TO ensure balanced development, greater transparency and accountability in the country’s public sector, the Auditor General, Mr Daniel Domelevo, has called for steps to change the structure of the national budget.
For instance he said: “We need to see the district budget showing the total resource allocation from the centre to all the facilities such as schools, hospitals, and feeder roads in the district.
The district budgets plus that of the regional administration and regional institutions should become the regional budget for which the regional ministers should be held accountable, instead of sector ministers”.
Mr Domelevo, who was delivering the 3rd Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu Memorial Lecture in Accra on September 20, explained that the national budget should reflect the total resource allocations to regions and districts and what went to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should be their own share of the budget and nothing else.
“Why should the Minister of Education and, for that matter, the Ghana Education Service (GES) hold or manage the budget for schools in Accra? How many schools do they have in the ministry? Same goes for the Minister of Health and the Director-General of Ghana Health Service,” he queried.
Tracking fund with multiple channels
Speaking on the topic, “Protecting the public purse – keeping the gate shut before the horse bolts” he explained that because of the multiple channels monies went through before getting to facilities at the local level, the whole country was at a loss as to how much was given to any district or region.
“The principle is FFF – Funds Follow Functions. I have to submit that the District Chief Executive has a constituency – the district – that he or she is responsible to develop and the same goes for a regional minister. But sector ministers have no constituencies or geographical areas. If I should advise the President, I will say he should give more attention to empowering the regional ministers,” he advised.
He said the President could empower the regional ministers by allocating the resources to be used in the entire region to them, and make them cabinet ministers because “Cabinet meetings do not have to happen in Accra and do not require physical presence; video conference will do.”
Decentralisation as a check on corruption
Mr Domelevo also insisted that fiscal decentralisation could put a check on corruption because it would bring about greater transparency.
“The argument is simple; if 100 tankers draw water from the sea, the reduction in the volume of the sea water may be so insignificant and hence one may not notice it; but should one drink or sip from a glass of water, the reduction will be clear.
“If the total financial resources given to Afram Plains North Districts amounts to GH¢500million, how can one steal all without us knowing it? Over-centralisation makes it possible for one person to steal multiples of that amount and it will go unnoticed.
In other words, if we break the budget according to districts, it will become more transparent,” he said.
Centralisation facilitates illicit financial flows
“As we aspire to transit from a lower-income country status to that of middle-income, or in the words of the President, “achieving Ghana beyond aid”, modernising the public service is a must or prerequisite to bring about the desired economic and social development on a sustainable basis.
“Yes, the private sector is the “engine of growth” but the public service is the fuel that runs the engine. No matter how good or strong an engine is, it cannot function well on dirty or contaminated fuel. It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have a sustained broad-based growth without the ability to formulate and implement ambitious national plans,” he said.