An amount of approximately GH¢834,722 meant to be paid by the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) in various taxes to tax agencies have disappeared into thin air, the Auditor-General has revealed in a damning interim report issued in February.
The anomalies include SADA’s failure to remit withholding taxes to the national coffers and reduction of income tax deductable from employees and consultants.
The breakdown of these tax anomalies recorded by the Northern Regional office of the Auditor-General’s Department (AGD) includes a GH¢461,090 withholding taxes SADA retained from service providers but failed to remit the domestic tax revenue division; an amount of GH¢251,288.00 from 22 paid vouchers that SADA failed to deduct the statutory 5% withholding tax; a short payment of GH¢10,314.00 taxes from consultancy fees of some seven consultants whose contract sum amounted to GH¢182,364.00. According to the Auditor-General, SADA only deducted 5% taxes instead of the statutory 10% taxes on the consultancy fees.
The management of SADA is also cited to have computed the Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) or income tax on salaries of employees at a flat rate of 5% instead of the graduated system of income tax deduction from employees, resulting in a total tax shortfall of GH¢71,030.70 that should have gone into state coffers.
The State auditors found out that the Authority’s management used its funds to settle income tax for staff members totaling GH¢41,000.00, according to the report gleaned by DAILY GUIDE.
It was addressed to Dr. Charles Jebuni, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of SADA, dated February 24, 2014 and referenced NR/SADA/Vol.1/07.
String Of Scandals
This is one of the endless findings from probes conducted by the Northern Regional branch of the Auditor-General’s Department, as part of a string of infamous SADA financial scandals that had hit the Authority.
SADA, which was set up by the current National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration in 2010, was tasked to coordinate a comprehensive development for the northern savannah ecological zone in Ghana with the core objective of alleviating poverty in the three northern regions regarded as the poorest areas in the country.
However, since its setup, SADA has embarked on several scandalous projects that have caught public attention; including the over GH¢15 million Guinea Fowl project that barely yielded 200 birds and a GH¢35 million tree planting project that has become fiasco.
However, the lawyers of SADA insist that the report is not conclusive, quoting regulations in the Audit Service Act which stipulate that when such audit reports are issued to respondent’s organizations, they have approximately 30 days to respond to the findings of the report.
Beyuo & Co, solicitors for SADA, is seeking apologies and retraction of media stories imputing financial malfeasance in SADA saying the publications and broadcasts were ‘false and malicious’.
‘The Management letter is not a conclusive finding by the Auditor-General of wrongdoing on the part of our client; it’s borne out by the fact that in the self-same letter the Auditor-General has requested for our client’s comments on its observations made in the Management letter. Secondly, the Auditor-General in its limitation of liability statement in the said letter, stated specifically that it ‘prepared this management letter for [SADA’s] use within [its] organisation. We could not accept any responsibility for any reliance the third party might place on it,’ Beyuo & Co. wrote in a statement addressed to the Multimedia Group.
According to the solicitors, the audit regulations stipulates that ‘the Auditor-General shall, as a result of an audit, issue observations to the Controller and Accountant-General or the management of the audited organisation and the comments made by the management shall be returned to the Auditor-General within thirty days after the receipt of the observation.’
However, the solicitors have failed to issue SADA’s responses to the indictments contained in the audit report, since the stipulated 30 days have been far exceeded before the story broke sometime last week.
By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran
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