… Recruitment process for Co-ordinator begins
In a matter of weeks, if not days, the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) would be operating from its own Secretariat.
The new Secretariat, to be located within Asylum Down, was secured under a two-year lease funded by government, Major Daniel Sowa Ablorh – Quarcoo, Chairman of PIAC, told Resource Watch Agenda in an interview last week in Accra.
There are adequate funds to pay for the two years, he stated as he avoided talking specifics in terms of the cost.
Public Agenda, our parent publication, had earlier indicated that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) had released GHC150,000 to the Committee to enable it secure an office accommodation.
Resource Watch Agenda can also report that the Committee is close to naming a Co-ordinator for its Secretariat after conducting interviews for applicants last week.
The news of the Secretariat and possible appointment of a Co-ordinator may allay fears that government is not fully committed to the work of PIAC following revelations that relations between PIAC and the MOFEP had gone cold.
Public Agenda had indicated that the Ministry stood accused of dragging its feet at releasing money to finance a GHC950,000 (about US$500,000) budget presented by PIAC and covering planned expenditure for the latter part of 2011 and the entire period of 2012.
The PIAC has had to depend on the benevolence of NGOs, particularly international ones, to keep its head above the waters in its formative stages, including meeting its first statutory obligation of issuing annual reports on petroleum revenue management.
This is confirmed in the foreword of the first annual report on petroleum revenue management released on Thursday, May 17, 2012. In that report, PIAC praised NGOs and donor agencies for their immense contributions to the Committee during this difficult formative period.
It emphasised that: One could boldly say that without the efforts of the Revenue Watch Institute’s Africa Regional Office the Committee would have been still-born. Thanks to their initiative and support to the Committee, we were able to hold our inaugural meeting, elect our leadership, chart a work programme and implement our few activities. They kindly offered their offices as an interim secretariat, whilst formalities for establishing a permanent secretariat dragged on.
Special mention is also made of GIZ (Gesellschaft fr Internationale Zusammenarbeit) who provided financial support to the Committee to implement our programme and activities, and without which the preparation of this very report would not have been possible. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) also deserves our commendation for making their premises available several times for Committee meetings and functions, the Committee further wrote.
It is certain that the NGOs have supported the preparation of PIAC’s second report, which Resource Watch Agenda has gathered would be outdoored soon.
The law is silent on funding so if government is doing what they are doing no one can fault them, Major (Retd.) Ablorh-Quarcoo said when asked about what he thought of government’s commitment.
His response was in reference to the provisions of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815). Section 53(2) provides that.The Accountability Committee shall have its own secretariat that will facilitate the performance of its functions but does not make provision for how the Secretariat would be funded.
NGOs, noting the gap in the law, elected to assist the Committee but that gave a number of government functionaries, both from the executive and the legislature the opportunity to deem the Committee as an NGO.
For instance, Hon. Alfred Wallace Gbodzor Abayateye, Member of Parliament (MP) for Sege Constituency and Deputy Chair of the Committee on Finance, has not hidden his view about the Committee. According to him, the Committee had postured itself as an NGO, failing to recognise that it was set up under a law passed by the legislature.
We are trying to be very careful about the image that we portray, Major Ablorh-Quarcoo told Resource Watch Agenda. He said the Committee was unique in its character particularly because it was formed from membership of several groups in society.
Thus, the Committee is not part of the usual government structure, neither is it an NGO. We are independent; like the Electoral Commission [EC], he said, advocating that the Committee should be elevated to the status of the EC and given powers to enable it have bite.