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We need strong internal processes

BY: Daily Graphic
Minister of Planning, Professor George Gyan Baffour
Minister of Planning, Professor George Gyan Baffour

Ghana has never relented in the fight against graft. But generally, it is perceived either wrongly or rightly, that a large portion of public expenditure is lost to fraud, waste and corruption.

As if to prove that corruption and waste in the system are real, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), in 2016, revealed that about GH¢13.5 billion was lost to the country every year through corruption.

The figure that the Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ provided then was around 20 per cent of the national budget. To make it clearer and to explain how serious the problem is, the Daily Graphic is shocked to note that the amount mentioned represented over 300 per cent of all the aid the country received annually.

No wonder many have attributed the slow pace of the country’s economic development to inadequate efforts to fight corruption with the concomitant low standards of living among the people.

The Daily Graphic recalls that in 1998, the country organised the first National Integrity Conference that made important proposals to tackle corruption. And in 2011, another conference was held that brought together anti-corruption campaigners, development partners, civil society, the government and parliamentarians, among others, to discuss, evaluate and validate the Draft National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP).

We know the significant progress that the country has made in terms of fighting corruption and waste in the system since the implementation of the NACAP.
But the many cases of embezzlement, misapplication and misappropriation of funds as captured in the Auditor- General’s Report every year call for concern as they are evidence that there are still more challenges that must be tackled head-on.

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This must be taken seriously because the incidence of corruption has proven to lead to violations of human rights. It also hampers efforts to alleviate poverty, while it undermines political stability and economic growth, and makes the country unattractive for investors.

Within all these developments, many have questioned why auditors who are clothed with the mandate to scrutinise transactions are unable to prevent such graft from happening.

It is interesting from the findings by many auditing and accounting organisations that 10 to 30 per cent of publicly funded construction project investment may be lost due to mismanagement and corruption.

It is in the light of this that the Daily Graphic sees as appropriate and timely the directive by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to heads of ministries, departments and agencies and metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to collaborate with Internal Audit units in their organisations to build robust internal control systems that will help them plug waste and curb misuse of public funds.

The President gave the directive in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Planning, Professor George Gyan Baffour, at the opening session of the 2019 annual Internal Audit Agency Conference in Accra last Wednesday.

In addition to putting measures and systems in place to check corruption, we urge the relevant bodies and authorities to build the capacities of internal auditors for them to be able to live up to their mandate.

This is so because many a time, skill deficits have been cited as a root cause of internal audits’ limited impact and influence.

We also advise that internal audit responsibilities should be entrusted to people who set the right ethical tone and standards, since such strong personalities with high integrity and principles are those needed to enforce established legislation to hold people to account and reduce opportunities for graft.

Above all, we suggest auditors must be well motivated to prevent them from falling for the many pressures and risks they face in the line of duty.

A Ghana that is focused on safeguarding the public purse is one of the surest ways to ensure that the national cake can be shared equitably to all the citizenry and rapid development achieved.