Large sums of money allocated to five metropolitan assemblies in 2010 under the Second Urban Environmental Sanitation Project (UESP II) were used to pay consultants rather than for the project, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) learnt yesterday.
For the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly (TaMA), out of the $614,709 meant for the execution of the project, only $35,195 was spent on civil works and $41,043 on equipment and spare parts, while a whopping $157,221 was spent on “consultancy services, studies and training”.
In the case of the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA), out of the $1,939, 999 allocated to it, $1,153,475 was used for civil works, $83,176 for equipment and spares and $428,691 for “consultancy services, studies and training”.
The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) spent $679,114 on consultants, out of its total allocation of $8,956,219. It allocated $7,808,138 for the execution of civil works and $36,748 for equipment and spares.
The Sekondi/Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA) allocated $113,064 for consultancy, $976,624 for civil works and $201,334 for equipment and spares. Its total allocation was $1,752,878.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), which was allocated $6,447,441, spent $454,149 on consultancy.
The UESP was established in 2004, to improve urban sanitation in the Accra, Tema, Kumasi, Tamale and Sekondi-Takoradi metropolises.
The second phase ended in 2012.
The project had four main components, including the construction of storm drains, community upgrading, improvement in the disposal and treatment of both solid and liquid waste and institutional strengthening.
It was financed by the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, which provided $62 million; the Agence Francaise Development, which made available 25 million euros, and The Netherlands Development Agency (NDF), which provided nine million euros.
The Ghana government made available counterpart funds.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) was the main implementing agency.
The huge sums paid to consultants, all of whom were foreign, caused dismay among the members of the PAC, most of whom voiced out their displeasure at the development.
They wondered why such huge amounts would be doled out, instead of being ploughed into the project.
The figures are contained in the report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana for the year ended December 31, 2010.
But a deputy minister at the MLGRD, Mr Mohammed Ahmed Baba Jamal, who led a team from the assemblies to the PAC sitting, as well as Mr Sampson Akwetey and Mr George Asiedu, the accountant and the engineer to the project, respectively, attempted some explanations.
They, at various times, said the donors had, in effect, forced the consultants on the government.
According to them, the donors sought and employed their own consultants for the execution of the project and under the terms the Government of Ghana was required to pay those consultants.
The conditions of service of those consultants, they said, were determined by the donors and not the government and the conditions were in line with those in their countries of origin.
Since the country could not fund the project single-handedly and had to seek the assistance of foreign governments and organisations which had provided majority of the funding, the government had no choice but to comply.
The PAC members did not appear satisfied, especially Mr George Loh, who admonished the “technical people” at the ministries to ensure that local consultants were hired for projects to save cost.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said the payment of huge amounts as consultancy fees needed to be discouraged.
When they took their turn, officials of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) sought to explain why they made an overpayment of GH¢89,910 to the Adansi North District Assembly.
Mr Ebenezer Yemofio, the accountant of the DACF, said the fund realised, during reconciliation of accounts, that the assembly had been overpaid and initiated moves to recover the amount involved.
He said in July, 2012, the amount was recovered.
But Mr Agyeman-Manu made it clear that the DACF would be sanctioned for that error, in spite of the fact that the money had been recovered.
He failed to state what form the sanction would take.
Mr Yemofio also admitted that the DACF borrowed some money from the bank which it paid into the District Development Fund (DDF).
When asked whether parliamentary approval was sought, he said he was not in a position to tell.
By Mark-Anthony Vinorkor/Daily Graphic/Ghana