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A multi-stakeholder forum on Accountability Reports in the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815) has taken place in Accra.
The forum, which was held on the theme; ‘Three years of Petroleum Revenue Management in Ghana—Transparency without Accountability,’ was organised by the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) with support from IBIS Ghana, a Danish non-governmental organisation working at global, national and local levels for the empowerment of civil society and underprivileged communities with a focus on equal access to education, influence and resources.
The forum provided the platform for the reporting agencies—Ministry of Finance (MoF), Investment Advisory Committee (IAC), Bank of Ghana (BoG) Auditor-General’s Department (AGD) and the Public Interest Accountability Committee (PIAC) —to provide key highlights of their challenges.
BoG, under section 26 (1) of Act 815, is responsible for the day-to-day operational management of the Petroleum Holding Fund (PHF) and the Ghana Petroleum Funds (GPFs), and, subsequently, the Petroleum Wealth Fund under the terms of the Operation Management Agreement (OMA).
Again, under 28 (1) of the law, BoG has the duty to present quarterly reports to MoF and IAC on the performance and activities of the Ghana Stabilization Fund (GSF) and the Ghana Heritage Fund (GHF) not later than the end of the month following the end of each quarter.
BoG is also required under section 28 (2) of the law to publish semi-annual reports on the GSF and the GHF not later than the 15th of August of each year and present the reports to Parliament and publish them in two state-owned national daily newspapers and at BoG website.
Under section 40 (1) and (2) of the law, IAC is required to submit quarterly information reports and analysis of the GSF and GHF to the Minister for Finance not later than 30 working days after the receipt of quarterly reports from BoG— in accordance with the reporting requirements of BoG —for the purpose of reporting in the Annual Budget and Financial Statement.
The law gives the Auditor-General responsibility as an external auditor, under section 45 (1), to audit the Petroleum Funds while section 46 (2) provides that the Auditor-General, after receiving all financial statements and other relevant documents submitted by BoG, submit an audited report to Parliament and publish audited reports of the Ghana Petroleum Funds.
Section 48 of the Act, requires the Minister responsible for Finance to submit an annual report on the Petroleum Funds as part of the annual presentation in the Annual Budget and Financial Statement to Parliament, and to publish all petroleum receipts in the Gazette, two state-owned national daily newspapers and at the website of MoF quarterly and annually.
The other reporting agency, PIAC, established under section 51 of Act 815, is also required under section 52 to monitor and evaluate compliance by government and other relevant institutions with the law, and to provide an independent assessment of the management and use of petroleum revenues.
Under section 56, PIAC is required to publish semi-annual and annual reports in at least two state-owned national daily newspapers and submit copies of the reports to the President and to Parliament.
Act 815, therefore, treats transparency as a fundamental principle in reporting on the Petroleum Funds and provides in section 49 (7) that Parliament, Finance Minister and BoG are to take the necessary measures to entrench transparency mechanisms and free access by the public to information.
And, under section 49 (8), the Minister for Finance is required to ensure that the law, i.e., Act 815, and other instructions relevant to the GPFs, OMA and the annual reports are readily-available to the public.
Welcoming participants to the forum, Dr Mohammed Amin Adam, Executive Director of ACEP, commended government for listening and responding to the concerns of civil society in the implementation of Act 815 and, particularly, in the on-going process to review the law.
According to Dr Adam, three years into the implementation of the law, significant improvement had been registered in its application which, he said, represented the value that civil society organisations could add to Ghana’s governance system.
Dr Amin cautioned, however, that the final proposals that were being considered in the review were insignificant and would not make the desired impact.
He said the lost opportunities presented by the review process could, however, be redeemed by making public the Draft Regulations to Act 815 for scrutiny and inputs to enrich it to reflect the national interest, adding that it was only by so doing that the high level of transparency recorded in the implementation of the law could be maintained.
He noted that transparency was not an end in itself, but was supposed to lead to accountability, and cited the Auditor-General as having not produced a single report in the three years of the implementation of the law, even though it was required by the law to generate the report annually.
Furthermore, Dr Adam said, PIAC, which was supposed to be an independent body that should make an independent assessment of the utilisation of the petroleum revenue, sourced all of its information from government—hence the extent to which the PIAC could be said to be independent was questionable.
He said there were discrepancies between government reports on petroleum receipts and those of the accountability institutions such as PIAC and the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI), and stressed the need for these institutions to develop reporting structures that allowed them to validate government reported data through independent research investigation.
In a presentation, the Chairman of PIAC, Major (Rtd.) Daniel Ablorh-Quarcoo, said the committee had been able to ensure improved accountability and transparency and that as a result of advocacy, MoF had set up a committee to review the Act.
Major (Rtd) Ablorh-Quarcoo, however, cited resource constraints, lack of office space and the absence of a Legislative Instrument (LI) as key challenges to the effective performance of the committee.
He, therefore, called for an agreed mechanism to fund its operations rather than being left to the discretion of the Executive.
Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)