Dr. Valentin Mensah
Governance expert, Dr. Valentin Mensah, has said Auditor Generals, past and present, has found it difficult to comply with key aspects of the law on surcharge and disallowance which has made it impossible, to recover public funds misappropriated by public officials.
Citing data and figures from the 2019 deliberations on the Ghana Audit Services 2020 Budget Estimates by the Special Budget Committee of Parliament, Dr Mensah noted that, “Out of the amount of GHS 8,465,250,157 identified as irregularities in the various reports submitted to Parliament in 2018, only GHS 67,315,066 (7.95%) had been recovered from the perpetrators.”
Dr. Mensah said the Supreme Court’s ruling on Occupy Ghana Vrs Attorney General , has thrown the mandate of the Auditor General under Article 187(7)(b) of the 1992 Constitution and Section 17 of Act 584 to “disallow any item of expenditure which is contrary to law and surcharge the amount of any expenditure disallowed upon the person responsible for incurring or authorizing the expenditure” into the limelight.
However, the same constitution in Article 187(9) also allows a person aggrieved by a disallowance or surcharge made by the A-G to appeal to the High Court under the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2016 (C.I. 102), Dr Mensah contended.
Dr. Mensah, who is also the CEO of CBS Consulting said Auditor Generals have always been found wanting when the persons against whom these certificates of surcharge and disallowance are issued trigger the appeal process.
He noted that it has become a challenge, largely because the Auditor Generals do not always have the necessary documentations and sufficient audit evidence to back their allegations.
While admitting that heavy audit workloads for the reports on the audit of public accounts, meeting audit deadlines and sustaining quality are difficult challenges, Dr. Mensah said it is imperative that the Auditor General remains focused and obtain “sufficient appropriate audit evidence” before proceeding to publish his report on irregularities.
He said the Board of Ghana Audit Service “needs to introduce relevant amendments to the Audit Service Act and Regulations to incorporate the operationalization of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Surcharges and Disallowances.”
He said the A-G and the Audit Service must desist from being “a jack of all trades,” and must rather ‘direct the whole force of the mind to one particular object’ of auditing public accounts and issuing surcharges and disallowances as stipulated the in Article 187 of the Constitution.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri