General News of Saturday, 20 October 2018
The Attorney-General (AG), Gloria Afua Akuffo, has described an application for judicial review filed by a former member of the Board of the Ghana Gas Company, Valerie Sawyerr, to quash the report on the audit of the accounts of the company by Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) as “completely frivolous and grossly incompetent.”
The former Deputy Chief of Staff under the erstwhile John Mahama filed the application at an Accra High Court.
She wants a declaration that the audit report, which implicated her and other former board member of Ghana National Gas Company Limited, was done “in breach of her right to administrative justice and right to a fair hearing.”
She is seeking an order of Certiorari for the forensic audit report by EOCO, which implicated other board members to be quashed by the court.
Ms Sawyerr also wants the court to stop the security agencies from inviting her for questioning since in her opinion such invitations are a form of “harassment.”
AG Fires Back
But the AG, in a response to the suit on behalf of EOCO, described the application as “completely frivolous and borne out of an improper appreciation of the law regarding the various subject matters.”
According to response signed by Deputy Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, Ms Sawyerr’s application could not pinpoint any adverse findings against her by EOCO or AG’s Office.
Bizarrely, her application makes reference to a letter written by the Cabinet Committee responsible for the Coordination of Investigations/Forensic Audits.
Mr. Dame said “it’s not a forensic audit report neither does it, in and of itself, make any adverse finding against the applicant.”
The Deputy AG averred that Valerie Sawyerr, in her application, referred to the audit report on several occasions but she failed to present it to the court.
“The court, without seeing the audit report in question, cannot quash same. The duty to file same is placed by the rules on the applicant before filing his application,” Deputy AG averred.
Mr. Dame also debunked claims by Ms Sawyerr that the audit was not commissioned by the Auditor-General.
The Deputy AG indicated that Ghana Gas Company Limited is a private company limited by liability owned by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and therefore in accordance with the Constitution, specifically Article 187(2), and Section 11 of Act 584, Ghana Gas is not subject to the audit powers of the Auditor-General.
“It is eminently clear that the accounts of the Ghana Gas Company Limited are not part of the public accounts over which the Auditor-General has power to audit, except that company has expressly permitted it to do so.”
Mr. Dame said claims by Valerie Sawyerr that she was not invited by the auditing firm for a hearing before making adverse findings against her are misplaced.
The Deputy AG averred that “the auditing firm is not a judicial or quasi-judicial body; hence it’s not mandated to give the board members hearing before concluding its findings.”
“A person making an audit inquiry is not under a duty to adopt a procedure akin to judicial proceedings. He does not exercise a judicial discretion to be subject to the requirements of Article 23 of the Constitution. An auditor merely presents his opinion on the use of funds before him and submits a report for a further judicial or quasi-judicial inquiry to be done.”
“The documents presented by him will be the basis for an accusation and the person against whom suspicion is raised will then be questioned further by the relevant authorities. It is at the stage where the relevant authorities deny the person against whom suspicion is raised that an allegation of breach of fundamental human rights can be made,” Mr. Dame indicated.
The auditors in question merely presented their opinion of the facts to the 2nd respondent (EOCO), upon the conclusion of the exercise. It is correct to say that the audit report in question did not form the basis for any punitive measures or sanctions to be inflicted on the applicant, Deputy AG added.
Mr Dame, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss the application which he described as grossly incompetent.
A government sanctioned forensic audit revealed that the acquisition of helicopters worth over $100 million by Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC) caused financial loss to the state because the choppers were never utilized.
The four Z-9EH helicopters bought from China for surveillance by Ghana Gas during the previous Mahama administration at the total cost of $100 million ($25m each) was commissioned by then President John Mahama in September 2015.
According to the forensic audit report, “The helicopters purchased from China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) have never been used for the purpose of its purchase, causing the state to lose $54,800,000”.
It also said a loss of $5,958,366.76 was incurred because “equipment for the helicopters were not delivered even though it was part of the contract price, while another loss of $300,000, being abnitio training cost not fully utilized for its intended purpose was caused, bringing the total to $61,058,366.76.
The report mentioned that Ghana Gas Board Chairman Prof. Kwesi Botchwey; Dr. George Sipa-AdjaYankey, who was the CEO of the state-owned company; Eric Yankah; Thomas Manu and Valerie Sawyerr, a former deputy Chief of Staff, should be held responsible.
According to the report, there were procurement irregularities, totalling GH¢76,802,760.39 against Memphis Metropolitan Limited (GH¢34,452,650.22) and Kingspok Company Limited (GH¢42,351,110.17) in the contract