Auditors General in West Africa have converged on Accra to discuss ways to harmonise and share best practices in their field of work to improve public financial management systems in the region.
The two-day gathering is the first inaugural meeting of the Association of Auditors General of West Africa (AAGWA).
The aim of the association is to promote co-operation and networking between the offices of the auditors general of ECOWAS institutions and those of the respective auditor generals of member states in order to achieve value for money in the execution of regional and national programmes.
The meeting, convened by the ECOWAS Commission and hosted by the Ghana Audit Service, will also discuss an operational framework draft to guide the running of the association and elect executives for the association.
The association was established following the institution of the Auditor General of ECOWAS Institution as part of reforms carried out by the commission to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ECOWAS institutions and agencies.
Addressing the meeting, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, stated that auditors had a critical role to play in safeguarding resource mobilisation, equitable resource allocation and accountability.
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He said the function of the auditor to assure stakeholders of the use of resources allocated to duty bearers was critical in the public sector and must be conducted with the highest professional and ethical standards.
Failure on the part of auditors to rise to the occasion and do their work diligently, he said, would mean inequity and unfair distribution of limited resources and public funds for the benefit of the lowest strata of society.
World Bank caution
Mr Ofori-Atta said the World Bank had estimated that by 2030, nearly nine out of all 10 extremely poor people would be in sub-Saharan Africa if steps were not taken to address weaknesses in revenue mobilisation and the wanton waste of public resources.
“We have reached the crossroads in sustainable development in Africa and, as such, sustainable development must be pursued in a manner that distributes the limited resources of our member states fairly and equitably to ensure that the benefits of public funds reach the lowest strata of society and every individual.
This aspiration could elude us until auditors rise to the occasion to assess and recommend measures that strengthen internal controls to safeguard public resources and assets,” he said.
The Finance Minster said the establishment of the Office of the Auditor General of ECOWAS and the AAGWA was, therefore, a step towards strengthening public institutions in West Africa, as the region strove towards achieving sustainable development and improving the quality of life of its nationals.
He expressed the hope that following the establishment of the association, there would be an improvement in the practice of auditing across member states through peer review, standardisation of professional practices, technical capacity building and cooperation in areas of common interest.
Touching on the practice of auditing in Ghana, Mr Ofori-Atta said it had seen commendable impetus in the last few years and improved the control environment in the public financial management ecosystem.
Recently, he said, the Auditor General’s Department of Ghana took remarkable steps to recover for the state more than GH¢67 million from various surcharge certificates issued to individuals and organisations as a result of their audit.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Bron, also in an address, told the participants that as auditors, they had the responsibility to provide assurance and advisory services for their stakeholders on the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations, as well as the strength of internal controls.
Given the similarity of goals and roles in the profession, he underscored the need for the convergence of strategies and policies within the subregion, with the aim of optimising financial and technical resources.
“The creation of a supranational body encompassing auditors general in the ECOWAS region allows for the transfer of best practice through pooling and borrowing of key resources for audits at the regional and national levels, leading to the transfer of best practice and the joint formulation of audit policies and strategies,” he said.
Additionally, Mr Bron noted that the move to harmonise the work of auditor generals in the subregion would ensure that the ECOWAS integration agenda was being managed on sound principles that guaranteed the integrity of corporate governance and fostered economic growth and prosperity in the ECOWAS region.