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Auditor-General must be supported to do more

BY: Daily Graphic
Auditor-General must be supported to do more
Auditor-General must be supported to do more

The Coalition for Democratic Accountability and Inclusive Governance last Monday embarked on a protest march to compel the Auditor-General to exercise his powers of surcharge.

The group, also known as the Citizens’ Coalition and made up of civil society organisations and some individuals, also presented a petition to the Ghana Audit Service after its protest. The submission of the petition climaxed the peaceful protest within the Ministries enclave in Accra, after a mini rally that was addressed by some leaders of the group.

Their main concern was for the Auditor-General, Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, to exercise his powers under the Constitution to issue surcharges and disallowances against persons cited for various financial irregularities in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Auditor-General’s reports.

They contended that the Auditor-General’s failure to prosecute irregularities discovered in the reports of the years under review emboldened public officials to continue causing financial loss to the State.

We implore the Auditor-General to exercise his constitutional mandate of disallowing and surcharging such irregularities, as well as enforce his asset declaration powers.

To provide context, last month the Auditor-General highlighted some financial irregularities amounting to about GH¢17.5 billion in the 2021 audit report of public boards and corporations and other statutory institutions.

It represented a 36 per cent jump in the value of irregularities from the 2020 figure of GH¢12.85 billion.

The new numbers brought financial irregularities in public boards and corporations over the last five years to over GH¢50.8 billion.

The GH¢17.5 billion uncovered in 2021 was mainly caused by the credit power sale of GH¢6 billion to customers of the Volta River Authority and the Northern Electricity Distribution Company.

The irregularities were mainly in the form of cash, tax, payroll, debts and loans, stores and procurement, contract, rent and credit power.

The Daily Graphic finds it disheartening the way and manner public officials misappropriate and embezzle public funds with careless abandon, in the midst of the economic challenges the country is experiencing.

We believe that the lack of strict enforcement of the rules on surcharging and disallowance by the Auditor-General has emboldened some of these errant officials to continue to cause financial loss to the state.

It is about time the Auditor-General exercised his constitutional mandate by cracking the whip on those officials who have made it their duty to capitalise on the loopholes in the management of public finances to embezzle state funds.

As the watchdog of public financial management, the Auditor-General has a key role to play in efforts to curb corruption. In fact, the Daily Graphic perceives him as the “guardian of the public interest” and must enjoy greater levels of citizens’ trust than other arms of government.

It must also be made clear that the Auditor-General’s reports and studies have shown that there are challenges facing the office of the Auditor-General that militate against him in the performance of his constitutional functions to assist in fighting corruption.

He needs to have total independence, without any interference from the Executive or any other person. He lacks sufficient authority to ensure that audit findings and recommendations are acted on within the public resource management process. In many cases, the Auditor-General manages to conduct timely audits and makes good recommendations for corrective action, only for them to be ignored or not fully implemented by the Executive.

It is quite important that while we all expect the Auditor-General to live up to his mandate, we must also ensure that his office is well-resourced and has the capacity to be effective and efficient. The Auditor-General needs the support of all to ensure that every cedi is well accounted for and delivers value.

The Daily Graphic holds the firm view that the nation finds itself in the situation where corruption can no longer be tolerated.

This is because corruption hinders national development, damages public service performance, reputation and credibility, compromises service delivery and brings hardship to the citizenry.