Amidst the pushback against the infamous E-levy, mixed with concerns over some discrepancies in official revenue and expenditure figures, there is the need to revive interest in probing the state’s COVID-19 expenditure, Dean of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) Business School, Professor John Gatsi, has said.
According to him, the current economic climate coupled with the nation’s sub-par corruption rating is eroding the citizenry’s trust in managers of the economy and should serve as a watershed moment for public purse accountability, warning that failure to do so would have long-term consequences for the local economy and the nation’s reputation among its peers.
Describing accountability as the “most important currency that the government needs right now,” he said the world is watching how it addresses these issues.
“A COVID-19 expenditure audit is very important to meet the public financial management principles of disclosure, responsibility, transparency, and accountability. This is crucial because most of the expenditure occurred in the 2020 election year in which unbelievable financial inducements for votes took place. It is important that the IMF also called on the government of Ghana to conduct this audit which has become a common undertaking to assure citizens of many countries,” he told the B&FT in an interview.
This comes in the wake of concerns raised by the civic society organisation, BudgIT Ghana, through its COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP), over the delay in a forensic audit of the funds, which continues to fuel suspicions of embezzlement.
A general sense of mistrust lingers as full disclosure on initiatives such as the GH¢100 billion Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (Ghana CARES ‘Obaatanpa’) programme, the SME-focused GH¢1 billion COVID-19 Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAP BuSS), among others, remain elusive.
“Collectively, we all need to see the government complete this audit of COVID-19 expenditure,” said Country Director of BudgIT, Ray Nkoom, whilst hinting at more micro-level investigations into the use of COVID-19-related funds.
The first phase of the project, which has been replicated across six other African countries – Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Liberia, Malawi and Sierra Leone – has tracked over US$50 billion in cash and over US$5 billion in-kind donations since the pandemic broke out, managers of the project have said.
The World Bank, citing the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer report – which tracks public perception of trust in institutions such as government – shows that the goodwill enjoyed by states has plummeted, in some instances, to below pre-pandemic levels.
“We face a crisis of citizen trust in governance today. Prior to the pandemic, citizens’ trust in governments had already plummeted to an all-time low… In far too many countries, governments are perceived as unresponsive or corrupt and captured by special interests.
In May 2020, trust in governments increased for a brief period as people saw it leading the fight against COVID-19. But many governments squandered that trust bubble and people’s faith in public institutions fell sharply. This crisis of citizen trust has serious consequences,” the World Bank said.