the direct debit for appropriate action which resulted in the anomaly.
Although the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akufo, tended in a Cabinet’s Decision Note authorizing the said payments, members of the Public Accounts Committee were not impressed.
“This happened because of the availability of documents at the time of the Audit. The decision note of Cabinet was received at our office on about 4th August 2013. So, yes it has been received but perhaps it was not readily available. Perhaps it goes to record keeping because we have different registries and so it is very difficult to track.”
“We have tried to overcome that using the computers now to record the mails that come [in] so that it becomes easier for us to trace these documents. I do apologize because I think perhaps at the time, when the exercise was carried out, if this document was available then perhaps the queries wouldn’t have arisen,” Gloria Akufo noted.
The Committee has thus recommended that all payment above the GHc10 million threshold be referred to Cabinet for approval and that management should also obtain the court judgement and all relevant documents to authenticate the payment.
Aside this, the Registrar-General’s Department was also taken on for fragmenting its procurement of stationery.
Section 21(5) of the Public Procurement Act, 2003, (Act 663) states that, a procurement entity shall not divide a procurement order into parts or lower the value of a procurement order to avoid the application of the procedures in the public procurement Act.
“The review of procurement procedures disclosed that, the department made fragmented procurement of stationery, amounting to GH¢478,143.21. This could lead to uncompetitive prices and loss of discount on bulk purchases,” the Auditor General’s report added.
The Committee, therefore, recommended that management should strictly adhere to the provisions in the Procurement Act.
The department apologized for the infraction, but not without the condemnation of Committee Chairman, James Avedze Klutse.
The Attorney General again apologized because according to her, “it was due to the circumstances at that time. We didn’t have enough resources to take care of everything at a go. We needed to break it up in order to pay for it. We didn’t have much at that time in our accounts. We sincerely apologize for that and we have taken the recommendation to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Act.