Mr Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, the Speaker of Parliament has hailed the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) for its tremendous efforts in the fight against corruption in the country.
He said without exaggeration, the PAC could be viewed as the nerve centre of the accountability and oversight functions of Parliament; saying “its relevance and significance cannot be overstated.”
He said one of the major areas where there had been great progress was the institutionalization of the public hearings of the Auditor-General’s report through the PAC.
“The PAC is arguably one of the most important Committees of Parliament,” Speaker Bagbin stated in his presentation at the “The Third Eminent Guest Lecture” at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).
Speaking on the topic “The Future of Parliament in Ghana’s Democratic Governance”, Speaker Bagbin said over the years, the tradition of the PAC had been adopted by most Parliaments because of its singular attribute as an important watchdog committee, the apex of accountability, with oversight over the Executive spending.
He said the frontal function that was spearheaded by the PAC involved not only compliance but more critically ensuring value for money in the implementation of policy. “Currently, the fundamental question about PACs is framed around how they can ensure the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of government policies and spending,” he said.
He noted that an effective PAC was composed of members whose primary dedication was to improve public administration and ensure that government provides services to its people according to the three E’s (economy, efficiency, and effectiveness).
He intimated that the PAC exacts accountability publicly from different agencies of government, that was tasked with the implementation and execution of policies and programmes based on legislative intent.
“Indeed, the performance of the PAC is the gauge, the barometer of the performance and relevance of a Parliament,” Speaker Bagbin said.
“In this sense, the clearest indicator of effective parliamentary performance is gauged by the performance of the PAC.”
He noted that during the fourth Parliament, the PAC opened its doors to the public and had since shed the light on transparency to some of the challenges around our public financial management systems.
He said admittedly, there were some areas where Parliament needs to continue to strive to improve.
“Having been Chairman of the PAC from 2001 to 2005, I have had personal experiences with these challenges,” he said.
Speaker Bagbin said an important indicator of the effectiveness of PAC and by extension Parliament, was the acceptance and implementation of the committee/parliament’s recommendations; adding that “this is one area where many PACs and Parliaments around the world have failed”.
“They do excellent work, produce beautiful and glossy reports, which attract very little government action. “Indeed, there is no better satisfaction for a PAC than when government takes steps to implement its recommendations”.
The Speaker said getting recommendations accepted and implemented continues to be one of the biggest challenges of PACs.
“How can Parliaments ensure the recommendations of PAC do not remain mere pieces of advice?” the Speaker quizzed.
He said in Ghana’s Parliament some gains had been made; declaring that through the PAC/Parliament recommendations, Parliament had with the support of civil society organisations (CSOs) passed a number of legislations such as the Audit Service Act, Internal Audit Agency Act, Public Financial Management Act, Public Investigation and Accountability Act, and now the Budget Bill was being processed for passage by Parliament.
He said allied to the function of PAC was the critical function of every parliament to hold governments’ responsible for their actions and decisions.
He said Parliament was unique in being the only institution with a political mandate from the people to monitor the management of the state by the government.
He said Parliaments carry out this onerous duty through their oversight function which aims to promote people’s freedoms and well-being and to improve accountability and transparency in Government.
Speaker Bagbin said oversight processes assess the impact of Government action on society; help ensure that appropriate resources were provided to implement government programs; identify unintended or negative effects of government policy and actions; and monitor the meeting of national and international commitments.