GES seeks approval to set up audit c’tees in SHSs
The Ghana Education Service (GES) is seeking approval from the Ministry of Finance to use the quota system to establish audit committees for second cycle schools across the country.
The move has become necessary because most of the senior high schools (SHSs) are not able to establish audit committees as required by the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act (Act 921, 2016).
By the requirement of the Act, each of the schools is to set up a five-member audit committee which must include three members from the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana (ICAG) and the International Audit Agency (IAA).
The requirement means that about 2058 of these professionals are needed before the committee can be set up in all the schools.
The inability of the second cycle schools to meet that requirement has led to poor financial management and breach of procurement processes.
The Chief Internal Auditor at GES headquarters, Rev. Bismarck Anaba Akandi, who disclosed this at the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Accra on Thursday, said the absence of the Audit Committee had contributed to the avoidable infractions that second cycle institutions had been cited for in the Auditor-General's Report for 2015/16.
He was responding to a question posed to him by the Chairman of PAC, Dr James Klutse Avedzi, on why most schools did not have functioning Audit Committees as required by law.
The question came on the heels of the numerous infractions cited against 27 second cycle schools in the Greater Accra Region that appeared before the PAC to answer questions on queries in the 2015/16 A-G's Report.
Many schools, including Accra Academy, Accra Girls High School, Labone Senior High School, Achimota School, Nungua SHS, Ada SHS, Ordogonno SHS, and Tema SHS, appeared before the committee.
The schools, which were represented by their headmasters and accountants, took turns to respond to specific infractions that related to them.
Among the crosscutting infractions for the schools were the failure to comply with due procurement processes, failure to remit withholding taxes to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), and making payments without work order and other supporting documents.
One key issue that came to light was the unrecovered salary advances by the schools.
Most of the schools were found to have paid salary advances to staff members but could not recover the money.
In some cases, the staff members had either retired from the schools or on transfer to other areas.
Some of the schools also lost money through rent defaulting by staff members and unaccounted for fuel.
There were also cases of unearned salaries levelled against some schools.
In most of the cases, the officials from the A-G' s department who were present at the PAC sitting confirmed that the amounts involved, especially relating to failure to remit withholding, taxes had been paid late.
It was clear that as a result of lack of due diligence, the management of those institutions failed to meet timelines for most payments that had to be made.
After about six hours of sitting, Dr Avedzi cautioned the management of institutions to adhere strictly to the laws on procurement and other financial regulations.
"I want to sound a word of caution to all of you that you need to be diligent and apply strict financial management regimes in your schools.
"You need to all take steps to correct all anomalies and provide the necessary documents to justify why you should not be surcharged.
"We will not countenance any such infractions in the future," he stressed.
He also stressed that steps ought to be taken to make all payments in time to avoid being surcharged.