Conduct proper stakeholder engagement on project – Assemblies urged

Dr Clement Abas Apaak
Dr Clement Abas Apaak

Mr Clement Apaak, a Member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, has called on the District Assemblies not to neglect beneficiaries of projects in the planning processes.

He complained, “why should this top-down approach continue to exist in this era where community participation is deemed key for successful governance”.

Mr Apaak said this when he queried the Tarkwa Municipal Assembly on the abandonment of a market shed constructed some 12 years ago.

The assembly appeared before the Committee on day two of sitting in Takoradi in the Western Region.

The Committee Siting was to probe how far recommendations on Auditor General’s Report in the 2018 had been implemented among the Assemblies to enhance sanity in the fiscal regime.

The Assembly assured the Committee that defective works would be fixed to ensure that the market was used by the close of the year.

Meanwhile, the Sefwi Wiawso Municipal Assembly in the Western North Region, has been tasked to clear a judgement debt incurred because of delayed payment to a supplier.

The Committee gave the Management Team headed by Mr Louis Owusu-Agyapong, one month to pay a judgement debt of GHC 11,181.90 incurred from a transaction in 2016.

Management was also to pay the outstanding debts incurred during the transactions within the same period.

According to the Auditor General’s (AG) report on the management and utilisation of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) and other statutory funds for the year ending December 2018, the Sefwi Wiawso Municipal Assembly in December 2016, purchased on credit 855 bags of cement valued at GHc26,505 from Vista Construction Company Ltd for a self -help project.

However, the Assembly failed to pay the debt of GHc26,505 compelling the supplier to sue the Assembly.

Therefore, the 2018 audit report in agreement with a court order recommended that the Assembly paid the judgement debt of GHc11,181.60 owed to the supplier to bring the total debt of GHc37,686, out of which GHc20,000 had been paid.

“This occurred because the Municipal Chief Executive Louis Owusu-Agyapong refused to pay the debts incurred by his predecessors. We recommend recovery of GHC11,181 from Mr Owusu-Agyapong. We further recommend that the assembly pay the outstanding debt of GHC17,686 to avoid further cost in future,” the audit report stated.

It explained that “Regulations 2 of Financial Administration Regulation (FAR) L1 1802 requires a head of department to secure the efficient and effective use of appropriations under the departmental control within the ambit of government policy and in compliance with the enactment, regulations or instructions issues under any authority or enactment.”

However, appearing at the PAC hearing after the Chairman, Dr James Klutse Avedzi had given the directive, Mr Owusu-Agyapong explained that, he acted in good faith and that, he was suspicious about the transactions with Vista Construction Company Ltd.

“I conducted some verification and became suspicious. Meanwhile, there were also other debts for the assembly to pay. I acted in good faith engaging the supplier on debts in our books. We plead that Chairman extends the two weeks for us to pay the money.”

But, Chairman of PAC contended that, for Mr Owusu- Agyapong, to deal with the debts based on suspicion was wrong and should bear the cost of his actions.

“Suspicions could be wrong and that is costly. You need evidence to go to court. If you have no evidence, then, you cannot be carrying on with suspicions. With no evidence, you delay and you have ended up causing financial losses. You must duly pay the GHc11,000. No management must pay the debt. We have now given you one month instead of the earlier two directives, so auditors should take note,” Dr Avedzi argued.

Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of PAC, Mr Samuel Atta Mills, was unhappy that the Coordinating Director suggested that a contract on the construction of a maternity block project should be cancelled and rewarded to the contractor.

He said “the contractor wants a variation of the contract, do you know the price of a bag of cement today, it is GHc65.00. Does it make sense?”

Dr Avedzi, for his part, advised the Assembly to allow the consultant on the projects to invite the contractor for discussions on the project and that, bypassing the due processes would land them into another judgement debt, maintaining that, “You issue first and second warnings, you just don’t terminate contracts.”

The contract formed part of six projects awarded under the District Development Fund and the District Common Fund and others costing GHc1,999.41.

Dr. Avedzi said ” I urged you to improve on your activities in order not to appear or be cited in the 2022 report…I know you may appear in the 2019 to 2021 report but We don’t want to see you in the 2022 report.”

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