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Empowering Audit Service to protect national purse

Poor funding of the audit service makes it difficult for them to perform their mandate as expected

On annual basis, the Auditor General’s (AG) reports on the utilisation of funds in the public sector have given Ghanaians a sneak-peep into how public sector finances are expended.

The reports have, over the years, revealed that massive misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds are ripe in the public sector.

Take, for instance, the AG’s reports between 2008 and 2012 which revealed that a total of GH¢4.2 billion of state-sourced funds were lost to irregularities in the public sector.

The story was the same in 2013, with the reporting indicating that some GH¢476 million could not be accounted for by various ministries, departments and agencies.

While the misappropriation and embezzlement cut across all areas of the public sector, which are prevalent in the MDAs, with a sizeable amount of the irregularities also occurring in the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs).

The 2013 report, which was addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, cited the failure by accounting officers to properly produce expenditure and payment vouchers as one of the causes of the irregularities.

It also cited heads of departments for supervising cash withdrawals without documentation, as well as excess budgetary expenditure that did not have the needed parliamentary approval.

While the AG is doing its best to flag and consequently wade off corruption and misappropriation of funds in the public sector,the lack of adequate funding means the independence and integrity of the Ghana Audit Service (GAS) will continue to be on the line.

This is one of the concerns the Auditor General, Mr Richard Quartey, raised in its 2013 report sent to Parliament.

He said the poor funding meant his outfit was unable to perform its mandate as expected.

Mr Quartey explained that staff were compelled to use their own salaries and personal resources to finance auditing activities, with the expectation that the government would reimburse them.

Unfortunately, however, that had not happened. This, he said, could affect the independence and integrity of their work.

For us at the GRAPHIC BUSINESS, this is unacceptable.

The paper believes that the Ghana Audit Service (GAS) plays a critical role in protecting the purse of the country. Its independence to carry out this mandate effectively should, therefore, not be compromised.

This is why we think the government needs to find a dedicated source of funding to fully support the operations of the GAS.

This independent source of funding to the Audit Service would help to strengthen its independence, limit the potential of political manipulation in the allocation of funds and improve the timely submission of audit reports.

For us, the issue of resource constraints with the GAS needs to be seen and addressed as a matter of urgency to help improve effectiveness of the service’s operations.

While calling for an independent source of funding for the GAS, the paper would wish to recommend to the government to use a €13 million from KFW to finance the construction of three regional and 22 district offices for the service.

We see the gesture as a step in the right direction, which, if properly implemented, would go a long way to strengthen the country’s match towards reducing corruption and financial misappropriation in the public sector.

The paper believes office complexes will help to increase the capacity of the GAS to carry out its mandate, especially at the district levels where majority of these misappropriation and embezzlement usually takes place.

This would also improve the visibility and presence of the GAS and help improve its accountability and transparency to fulfill its mandate as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.