General News of 2013-12-13

A-G’s recommendations vindicate Mahama

The government says recommendations in the 2012 Auditor-General's (AG’s) Report have vindicated the policies and actions taken by President John Dramani Mahama to fight corruption.
A Presidential Staffer, Dr Clement Apaak, told the Daily Graphic last Wednesday that the A-G’s recommendations for ministers to punish chief directors who failed to submit financial statements for auditing on time and the filling of the position of heads of accounts units were part of the directives that President Mahama had already given to prevent the perpetration of conflict, identify and prosecute offenders.
"The recommendations of the A-G with regard to the 2012 A-G’s Report quite clearly vindicate the holistic approach adopted by the President in the fight against corruption," he said.
Dr Apaak was reacting to the A-G’s recommendations in relation to the enormous irregularities amounting to GH¢2,019,188,488.76 (US$50,748,780) which had been unearthed from the accounting books of public boards, corporations and other statutory institutions by the A-G.
The irregularities, which include the lack of documentation on loan agreements stipulating the terms and conditions, misapplication of funds, overestimation of funds needed and the failure to notify bankers to stop payments of unearned salaries, are listed in the A-G’s 2012 report on 77 public boards, corporations and other statutory institutions released in September, this year.
Among the several recommendations made, the report tasked sector ministers as a matter of urgency, to take remedial measures to ensure that public boards, corporations and statutory institutions filled the position of heads of accounts units with personnel with the requisite skills and experience and instal computerised accounting software to accelerate the production of financial statements for audit.
It also charged the ministers to sanction any chief executive who failed to prepare and submit for audit the organisation’s financial statements by the March 31 deadline and any official whose inaction resulted in irregularities to serve as a deterrent to others.
Legislations
With regard to legislations, Dr Apaak said the President had proposed the public officers code of conduct, which Cabinet had approved and would be presented to Parliament for promulgation into law.
He said when passed into law, the Public Officers Code of Conduct "will give the legal basis to hold public officials accountable and prosecute them for their actions."
"This includes the President's appointees - ministers, district chief executives and others," he said.
The Presidential Staffer said President Mahama wanted the Right to Information Bill to be aggressively pursued and passed.
Besides, he said, the President had also asked the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to look at amending the Witness Protection Act to give legal basis to protect witnesses when they provided information about suspected corrupt dealings.
"People will feel much emboldened to come and provide the information for the state to act”, he said.
Again, he said, the government was supporting efforts to pass the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan.
Actions
Dr Apaak said for the first time in the history of Ghana, the President had asked the Attorney General to set up a desk to specifically prosecute public officials implicated in the A-G’s Report.
Besides, the President had instructed that every single ministry should set up an audit implementation committee to take care of issues of infractions within the ministries.
He said the committees would bring to book or seek clarification on acts of malfeasance and take it up to the Attorney General for further action.
The committees would also account for the use of public resources.
"He has told his appointees that his decision to maintain them or otherwise is going to be predicated on the ability of his appointees to aggressively prosecute his anti-corruption agenda," he said.
The Presidential Staffer said the President had told the ministers that everybody, including ministers and chief directors, would be held liable for any act of financial malfeasance by their subordinates.
"So now, these appointees are obligated to take an interest in the activities of their subordinates. So from now on, the usual tendency of public appointees shifting their focus from the activities of the bureaucrats would be dealt with,’’ he said.
Dr Apaak said the President had proposed the setting up of public complaint centres to allow ordinary citizens to be able to provide information.
"The status of people who engage in corruption is high and, therefore, ordinary citizens feel intimidated even when they have information.
This is one of the avenues that the President is using to empower the citizens to support the collective fight against corruption," he said.
Dr Apaak said the government had also provided logistics and funding to anti-corruption agencies for them to be able to identify, investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.