The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) has engaged tertiary student bodies to gather their concerns and inputs on petroleum revenue usage, as it begins processes to produce the annual petroleum revenue management report 2021 as mandated by the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA).
In the very interactive forum, scores of student bodies expressed their disappointment with management of petroleum revenue over the past decade, and demanded that the revenue should be put to more sustainable usage.
According to the students, recurrent expenditure elements alone – which is about 70 percent – cannot continue to dominate the usage of oil revenue with nothing substantial to show over the 10-year period.
With government sounding a word of caution to them that its payroll is full, they are therefore demanding capital investments that will last generations and provide economic opportunities for them to benefit from after their education.
The students made these calls after a presentation by PIAC on a decade of petroleum revenue management – which showed that out of the US$6.9billion accrued from oil revenue over the period, only nine percent of that revenue is actually being saved for future generations through the Ghana Heritage Fund (GHF); with the remaining 91 percent being spent on recurrent basis through vehicles like the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA), Ghana Stabilisation Fund (GSF) and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) as an administrative organisation.
A final-year student of UPSA, Sandra Djanie, questioned the ideology behind the distribution composition of the Petroleum Holding Fund (PHF), and called for its amendment to increase the nine percent allocation for the GHF to at least 20 percent.
The Dean of UPSA Graduate School, Dr. Samuel Antwi, also seconded the students’ call and reiterated that a decade of petroleum revenue with only four commendable projects – Kotoka International Airport Terminal three (KIA T3), Kojokrom-Tarkwa Railway, the Enchi-Asankragua road and Free SHS programme – to show as indicated by PIAC, is an abysmal performance.
He called for a review of the PRMA to give citizens an opportunity – like the tertiary students are doing – to make inputs into how petroleum revenue should be used; emphasising that the huge portion of the Petroleum Holding Fund (PHF) being used by government as budgetary support – which is mainly recurrent expenditure, with nothing to show after 10 years – is not acceptable.
“The PRMA gives a lot of room for government to spend the oil money. In fact, we in academia have been very worried about how governments have been spending the oil money. US$6.9billion is enough to put our country at a high level in terms of development, but we are not seeing that at all; so the PRMA needs to be reviewed to tighten the hands of government,” he said.
He lamented the use of oil revenue for funding the Free SHS programme for instance; as it’s not yielding returns as expected, since some of the students would have performed better if supported to learn a trade or vocation that they have an interest in – rather than spending three years in SHS and failing their final exams, which brings a halt to their education-life.
The first of PIAC tertiary forum series, which took place at the University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA) auditorium, brought together close to 1,000 student representatives from the University of Ghana, Law School; Radford University College; Wisconsin University College; Knutsford University College; Accra College of Education and UPSA.
Chairman-PIAC, Prof. Kwame Adom-Frimpong, in response to the students indicated that, indeed, PIAC also believes and has recommended that fewer legacy projects should be identified and supported by the ABFA.
“Petroleum revenues have been used to tackle too many national problems at the same time, thus weakening the potential impacts of oil revenues on the socio-economic development of Ghana,” he said.