From having a court case hanging over its head for asking the Ghana Gas Company to account for some US$20million to asking government not to spread oil revenues too thinly, the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) appears to be paying for having an ‘okro-mouth.’
The committee has been rendered homeless, as it was last week evicted from its rented premises at Asylum Down in Accra.
Asked whether the committee has since received any assurances from members of government, Chairman of the Committee Major Daniel Sowah Ablorh-Quarcoo (rtd.), told the B&FT: “They are rather treating us with contempt because we have reported them to the media”.
It has since had to go back to “perching” with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), formerly the Revenue Watch Institute, which has in the past been accused of interfering in its work.
Apart from reporting on petroleum revenue receipts by government, PIAC has a duty to report to Ghanaians how oil monies are being spent — and over US$2billion have accrued to government coffers so far.
It is also supposed to provide a platform for members of the public to share their opinion on how petroleum revenues are managed, for which purpose it has been holding public fora across the country.
This is why PIAC itself feels that Ghanaians have to show more concern than they have so far about the half-hearted manner in which people in government have approached issues about its funding.
The law establishing the citizen-based committee, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (Act 815), mandates it to issue a semi-annual and an annual report by the 15th September and 15th March each year.
Due to funding challenges, however, the committee is yet to issue reports for the 2014 financial year.
In an interview with B&FT, Chairman of the committee Major Daniel Sowah Ablorh-Quarcoo (rtd.) said but for the support of NRGI and GIZ, the modest gains the committee has made so far would have been impossible.
“When you are not properly housed, how do you assemble and plan your activities?” he asked.
The Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) has just added its voice to the need for Ghanaians to bring pressure to bear on government to make available funding to the 13-member committee set up by an act of parliament.
“We invite Ghanaian citizens to heed the call by PIAC to show interest in its work as the legitimate safeguard of our oil wealth,” ACEP said on the back of PIAC being sacked from its rented premises.
“This will ensure that the Committee musters the courage to execute its mandate under the law without fear or favour. We think that Ghana does not deserve this kind of national disgrace.”
Civil Society actors see the neglect of PIAC as a lack of commitment on the part of government to ensuring true accountability and transparency in the management of oil revenues.
“It is not surprising to us, however, that PIAC is being starved of resources considering the kind of revelations it has made since its establishment on the poor utilisation of petroleum revenues; as well as its recent disclosures on funds that have not been accounted for,” ACEP said in a press release this weekend.
“It is simply not in the interest of political governments to empower institutions that are critical of them, and this we believe is being established in Ghana.”
In its 2013 Annual Report, the committee found that oil-funded projects were spread too thinly, particularly regarding road projects, leading to inefficiencies.
It therefore advised government to “ensure that allocations of the ABFA to road and other infrastructure projects are sufficient to make a meaningful impact in the budget year of which such allocations are made, in order that such projects may be completed in a much shorter time. This will save the nation from the problem of cost-escalations, which extended project durations inevitably occasion.”
Major Ablorh-Quarcoo said: “Government seems to think that they must be doing something new every time, but I don’t see the point. It is better for them to concentrate on a few things and do them better; people will appreciate that better.”
The 2013 report further revealed that approximately GH¢23million or 17% of the Annual Budget Funding Amount earmarked for Capacity Building from 2011 to 2013 went into consumables (such as ‘goods and services for MoFA and MLNR, NADMO relief items).
It therefore advised that government focuses its expenditure under the capacity building priority area on interventions that will directly enhance the capacity and capabilities of Ghanaians to play a bigger role in the emerging oil and gas industry as envisioned in the Local Content Policy and Regulations.
Funding PIAC has been variously discussed, with members of civil society asking that the committee be weaned away from the whims and caprices of politicians.
Emmanuel Kuyole of the Natural Resource Governance Institute said in July last year that to make PIAC “completely independent”, the country needs to think about how to fund it.
Funding PIAC, he said, should not be tied to the desires of the Ministry of Finance; adding that parliamentarians have a responsibility to make PIAC work.
ACEP also proposes that “the most appropriate way to adequately fund PIAC is allocate part of the
petroleum revenues to it under provisions for exceptional transfers.
“We also call on Government to as a matter of urgency provide permanent office accommodation to PIAC, a state institution established by Act 815.”