General News of Thursday, 3 August 2017
The Audit Service says the properties of even dead people who received or took funds from the public purse wrongly will not be spared, as it begins surcharging persons and organisations implicated in the annual Auditor-General’s reports.
Four persons named in the Auditor-General’s Report to have been involved in financial irregularities have been surcharged, while seven others were to be surcharged by the close of Wednesday.
Speaking to journalists at a press conference in Accra Wednesday, Mr Daniel Yao Domelevo, the Auditor-General, declined to give the names of the persons involved, saying it was unprofessional for him to do so, but indicated that the report would be submitted to Parliament as required by law by the end of the year.
The action by the Auditor-General was prompted by the Supreme Court’s order to the Audit Service to recover all state funds which had been misappropriated by individuals since the coming into effect of the 1992 Constitution.
“Two weeks ago, I served the first batch of four certificates on the people. Starting from yesterday, I am reviewing seven more. Before the close of day today, I will be issuing seven, bringing the total to 11. My review shows that the work done is good. The certificates issued to the people constituted a prima facie evidence that the person owed the government the amount quoted. It is a certificate of indebtedness to the government; it is to say that you have used government money wrongly, pay it back,” the Auditor-General said
He, however, said it was not all the infractions identified in the various Auditor-General’s reports that meant economic loss to the state, as some were non-compliance with administrative procedures, which needed to be brought to the fore because there were control measures that must be followed.
Supreme Court’s orders
In its judgement on June 14, this year on a case brought before it by OccupyGhana, a pressure group, the Supreme Court ordered the Auditor-General to surcharge any individual who was found to have expended public funds unlawfully.
The Supreme Court further ordered the government’s prosecution arm, the Attorney-General’s Department, to ensure the enforcement of the orders by initiating criminal prosecution, where necessary.
It was the case of the pressure group that although the Auditor-General had been given the legal backing under Article 187 Clause 7 (b) of the 1992 Constitution to disallow the use of state funds in a manner contrary to law and also surcharge persons found to have used state funds unlawfully, it had failed to do so.
According to the pressure group, its research revealed that since the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, the Auditor-General had failed to surcharge people found to have misappropriated public funds amounting to GH¢40 billion.
The legal action, according to the group, became necessary when the Auditor-General failed to surcharge looters of state funds, despite several letters from OccupyGhana urging it to do so.
Building a case
With the Supreme Court giving the Auditor-General a shot in the arm, Mr Domelevo said the Audit Service had begun converting its annual reports into forensic audits to establish or produce evidence to hold people accountable.
“There are several abuses but we can’t tackle all of them together; we have to go gradually and systematically, taking it case by case and building a complete case on the file,” he explained.
He said he personally securitised each file before issuing the certificate of indebtedness to the culprits.
“Currently, the only person issuing the certificate is myself, because I want to be sure that I am starting on a very good note. I have told my colleagues that if anybody sends us to court, I want to score 100 per cent. When they go to court, I must be able to prove to the court that here is my reason for the surcharge and the court should uphold my position instead of their position. By the time you go and file evidence against us, we have our evidence ready. When we receive the appeal notice, we will just go to the registrar and produce the evidence used,” he said.
To ward off of claims of victimisation and harassment, Mr Domelevo said: “I want to be sure that this exercise does not translate into just victimising people unduly. Before I issue a certificate, I want them to build a complete file.”
He, however, stated that the work of the Audit Service would not be influenced in anyway by political interference.
In addition to recovering the amounts in question, Mr Domelevo said the Audit Service would also take interest, using the lending rate of the Bank of Ghana to compute the interest.
To make the exercise a routine one, he said the service was “developing procedures and guidelines and train our people. I will start decentralising these responsibilities first to my deputies to disallow and surcharge on my behalf. Later on, within the next year or two, we will decentralise these responsibilities to the regions.
“We will plead with the general public to cooperate with us. Some would want to stampede us into action, but it is a gradual process. We can’t cover all the malfeasance that we have spotted in our reports within a week or a month or may be within a year; it may take longer,” he stated.