The Auditor General’s (A-G) report on the Public Accounts of Ghana, 2020, has revealed that allocations to the Cocoa Farmers Wards Scholarship Trust Fund amounting to Ghc7.3million have been squandered.
The funds in question were for the 201/2018 and 2018/2019 academic years. Even though they were released, COCOBOD did not transfer it into the coffers of the Trust as the funds disappeared into thin air.
“Our review of the financial records of the Trust disclosed that Management did not release the amount into the Scholarship Trust. We also noted that the Board did not realign the budgets for the funds in respect of the Scholarship allocation during the period of our review,” the report said.
Apparently, the money was transferred elsewhere by persons who took advantage of the government’s Free SHS program to divert the cash.
“Management did not release the funds as a result of the Government policy on Free Senior High School,” the AG’s report noted, adding, “Management could not confirm the account in which the funds were being held,” the A-G stated.
Parliament had duly approved the release of the funds for the scholarship, but the A-G observed that the failure of the COCOBOD Management to transfer the funds to the Trust constituted a misapplication.
And Management could not tell exactly where the monies had been routed to even though Section 7 of the Public Financial Management Act 2016 (Act 921) provides that the Principal Spending Officer of an entity shall ensure regularity and proper use of money.
In agencies and Ministries, the Principal Spending Officer is usually the Chief Director.
According to the A-G, “Funds earmarked in the budget for the Scholarship Department is released based on the availability and request by the Department as the practice has been for all subsidiaries, Divisions and Departments of COCOBOD.”
But COCOBOD’s Management responded that “The Trust did not have sufficient funds to carry out its activities for the periods stated and therefore there was no need to further release funds to the Trust Management wish to reiterate that the Trust did not suffer any operational difficulty due to lack of funding.”