ECOBANK & GCB Hijack Gh¢83 Million Tax Money

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Diligent GRA Boss Calls For Severe Sanctions

The diligence of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), headed by George Blankson, has so far led to the retrieval of over Ghc9 million from Ecobank Ghana Limited, and the state-owned Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB), revenue the two banks collected on behalf of GRA, but failed to transfer into the Consolidated Fund.

According to insiders, accountants of GRA, during reconciliation of accounts, discovered an outstanding balance of Ghc83 million, which Ecobank and GCB had collected, but failed to transfer to the consolidated fund in 2011.

Though the banks, according to the Financial Administration Act, are to ensure that taxes collected on goods and services on behalf of the Customs Division of the GRA, are transferred into the Fund within three working days on receipt, the two exceeded the mandated three days, and kept the cash for three years, until their acts caught the eyes of officials of the GRA.

However, after reconciliation in 2012, the outstanding amount confirmed were Ghc3 million for Ecobank and Ghc6 million for GCB.

The Herald is informed that, demand notices were immediately issued to the two commercial banks, which made swift transfers to Bank of Ghana (BOG), however, BOG also delayed in crediting the consolidated fund.
The hijacked taxes, were paid to the two banks on petroleum products lifted by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) within three days, but was kept for three years.

Punitive interests were subsequently imposed on the two Commercial banks for the period of delayed payment.
When, Mr. Blankson appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday, the members minced no words in registering their protest over the seeming lack of diligence by the Authority.

But Mr. Blankson, explained that they had faced some challenges, and had to write to the Bank of Ghana for explanation.

One of the Committee members, threatened to surcharge the Authority for failing to carry out their Constitutional responsibility.

“Seriously your professionalism has come into question. Three years? What kind of reconciliation is this?” the Committee asked.

Meanwhile, a GRA-BOG joint team was still reconciling figures with the two Commercial banks, when auditors became aware of it. Expectations are that, the two banks would pay more upon completion of the investigation.

At last Wednesday’s PAC hearing in Parliament, the GRA, called on the Bank of Ghana to sanction Ecobank and the GCB for unduly delaying the transfer of the indirect taxes into the Consolidated Fund.

The request, follows the financial audit report of the Auditor-General currently before the PAC, which cited the two banks for unduly delaying the transfer of indirect taxes into the Consolidated Fund.

“Sometimes the banks deliberately detained the remittances to create the impressions that they have a lot of cash immediately available,” the board chair, E.E Kwessie told Citi FM Business News.

He also said the claims by the banks that cheques paid by customers took a long period to clear were erroneous.

The report also blamed the GRA and some government agencies’ poor monitoring of transfers into the fund as one of the major causes of the delays.

Mr. Kwessie, however, told CBN that new measures have been put in place by the revenue authority to avert the situation.
Vice Chair of PAC, Mr. Samuel Atta Akyea, told Joy News it a crime for the banks to hold on for that long taxes payable to government.

This is “unpardonably bad.”… “The systems are not working,” he noted, adding, but for the “vigilance of the Auditor General” the crime by the two banks, will not have been uncovered.

Even more serious, he said, is the claim by Ecobank that it had paid three million cedis to the Bank of Ghana, but officials are yet to acknowledge receipt.
Officials of the three banks- Ecobank, Ghana Commercial Bank, and the Bank of Ghana, have all been summoned before the committee to explain the circumstances under which the whopping sum of money was kept from the consolidated funds.

Atta Akyea, said the banks must come to explain why they had to retain the monies for that long and whether a mandatory 5 per cent penalty, has been slapped on the two banks for keeping the money for that long.

He also wanted to know what interest has accrued to the two banks, as a result of the retention of the 83 million Ghana Cedis.

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