The Auditor-General, Mr Daniel Yao Domelevo, has taken aim at the appointment of boards for sensitive state institutions such as the Audit Service.
He advocated the abolition of such boards since they were a recipe for tension and institutional drawback.
He said even countries with better corporate governance reputations had no boards for offices such as the Auditor-General, and in the case of others they only operated advisory boards.
“Sierra Leone, they borrowed our law and when they sent it to Sierra Leone, they made the board advisory. If you go to Kenya, it is an advisory board. If you go to many countries, they don't have it. Go to the US, Britain and find out," he said.
In a no-holds-barred speech at the 3rd Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu Memorial Lectures at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra last Thursday, Mr Domelevo also spoke against the appointment of heads of former public institutions as board chairmen of such establishments.
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He explained that the board chairmen tended to undermine incumbent leadership, which could stifle institutional and national progress.
The lectures, instituted in memory of the late former Finance Minister in the Kufuor adminstration, was on the theme: “Protecting the public purse - Keeping the gate shut before the horse bolts.”
Mr Domelevo said some of the board chairmen saw their appointments as an opportunity to impose themselves on management.
“The practice of bringing back former public servants to their old positions or bringing former chief executives as board members leaves much to be desired because clearly there will be conflict. If they bring you back years later as a board member or board chairman, you can easily undermine who is there and so we have to take a second look at this. And some of the board members, even if they are appointed, they think it’s their second coming of Christ; they will not be leaving,” the Auditor-General said.
Mr Domelevo is currently embroiled in disagreement with a former Auditor-General and current board chairman of the Audit Service, Prof. Edward Dua Agyeman.
He has gone ahead to petition President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo over allegations of interference by the board chairman.
Old people in public service
Mr Domelevo criticised the continuous engagement of ‘old people’ in the public sector.
He said it was counterproductive for old people, some of them over 70 years of age, to be occupying positions in the public service when they were supposed to be on retirement.
He rejected suggestions that the retirement age should be increased, explaining that it would compound the unemployment situation in the country.
“Our Constitution said when you are 60 years go home so others can also come and work. People are over 70 and are still around. When I ask them to go home they are fighting me. Change the law if you think the retiring age should be 80. The disturbing part is that our graduates are on the streets and we think we must remain in office,” he said.
He was equally concerned about how some workers who were due for retirement sometimes forged their birth certificates to make them remain young and relevant on the job market.
“At times you would see some public servants and you wonder how many times they would be 60 years. They falsify birth certificates so as to remain young. It is only when they die that you know their true age. The man retires at 60, he dies next year and he is 82. That is what is happening in our country.
“Until we have changed the law, I will continue disturbing them. We are doing a payroll audit and at the end of it you will see my report on over-aged people. I promise that I will activate Article 187 Clause 7(a) on them and disallow their existence on the payroll,” he said to loud applause from the gathering.
The oft-spoken canker of corruption would not escape the radar of the Auditor-General who argued that although corruption could be found in developed countries; they made sure that offenders were prosecuted, unlike in developing countries such as Ghana.
“In the developed countries when you’re caught you’re finished; there are consequences. In Ghana or Africa when you’re caught you can even bluff them; they say ‘and so what’ because he knows nothing will happen,” he said.
Insisting that he would never shut his mouth on corruption because he was not a coward, the Auditor-General said he was ready to lose his job by standing up for the truth.
“As for me I will say it; if that means to go home, I’m ready to go home this evening,” he said.
Mr Domelevo commended President Akufo-Addo for establishing the Special Prosecutor’s Office but noted with concern the current state of that office.
“I want to submit that the Special Prosecutor is not sitting well at all. There is no way he can be effective where he is seated.
“I want to invite all of you to visit him but I won’t tell you why; go and visit him and you would see whether you can be effective with only one secretary with no investigator and prosecutor..nothing…,” Mr Domelovo said.
He said if Ghanaians wanted Mr Martin Amidu, the Special Prosecutor, to deliver then the right things must be done.
“If we want to do something let’s do it well. I believe if that office is well resourced, it will help Ghana move forward again,” he stated.
He also wanted all other anti-corruption agencies to be resourced if the country wanted to overcome the corruption challenge.
The Auditor-General suggested the commercialisation of prosecution in the country because the current system came with a lot of lapses.
“We should commercialise the prosecution of corruption in this country. The law should allow private individuals to be able to prosecute corruption cases.
“If we leave the prosecution of corruption in the hands of few people, some people will always get away with it. But if we commercialise it so that individuals can take up the issue and go to court and collect the money and take their share, people will be willing to do that,” he said.
Attitude to work
Mr Domelevo also had some tough words on the attitude of some workers in the public sector, saying lateness to work, absenteeism and other negative attitudes were all forms of corruption, especially as they drew back national progress..
Although the private sector is considered to be the engine of growth, the Auditor-General posited that the engine could not function properly if it was not well oiled by the public sector.
“We need a public sector which is up and doing and I think it is time we looked at the rules again. There should be consequences for non-performance and there should be consequences for indiscipline in the public sector,” he said.
Waning love for country
Mr Domelevo also spoke against the waning love for the nation, which had led people to consider appointments into key positions as an opportunity to make money.
“Today, people take political and administrative positions in the public service not because of their burning desire to serve our beloved country, but as an opportunity to pursue their ‘personal economic recovery programmes’.
“People appointed into strategic positions such as ministers, board members, chief executives are either square pegs or icons of corruption and, in a few cases where the good ones stand up for the right things to be done, the boardroom wrangling can be heard loud and clear,” he said.
He stated that some started jubilating immediately they were appointed into public office, adding: “If this is because they finally have the opportunity to be of service to the country, then we thank God but most often, it is because their time has come to also loot the public purse and rape the treasury.”