The Sun always rises from the east

Sydney Casely Hayford Economist

Tue, 1 Oct 2013 Source: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

I remember as a rookie auditor with Deloitte, Haskins and Sells in the late 70’s we had the assigned task of reporting on the truth, Fairness or otherwise of the state of affairs of Ghana Water and Sewerage and State Construction Company. With a financial audit, one of the key things you preserve is internal control procedures and safeguarding the assets of the company.

My task in 1977 was to audit the Central Stores and make a report on findings. There is a procedure for doing this and I went through the paces. Now, most importantly, you look for requisite authorized signatures, payment vouchers, copies of cheques, bank statements and evidence of payment for contracts etc. But this is not an audit lesson, so here is the point. I had a dilemma, because in my sample was a set of imported snow tires from Russia. No documents to cover the purchase, but a payment to suppliers for delivery. I had procedural problems and clear improper procedure. The goods were part of my stock count and curious about when we would be able to use snow tires, I expanded my work to include any orders made from this supplier and subsequently all improper documentation, particularly any sole-signed documents by a key officer. It was a messy affair. I reported my findings to my manager, now an Omanhene, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II and received a most critical lesson in auditing.

This Officer consistently breached the controls and rules of administration. At the start of the audit, he warmly received us, was exceptionally cordial and respectful and unusually ensured our transportation, meals and per diem for the audit.

Conflicted and confused, I did what I assumed was right and reported to my manager, who I thought should be the right person to make a call on the issue. But Nana refused to take over, and there was my first lesson. Simply put, was I auditing the affairs of the company using laid down procedure with recommendations, or was I going to be sidetracked and overlook the controls, omissions, irregularities, human error and infractions, ignore the impact on the company’s affairs in order not to rock the boat and maybe precipitate someone’s dismissal? I was on the carpet, had to make the call and recommended a fraud investigation.

That lesson carried over to the UK, when I was posted by Ghana office to work in London.

I was lead supervisor on the audit of the Bank of England and had responsibility for the balance sheet of the Bank, which included cash and gold bullion. This time I took full charge of everything and insisted that I sight the bullion and at least get an idea of the value by estimating the quantities, something that had never been done before. It was always taken as a given that the bullion in the vault was as reported. The furor I caused with this simple request gave me notoriety in the office but also marked my integrity for following proper audit procedure. I got commendations from both the London office and the Bank of England, even though we found the bullion value as stated.

So this week as I listened, two critical matters flared up at me. Kofi Adams on Joyfm Newsfile, commented that the NPP’s hint that they might seek judicial review is a waste of time and will lead nowhere. I hope he was misquoted, because this is exactly the problem. “Administrative and entry errors” that are of no consequence? I bet if Mr. Adams’ bank made administrative and entry errors to his bank balance he would be up in arms about it.

Then Lawyer Samuel Okudzeto made his mindful comments re the JSC’s arguments and his analysis in the aftermath of the Danquah Institute review of the Judges decision. I took some time to read the full judgment, you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand the words, it is a four hour read, but worth your future. I was even more curious because the Brits refused to host the event on the grounds it was politically charged. Well, the Brits have lost their spine these days, especially after they declined to join the Syria human rights abuse stave off and citing terrorist attacks where there are none, according to the Dutch.

But reading what Mr Okudzeto had to say, I think there is need for a more critical look at the decision, more so because I am still grappling with the illogic of the verdict and how some of the Judges arrived at conclusions, plainly ignoring what I thought were glaring pointers to poor administration, ignoring legal and laid down procedure and violating the Constitutional Instrument directives. I am sorry, but if this means I am flogging a horse unnecessarily, this election jockey would like to continue the ride.

We have to ask ourselves as Ghanaians whether it is too much sense to do the right thing all the time irrespective of social pain or economic hardship or leave principled practice to meander because we are happier to dumb down, play the underprivileged African card, stowed away in historical slavery, waiting for cryogenic traditional relief.

This canker; we don’t process detail, we don’t file proper documents, we wantonly and carelessly avoid written down procedure, protect colleagues and family because we might be the cause of their job loss is how we erode good practice, then turn around to say it is just human error, let it go. You “shall do” is not operating language in Ghana. The mandatory weight of performance is twisted in cultural favor, deliberately crafted to preserve benefactor status and warp proper procedure.

The crime is already committed before we arrive at the judgment debt and we need to trap the theft at that point. You are only going to do that when you follow proper procedure and ensure that supervisors and managers insist sign-off requirements are always in place. Asking beneficiaries to refund money and after-examine the process is the cop out to any long lasting solution.

The root cause of all our woes is high-level collusion and deliberate corruption of officials by we ourselves. The reason “we cannot find the documents” is another way to protect thieves and stave off investigations, which might incriminate more than one apparent thief. I don’t know where Sole Commissioner Apau’s court is going to lead, but reading the terms of the commission, we are not going to prosecute anybody.

Tariff increases this week, met with resistance; already frittering away with time and lack of will to challenge Government imposed hardships. And Zoomlion finally met its match in Liberia, banned by the World Bank for two years over bribery issues. Shame on Ghana, we have managed to amoeba corruption in West Africa, no spine to stop this at our gates.

Kwesi Pratt’s comments on the economy should just be ignored. He doesn’t understand numbers, never has, never will. I am still looking for the source of his assessment that you need to reach a debt to GDP ratio of 60% before you are in danger. As far as I know, debt sustainability is the key indicator.

Ghana is trying to borrow its way out of a cash crisis, but the hole is too deep, created by this very same Government, with no ideas at hand except to burden the consumer with more costs and little economic opportunity.

Now the Bole Bamboi MP, former Minister of Communication, now President with International stature is blaming the Election Petition hearing for the present weak state of our finances. Really?

Some things in life are clear. When we wake up each morning the sun beams on our East side and Earth slowly rotates across its face into darkness after twelve hours. Sure as day will come, will night follow.

In finance, if you earn less money than you spend, you will go bankrupt. If you borrow money today and do not pay on time, you will have to pay back at a later date with interest. Even when you die, your family and successors will still have to cough up the money. If you borrow, money has to be repaid, unless somebody dashes it to you. If you do not produce anything and keep taking from others, eventually you become dependent on them. It does not matter which way you spin it, it will come to bite you in the derriere.

This truth I hold dear. Live in a fool’s paradise and you will become a fool. Nothing is clearer. If we continue to lie about how dire our situation we will not be fooling many people.

And our President read a poorly written speech to the UN. A read that was worse than the speech itself; infantile wording, uninspired catch phrases, most boring. He needs an oratory coach and he can find one in a Christian Pastor or two. They can spew some verbiage non-stop for seven days, coercing poor people to part with money they do not have. What more rich people like UN heads of state?

But while our heads were turned, Naa Okailey Shooter strutted down the catwalk in Indonesia and made us proud 3rd placed winners at the Miss World pageant. I have not paid attention to her beauty and I lost out on the adrenalin rush that comes with the final announcement. But what a pleasure to know that Ghana now has beauty potential. Kudos girl, next time we go all the way to number one.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney