August 22, 2016 Print

Taxpayers hope that the money government expropriates from them will actually be devoted to useful public goods and services, but too often those resources are wasted by corrupt officials and inefficient programs. In Ghana, for instance, failure to follow debt management regulations has led to more than GHS 3.93 billion (USD 1.02 billion) in financial irregularities, according to IMANI Center for Policy and Education, an Atlas Network partner in Ghana, in its new “Fiscal Recklessness Index.”

“The Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning took the top spot for financial irregularities within this category – Public boards/Corporations, totaling just over GHS 2 billion over the three-year period, representing approximately 46% of total irregularities within this category,” IMANI reports in its index. “Particularly of note were outstanding debts in 2012 totaling GHS 1.39 billion – aside being the highest type of irregularity (Outstanding debt) amongst the sector Ministries within this category, it also made up two-thirds of the Ministry’s total irregularities.”

The index measures the financial irregularities of ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs); public boards; and polytechnics and pre-university educational institutions in Ghana from 2012–2014. Other findings from the report include:

  • “Despite having a budget of only GHS 20 million, the [Ghana Youth Employment & Entrepreneurial Development] Agency overspent by GHS 199.3 million in just one year, as revealed by accounts from the Ministry of Youth and sports.
  • “Though a mere fraction of the total irregularities for the Ministry of Finance, GHS 18.6 million for the Ministry of Defence represented 2% of the category’s cumulative financial irregularities. The Ministry experienced a huge rise in irregularities across the period, from just GHS 21,000 in 2012 to almost GHS 13 million in 2014.”
  • “Ranking fourth on the list was the Ministry of Communication, with irregularities amounting to GHS 17.8 million representing 1.9% of the cumulative irregularities.”
  • “Consistently ranking consistently within the top 5 Ministries in terms of irregularities in the yearly rankings across the three (3) years, and with a total of GHS 15.7 million representing 1.7% of cumulative irregularities, the Ministry of Health placed fifth on the list.”

“The irregularities were mainly due to violations of rules, flagrant disregard for the financial administration regulations and the Public Procurement Act, non-adherence to tax laws and procedures, and failure to strengthen controls,” the index concludes. “The Auditor General must exercise the powers of surcharge and disallowance in order to curb the wanton and intentional disregard for regulations, laws, and procedures. Until recalcitrant public officials and institutions are penalized for malfeasance, these acts will continue to fester. It is imperative that the sections of the Public Procurement Act are amended, in order to fully spell out fines or other sanctions for non-compliance by public officials. These sanctions when exercised will seek to serve as a deterrent to other public officials.”