The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) says it is yet to receive any form of correspondence from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) explaining the whereabouts of the over-GHÂ¢400million unutilised oil revenues allocated to the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) in 2017, as spelt out in the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA).
According to Dr. Steve Manteaw, Chairman of the Committee, the MoF is yet to account for the said amount despite PIACâ€™s persistent calls for clarity on the matter.
â€œIn 2017, slightly over GHÂ¢700million was set aside, thus allocated and approved by Parliament for spending, which is the ABFA. By close of 2017, government had managed to spend only GHÂ¢300million out of the GHÂ¢700million, leaving a balance of GHÂ¢400million. The fact is that the unspent GHÂ¢400million is yet to be accounted for,â€ he explained.
He added that the Finance Ministry is yet to respond to the Committeeâ€™s inquiries about the unspent petroleum cash.
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â€œWeâ€™ve actually raised this in our report, and weâ€™ve also written to the minister of finance asking about where the unspent GHC400million is. Weâ€™re yet to receive an acknowledgement let alone a response,â€ he added.
Dr. Manteaw said the situation raises questions over budgetary compliance because the money allocated was captured in the national budget for 2017. Also, he believes the money was readily available for spending since the funds were sourced and disbursed from the Petroleum Holding Fund.
â€œThis is not a case of government going to borrow money and therefore arguing that the monies or loans did not come. The monies we are talking about were realised, so the question is: why didnâ€™t we spend?â€ he noted.
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Commenting further on the issue, Dr. Manteaw added that other findings show serious infractions of the law directing how Ghanaâ€™s petroleum funds should be utilised. He said data gathered show that government spent more on recurring expenditure, in the form of goods and services, than on infrastructure as allocated by the PRMA.
According to PIACâ€™s 2017 annual report, Section 21 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (Act 815) as amended (Section 8 of Act 893), requires that for any financial year a minimum of 70% of the ABFA shall be used for public investment expenditure (capital expenditure).
However, only 36.73% of the total ABFA spent in 2017 went into capital expenditure while 63.27% was for goods and services. This is less than the 70% prescribed by the PRMA and is in violation of Act 813(4).
Dr. Manteaw was speaking to the media during a stakeholder engagement forum with civil society organisations in Ghana. The objective was to discuss findings from PIACâ€™s reports from 2011 to 2017, and also solicit views from CSOs as to how PIACâ€™s role in ensuring accountability and transparency in the use of petroleum funds can he enhanced.
Responding to calls for PIAC to be given powers to prosecute, Dr. Manteaw said the Commission is already engaged with some security agencies in ensuring that its recommendations result in accountability.
â€œI would not even advise that my committee members or PIAC as a body push for prosecutorial powers, since there are enough agencies of state with that power. All we need to do is establish collaboration between PIAC and these agencies,â€ he said.
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He said PIAC, like CHRAJ, will work with constitutionally mandated security agencies which do not have prosecutorial powers; but it can actually get the other institutions of state that have prosecutorial powers to act on its behalf.
According to Dr. Manteaw, having met with the Auditor-General, the Commission is making plans to also meet with the Special Prosecutor, EOCO, CHRAJ and other bodies to garner support to ensure that people who misuse oil revenues are brought to book.
Background and findings from PIACâ€™s 2017annaul report
According to Ghanaâ€™s Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), all revenues from the oil sector are to be consolidated into a Petroleum Holding Fund. These revenues include but are not limited to royalties, carried and participating interest, taxes and dividends.
From there, an amount of not more than 55% of the carried and participating interest must be allocated to the national oil company, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).
Then, an amount of not more than 70% of the remaining revenue is to be reserved to support the national budget captured as the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA), with not less than 30% of the remaining revenue allocated to the Ghana Petroleum Funds (GPF) made up of a Stabilisation Fund and Heritage Fund respectively.
Findings from PIACâ€™s 2016 report however showed that an amount of GHÂ¢77.73million was un-utilised from the ABFA allocation for that year. In 2017, a further GHÂ¢403.74million was un-utilised, bringing total amount of unused revenue brought forward to GHÂ¢481.47million.
It is this amount that PIAC seeks clarity on with regard to its expenditure.