Fiscal discipline Public officials to serve 5-year jail term for financial malfeasance

Though there was initial disagreement over the maximum number of years to be slapped on defaulters, a consensus was reached as the maximum prison term was pegged at five years and a minimum of six months

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Public officers who are found guilty of embezzling the country’s funds would be sentenced to a maximum jail tern of 5 years.

This was contained in the new Public Financial Management Bill, 2016 which was passed into an act by Parliament on August 3, 2016. Members of the House agreed to the jail term during the consideration stage of the Bill.

There was an initial disagreement over the number of years to be handed public officials who were found guilty. But, a consensus was reached which indicated that anybody who falls prey to this law could be sentenced to a minimum jail term of 6 months and maximum of 5 years.

This new law merges with the existing laws to adjust the financial management of the public sector and also define the responsibilities of individuals who are entrusted with the management of public funds, assets, liabilities and resources.

The Public Financial Management Bill forms part of the country’s ongoing public financial management reforms which are designed to address persistent weaknesses and promote discipline, transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.

This is against the backdrop of systemic weaknesses including lack of credibility in the budget process, unpredictability during budget execution, limited expenditure controls and cash rationing all of which contribute to the problem of chronic and persistent arrears.

According to the Chairman of the Finance Committee, James Klutse Avedzi, the law will also help the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to push public for the punishment officers cited for financial misappropriation.

The law introduces some significant process improvements in fiscal development principles and practices, public financial management, debt management and budget execution that have been introduced over the years but which are not reflected currently in legislation.

He added that the new law would provide for the macroeconomic, fiscal, regulatory, accounting and accountability framework for dealing with the management of money and property of the Government.

If passed, the bill will address the persistent weakness in fiscal failures in accountability mechanisms and provides a clear budget process map that strengthens the link between fiscal strategy and policy.

It also intends to ensure that public funds are sustained and make provision for accountability and auditing.

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