Finance Ministry fails to provide ABFA utilisation data for fourth year

The passage of outstanding revenue bills by Parliament remains critical to government programmes as well as to enable the state to complete four of the five agreed prior actions in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff Level Agreemen
Ken Ofori Atta

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has failed to provide data on the utilization of Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) as mandated by the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) for accountability and transparency purposes for the third consecutive year and the fourth time since the enactment of the law in 2011.

According to Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), the body mandated by law under section 51 of the PRMA (Act 815), to serve as an oversight entity over the Petroleum Holding Fund (PHF), despite the Act demonstrating commitment to transparency and accountability, and prescribing penalty for non-compliance to provide data for same, the MoF continuously disregard the law with impunity.

“For the fourth time, the Ministry of Finance failed to provide ABFA utilisation data for the compilation of PIAC reports. This makes it difficult to reconcile disbursements and expenditure, and undermines the spirit of accountability as envisaged in the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) 2011 (Act815),” PIAC Annual 2020 report stated.

Specifically, the section 49(7) of the Act provides that Parliament, the Minister, Bank of Ghana, Petroleum Commission, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), and the Investment Advisory Committee in the performance of their functions under this Act shall take the measures to entrench transparency mechanisms and free access by the public to information.

However, the Act gives the Minister the prerogative with the approval of parliament to declare some petroleum information or data confidential where necessary but the Act takes away this prerogative when reporting to PIAC and enjoins the minister to declare no data or information confidential to that effect.

In spite of these provisions the Ministry of Finance continued in what is becoming a trend of not timeously providing to PIAC for its semi-annual and annual reports. Meanwhile parliament, with the mandate to call MoF to order, has not been strict on the ministry to comply with the regulation, giving them the opportunity to get away with it always.

“PIAC reiterates its earlier call on parliament to bring its oversight mandate to bear on the Ministry of Finance, as the ministry’s failure to provide ABFA data is not only adversely affecting the work of the committee but also eroding gains in the fight for transparency and accountability in the management and use of Ghana’s petroleum revenues for the benefit of citizens,” PIAC stated.

Technical Manager of PIAC, Mark Akwesi Agyeman, speaking on the failure of MoF to provide data to the committee for the past three years, indicated that even currently, data gathering processes are on going for the preparation of the semi-annual report 2021, and the ministry has submitted data in relation to receipts and distribution of the ABFA but have failed again to provide data on utilization.

“As at now, almost three months after putting together the annual report, the ministry is still yet to provide us with the information needed on ABFA and they do not give any explanations no matter the number of times you write to them. Notwithstanding that the law even provides a time framework for the submission of the report,” he said.

He indicated that last year when the committee met with parliament, together with all the other reporting partners, the ministry was directed by parliament to provide the information on ABFA utilization to Finance Committee of Parliament, but that is still yet to be done.

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