GACC, EGP hold public forum on accountability gap in Ghana’s Covid-19 response [GACC in the News]

The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and Economic Governance Platform (EGP) on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, organised a public forum in Accra on the accountability gap in Ghana’s Covid-19 response. 

The forum brought together key stakeholders to deliberate on findings of research into the expenditure of the government since the country started fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Delivering a presentation on the findings, Mr. Bright Sowu who is head of programmes at the GACC disclosed that although the Covid-19 situation in Ghana peaked in 2021, the government failed to make a budgetary allocation to fight the pandemic. 

“This is what surprised us the most in the research that we undertook, that there was no Covid funding for MMDAs in 2021 and 2022,” Mr. Bright Sowu disclosed. 

He said from the findings of the research, the government did secure approval from Parliament for GHS4 million in 2021 to tackle Covid-19. However, the money was not disbursed to the MMDAs. 

He said the 10 district assemblies contacted from seven out of the 10 regions covered in the research confirmed that they receive no money to fight Covid-19. 

“Another reason why this is surprising is in 2020 we had budgeted and Covid came in March so we were in a bit of a panic and we had to go and find money. We moved from 2020 to 2021, we still had the pandemic and we even anticipated that the figures will even go higher because we were in an election year. 

“So how does it happen that for the first time we could actually budget for local governments and actually spend money to be able to effectively combat Covid, there was no money that came at all to local government for 2021. This is an issue that we seriously need to look into,” Mr. Bright Sowu shared. 

He further shared that from the MMDAs engaged, they said they were told to use funds from the District Assembly Common Fund to tackle the pandemic. Unfortunately, the funds were also not released by the government. 

From the research, The Economic Governance Platform and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition identified some accountability issues on government’s expenditure on Covid-19. 

As such, it has been recommended that the government accounts for money spent in order to clear the many issues that came up in the research bothering on corruption. 

The research also recommends that an audit be conducted on the Covid expenses of the government. 

Having chaired the public forum, Ketu North Member of Parliament James Klutse Avedzi backed the calls for an audit, while stressing that it should be conducted as a separate project by the Auditor-General. 

“Up to date, we don’t have an audit on the Covid-19 expenditure. In the 2020 auditor general report which was published in June 2021, we did not have expenditure on Covid-19. So we are expecting the auditor general to constitute Covid-19 expenditure as a project,” Hon. James Klutse Avedzi said at the Forum on the theme "The Accountability Gap in the Covid Responses of Ghana”. 

He added, “It should not be under the normal annual budget audit. If it is audited as a project then we will then know that all the receivables and approved expenditure, what were those expenses used for?” 

In his address, Mr. Joseph Winful, chairman of the Economic Governance Platform charged Civil Society Organisations to continue pushing for accountability from government institutions. 

He said, everyone has a responsibility and must display patriotic behaviour to make this country becomes better for everyone. 

On his part, Dr. Director General of the Internal Audit Agency, Dr. Oduro Osae identified the use of pre-auditing instead of risk-based auditing as a major problem. 

He said in the midst of the many questions raised in relation to the Covid-19 expenditure of government, emphasis should be placed on performance audits to ascertain whether funds were indeed put into good use in the last three years. 

He further revealed that the Internal Audit Agency has been doing some work with Economic and Organised Crime (EOCO) and will soon prosecute three institutions found to have wasted funds. 

He said a bipartisan probe into the government’s Covid-19 expenditure in the interest of accountability to the people of Ghana is needed urgently.

Source: https://www.modernghana.com/news/1142557/gacc-holds-public-forum-with-egp-on-the-accountabi.html

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