The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) has started working with the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) to investigate some infractions of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (PRMA Act 815).
This is because in the last 10 years after the passage of the law, many infractions had occurred without any punishment and this has, therefore, emboldened people to continue to violate the law.
The violations, according to PIAC, included the unutilisation of allocated funds, diversion of funds into other projects and not properly accounting for how the petroleum revenues had been used.
The Chairman of PIAC, Mr. Noble Wadzah, who said this in a presentation to editors and senior journalists at Peduase near Aburi in the Eastern Region last Saturday, said the committee’s monitoring indicated that while the funds remained unused and unaccounted for, the projects they were earmarked to fund were uncompleted.
“If we don’t deal with this, we may be charting the path towards a resource curse which is what the law seeks to prevent,” Mr Wadzah stressed.
The debate of avoiding a resource curse was rife in 2007 when the country discovered oil but the law created the environment to avoid it.
The PIAC chairman was, therefore, worried that 10 years down the line the path for resource curse was being created.
He insisted that if the law was not applied to the letter, especially enforcing the punishments that came with it, people who were in charge of using the oil revenue would misapply them with impunity.
In its 2019 report launched in the first quarter of the year, PIAC flagged that GH¢1.5 billion of the oil money allocated to fund the national budget, also known as ABFA, had not been utilised and also not accounted for.
Mr. Wadzah said PIAC had no prosecutorial powers and had been relying on Parliament and other duty bearers its reports went to, to exercise their enforcement mandate and demand accountability.
“This is where we call on Parliament to bring its oversight mandate to bear,” the PIAC chairman stated.
Mr. Wadzah called for a long-term development plan to align with the utilisation of the oil revenue, saying that was the position the law envisaged at inception.
“We cannot continue to consign ourselves to a second-tier thinking of the law and make it as though that is the default position. So we should be able to put a plan down as a bigger national dashboard for citizens to see because the law itself is trying to achieve a purpose of making petroleum a blessing to the country, not a curse,” he stated.
The PIAC chairman explained that on the basis of how the country had misused its mining revenues in the past, the law had been crafted in a way to promote the channelling of the revenues into specific areas and projects to ensure value for money.
The Technical Manager of PIAC, Mr. Mark Agyemang, who made a presentation about health funding, said from 2017 to 2019 the health sector attracted only 3.2 per cent of funds allocated to the four sectors in the budget.
In 2017, the sector received GH¢22.70 million, representing 2.6 per cent of the ABFA; GH¢8.66 million in 2018 (2.74 per cent) and GH¢46.34 million in 2019 (3.65per cent) of total ABFA utilisation.
“This brings the total ABFA funding to the health sector from 2011-2019 to GH¢77.70 million, out of total ABFA utilisation of GH¢5.74 billion, representing 0.76 per cent,” Mr. Agyemang stated.
PIAC, therefore, stressed the importance of channelling not only substantial amounts of funds to the sector, but also direct some to funding goods and services, some of which could be used to provide incentives to motivate health workers to accept postings to deprived parts of the country.
“We see the health infrastructure, but many of them do not have the full complement of personnel to man them. Part of the budget for goods and services can be used to motivate people to go there,” Mr. Agyemang said.