All Bark and No Bite: PIAC As A Watchdog

Chairman of PIAC, Dr Steve Manteaw

Accra, Ghana, June 14, 2018//-The Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) which was enacted in 2011 and amended in 2015 has as its object: “to provide the framework for the collection, allocation and management of petroleum revenue in a responsible, transparent, accountable and sustainable manner for the benefit of the citizens of Ghana in accordance with Article 36 of the Constitution and for related matters.”
In this regard Act 815 has established a number of institutional gatekeepers to help realise its objective of ensuring accountability, transparency and public oversight over management of Ghana’s petroleum revenue management, a prominent example of which is the Public Interest Accountability Committee (PIAC), established under S. 51 of Act 815.

The objects of PIAC are (a) to monitor and evaluate compliance with the Act by government and other relevant institutions in the management and use of the petroleum revenues and investments as provided in Act 815; (b) to provide a space and platform for the public to debate whether spending prospects and management and use of revenues conform to development priorities as provided under section 21(3); and (c) to provide independent assessments on the management and use of petroleum revenues to assist Parliament and the executive in the oversight and performance of related functions respectively.

In order to achieve its objects PIAC is to consult widely on best practice related to management and use of petroleum revenues; and determine the rules of procedure under which it will operate. As a result, it is to have its own secretariat to help facilitate the performance of its functions.
Decisions of PIAC are only binding if taken by a majority with a quorum of nine members. It is also worthy of note that allowances of members of PIAC are determined by the Minister and approved by Parliament.
The primary duty entrusted to PIAC is that of reporting. PIAC is charged to publish a semi-annual report and annual report at least in two state owned national daily newspapers by the 15th of March each year; publish the reports on PIAC’s website; hold public meetings twice each year to report on its mandate to the general public; and submit a copy of its semi-annual report to the president and to Parliament.
To this end PIAC has since its inception managed to publish 12 reports covering the period 2011 to 2017.

Perusing the role of PIAC under Act 815 as amended, it is clear that its mandate is restricted to the provision of information on how petroleum revenue is managed in Ghana in order to enable all stakeholders make informed decisions.

A question that begs for an answer is; what happens with the information provided by PIAC? As a whistle-blower, it appears that PIAC is not concerned about what or how the information it provides is used or whether or not its recommendations are adopted and implemented to ensure that there is value for money in projects being funded by petroleum revenues.
PIAC, as presently constituted, lacks the requisite prosecutorial or surcharging powers to compel compliance with its recommendations. PIAC therefore can only bark without any reasonable prospect of biting to ensure that best practices are employed in the management of our petroleum revenues.

In an article published on its website dated April 17, 2018, Dr. Steve Manteaw, its Chairman, is reported to have urged President Akufo-Addo to ensure that persons implicated in its inspection report are brought to book to demonstrate his commitment to fighting corruption.
He said that “[t]he President should ensure that mandated institutions act swiftly on our Report to protect the public purse.” For instance, PIAC’s 2017 Semi-Annual Report indicated that 50% of the projects inspected in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions supposedly funded with petroleum revenue could not be traced.
These are serious allegations that require swift action by gatekeepers to ensure that petroleum revenue is not wasted like that from the country’s other natural resources. What if due to lack of political will, the president and for that matter the relevant state institutions fail to act as urged by PIAC?

Will it then mean that the work done by PIAC becomes useless?
And when these Offices fail to act, they should be able to explain why they have not so acted. Alternatively, Act 815 could be further amended to grant PIAC powers to either prosecute or surcharge persons found to have either misused or misappropriated petroleum revenues.
PIAC could as well use the Judicial Review mechanism enshrined in the 1992 Constitution to compel compliance by public bodies and authorities being funded by petroleum revenues.
In the absence of these suggestions, PIAC risks being another white elephant or the dog which barks so much but fails in its most crucial function, to bite!

By  Osman Ainoo Gyan

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