General News of Wednesday, 2 August 2017
There is an “amazing earthquake happening quietly” at the Auditor-General’s Department, anti-corruption campaigner, Ace Ankomah was thrilled to say on the Super Morning Show Tuesday.
Some Ghanaians indicted for pocketing public funds are coughing up their loot since the department laced its boot to ask for the taxpayers’ money back.
“I will leak some [info] to you” Ace Ankomah was too gleefully obliged to share hot gossip with host, Kojo Yankson.
“The A-G said he surcharged somebody and got a phone call from another person. The ‘somebody’ who had spent our money had gone to the people [he shared the money with] to say ‘massa contribution time’.
The host and his guest laughed over the story of a panicking pilfering public officer.
The A-G’s department almost never demands money back. It writes about stolen and misappropriated monies in its annual reports, talks about stolen monies, complains about stolen monies but – no it doesn’t demand the money back.
It can by law, it should by its professional ethics, but it doesn’t due to some self-imposed inertia – for years.
And so, a department designed to be a General in Ghana’s army of anti-corruption institutions, is barely a lieutenant on the losing side of the war against graft.
Thanks to OccupyGhana, a civil society group campaigning for the conscionable use of public funds, the Auditor-General, a once de-motivated army general playing corporal, is responding to duty.
The giant is waking up. Five Supreme Court judges grabbed the department by the scruff of the neck to read the law which Mr Ankomah summarrised as “if you play the fool with our money, we will play the foul with you”. It means no one can misappropriate public funds and go scot-free.
Ace Ankomah and hordes of lawyers and activists fetched gallons of water-tight arguments to splash on the face of the A-G while the judges barked ‘sit up and step up’ at the state auditor.
Things have not been the same since that June 14 judgement.
A new Auditor-General, Daniel Yaw Domelevo was appointed in January and has fully embraced a responsibility apparently shirked since January 1993.
So for 25years, absconding with state money is a low-risk activity with high-end ‘rewards’. Much much safer than ‘galamsey’
“If there is any legacy to leave behind at the end of my tenure of office, it will be to activate the A-G’s power of surcharge and disallowance to protect public purse”, he told his staff at a welcome-from-Zambia durbar.
Ace Ankomah said Mr Domelevo called him up for a meeting to discuss Occupy Ghana’s suit against the A-G demanding the state to wake up and smell the coffee.
“I went to the meeting prepared to have a fight because we have been having this fight for a long time”
“I said my brother, have a seat. Then he asked me ‘why are we in court when we are on the same side?’. That completely disarmed me,” Ace Ankomah said.
Mr. Ankomah, another type of citizen vigilante, moved into the uncharted territory of praising a senior public servant.
“He took the law that we haven’t been implementing for 25 years. He took the same law to Zambia. Zambia passed it and has been implementing it. Ghana needed a CSO to spend hundreds of thousands of cedis to go to the Supreme Court for the Auditor-General to implement it”
“In fact, Ghanaians should thank Mahama for bringing in this man to Ghana”, Ace moved into even rarer realms of praise for the most unlikely.
Wednesday afternoon, Mr Daniel Domelovo is set to release the first fruits of a feisty chase down of a cache of cash held hostage by ‘greedy bastards’.
Ace Ankomah’s delight was self-evident. Altruism pays – with a smile of satisfaction widens over the face.
It has been a wearisome fight. They have been called bloody names. The forces for the public good can now rest…….but not yet.
The Auditor-General’s Department may have gotten its bark back but it is a top dog on the government’s leash.The department, while guaranteed independence by the Constitution, is not backed by financial independence.
The department needs government to get even a printer. The government pays staff salaries and unseen political influence can determine promotions and perks. The service presents its budget to the government for justification.
“And their budget is never met.”
Ace Ankomah’s “crystalising” view is that Ghana’s two A-Gs – Auditor-General and Attorney-General must work like a commercial service provider. They must do all government jobs at a fee like a lawyer-client relationship.
“If we make them financially independent, they can recruit top-level. A-G needs to hire accountants, auditors, lawyers. We need them to be absolutely independent”
He said a simple request for router, printer, scanner, goes through a requisition process that can be bureaucratically unnerving.
“When you put people through all of these things, they sort of sit back. So even when they are asked to fill the forms, they don’t fill it.
“Now if any of my associates needs these things and it is justified to me, it is a matter of an hour it will be delivered because [my firm] has financial independence.
“If the tools they need to work [with] depends on a government which does not want them to do the work, then the work does not get done.
“A constitutionally guaranteed independence is nothing if they are not given real financial independence”, Ace Ankomah in the Joy FM studio. managed to throw in his own small version of Kwame Nkrumah’s Old Polo grounds speech delivered on the eve of the country’s independence.