Financial rot at Health Ministry revealed

Proceedings at Wednesday's sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament have shown that some public institutions are, still embroiled in financial malpractice and malfeasance. This was made manifest when the committee found that payments running into billions of cedis made by the Ministry of Health (MOH) were not covered by the necessary documentation. On the second day of the sittings, it was discovered that the dollar account of the MOH was being operated without adequate documentation, since 13 payments, totalling ¢13.24 billion, had been made without supporting documents.In a desperate bid to defend and salvage the image of the ministry, its officials produced some documents which were yet to be assessed by the committee and authenticated by the Auditor-General.When the officials were questioned over the submission of the remaining documents, they replied that efforts were underway to produce such documents for the committee.That led the chairman of the committee to comment that answers given to questions by members of the committee were misleading and fraught with lots of inconsistencies. In its probe of the MOH, the PAC found, to its chagrin, unapproved expenditure, failure to tender the award of road construction works, indebtedness of health institutions, engagement of unapproved temporary staff, unaccounted for fuel, unearned salaries and non-payment of rent by occupants of government flats and bungalows. In a response, the Financial Controller of the ministry, Mr Simon Dosu, who claimed to have assumed that position a few months ago, pointed out that most of the documents that the committee had sought for were not available at the time of audit. Mr. E. T. Mensah, a member of the committee and Member of Parliament (MP) for Ningo-Prampram, asked Mr. Dosu whether notes on the ministry's activities had been handed over to him by his predecessor? Replying, Mr Dosu said the handing over had been brief and had not included all the details of financial expenditure and payments effected by the ministry under the dol¬lar account. Commenting on activities at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Mr Sallas Mensah, the Chairman of the PAC; said the committee's review of the budget performance of the hospital for 2003 revealed that the sector minister's approval for ¢3.70 billion, representing excess capital expenditure, had not been approved by Parliament. He said the committee had, therefore, advised the management of the hospital to operate within its expenditure limit to curtail budget overruns and prevent avoidable strain on the finances of the ministry.Mr Mensah further explained that the hospital also failed to tender the award of a road contract, estimated at ¢289.3 million. "We noted that the construction of the Korle-Bu residential access road for doctors' bungalows, courts A, B, C and Zoti Bungalow were not put to tender, neither were alternative quotations obtained. The sum of ¢289.3 million was paid to Facol Roads Limited in respect of the access roads construction," he said. The PAC Chairman said the committee further noted that a reserve price was not obtained from either the Ghana Highway Authority or any other recognised body to serve as a yardstick for measuring the contract price. "We recommend that in future laid down regulations should be adhered to. Officers responsible for untendered contracts for which quotations are not obtained should be surcharged in future should any loss of funds arise," he added. In an answer to the query, the acting Chief Executive of the hospital, Dr Ben Annan, said the project was done under a certificate of urgency and that explained why it did not go through a tendering process. He said three contractors were shortlisted to bring quotations to the hospital, after which Facol Company Limited was endorsed to undertake the construction works. When the Minority Leader, Mr Alban Bagbin, asked Dr. Annan to tell the committee of the names of the two other companies, the acting chief executive could not remember them offhand. Source: Daily Graphic

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