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Deficiencies in the annual audit reports

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 Source: Issah Fuseini

The 2016 Report was released on the heels of a recent announcement by the Auditor-General that the properties of even dead people who received or took funds from the public purse wrongly would not be spared, as it begins surcharging persons and organisations implicated in the annual Auditor-General’s reports.

One endemic problem raised repeatedly by the Auditor General is public payroll fraud. Despite numerous investigations and the establishment of special payroll unit within the Audit Service, the problem has persisted. The fraud in this area involves salary overpayment, payment to 'ghost' employees, payment to staffs who have left government employment etc.. Lags in administrative procedure, for example, delay in deleting names off the government payroll as a result of retirement or death, also accounts for some of the losses government incurred.

In other instances, delays have been deliberate, owing to collusion between officials of the Controller and Accountant General Department, the government paymaster and respective government agencies. The scope of the problem is perhaps best understood from one major reform attempt. In 2001, the Minister Education at that time, Hon Ameyaw Kumfi set up a task force to 'exorcise' names from the Ghana Education Service payroll.

After the exercise was conducted, this resulted in about 10,000 out of an estimated 30,000 names being removed from the education pay register. Reliable estimates also indicate that, between 2000 and 2002, salaries paid about 2,000 'ghost' employee's on civil service payroll alone cost taxpayers US$20 million. The source is Global Integrity, 2006.

Hon. Ameyaw Kumfi disclosed during an exclusive interview by one the media stations that he believes a "huge syndicate" is operating through the maintenance of ghost names to syphon money from the service. The task force is said to be following strong leads that point to the criminal collusion between a certain staff of the Accounting Departments of the GES, the Controller and Accountant General's Department and the banks. These same criminals are still operating in disguise. But until government fish out those criminals and bring them to book, Ghana will not make any progress in terms of development.

The government under Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo Addo is poised on building a prosperous country compare to Malaysia and Singapore, and we cannot do that with political Vampires who are burnt on milking the country dry. Taking the 2016 Auditor General report into consideration, monies lost in the name of corruption is huge enough to turn the country fortunes. Government through Special Prosecutor must crack the whip to retrieve all monies stolen and punish the perpetrators.

The institutional and legal arrangements are there to deal with such people. There are two ways of exerting accountability; one is what the Auditor General has done, and all those, that is the vertical one. The one that is even more effective is what is at the local level, the general assembly or the district assembly.

Columnist: Issah Fuseini