Judgment Debt Chief Recalls Auditor-General
The Commission of Enquiry that is investigating the payment of judgment debts yesterday recalled the Auditor-General to provide more information to the fact-finding body.
This is the third time that a representative from the Audit Service has been invited to explain issues to the commission chaired by Justice Yaw Apau of the Court of Appeal, as sole commissioner.
The Commission of Enquiry into the payment of judgment debt and akin under C.I. 79, to investigate the frivolous and dubious payments of huge monies to undeserving individuals and companies, was appointed by President John Dramani Mahama after public uproar over the payments in what has now come to be termed as judgment debts (JD).
Notable among them were payments made to CP (â‚¬94 million) and the never-ending case of GH¢51.2million parted to the self-styled National Democratic Candidate (NDC) financier, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, both of which many believed were dubious and frivolous.
Led in evidence by Dometi Kofi Sorpkor, counsel to the commission, the deputy Auditor-General, Yao Agyei Sefa, representing the Auditor-General, took his time to explain the processes involved in auditing, the difference between internal and external auditors and the role played by the service to ensure that the service’s recommendations are implemented.
He said that the close collaboration between the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Auditor-General was yielding dividends as most Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were beginning to understand the repercussions of not cooperating with them.
‘PAC has been of tremendous help to the Audit Service. Parliament has given the Auditor-General’s report a lot of prominence. Because of the way it reviews these reports, our clients are taking our works seriously.’
He said that due to the PAC sittings, ‘there have been a lot recoveries made’, adding, ‘For example, in the area of withholding of taxes deducted, our clients have made swift payments once they know they will be appearing before the PAC.’
The deputy Auditor-General said, ‘They are answering our queries. They know that PAC will definitely find out when there are lapses. We receive PAC reports on the decisions they take.’
He said that Section 30 of Act 584 of the Audit Service Act 2000 gave the MMDAs and statutory boards and corporations the mandate to form Audit Report Implementation Committee (ARIC) but there were still challenges of the implementation of the reports.
He said, ‘ARICs must be seen to be working. If they are working, there are a whole lot of irregularities that can be addressed before the report is published. A lot of issues can also be cleared before the report gets to the PAC.’
On ensuring that its recommendations were implemented, Mr. Agyei Sefa said that even though the law recommended the establishment of financial administration courts, they were yet to be operationalized.
He said as a result, the service was in close contact with the office of the Chief Justice to learn more about how to gather water-tight evidence.
‘We have been making arrangements with the judiciary in the area of evidence because some of our evidence have not been robust to stand the test of time. In some instances, when some of our cases go to court, we are thrown out because the evidence we have are not strong.’
He said that the Auditor-General relied on the executive arm of government to implement the recommendations made in the reports, noting, ‘Ours is to keep reporting and hammering on issues of non-compliance.’
He said the Auditor-General, in most cases, did not find the heads of MMDAs attaching importance to the report.
The deputy Auditor-General also said that the Audit Service, which provided external auditors, had no control over internal auditors attached to the MMDAs.
He however added that the internal auditors sometimes gave them ‘lead’ when the need arose.
By William Yaw Owusu