Ghana Audit Service initiates programme to protect state funds

cediThe Ghana Audit Service (GAS) has initiated a capacity-building programme for auditors to ensure the success of evidence they present in court on financial malfeasance against the state.

The programme which is being undertaken in collaboration with the Judicial Service, is to train auditors in evidence gathering to enable the GAS to mount solid cases in court as it seeks to protect the public purse from dissipation.

The Deputy Auditor-General, Yaw Sifah, who made this known, said after audit reports had revealed financial malfeasance, the GAS sometimes failed to redeem diverted state funds because evidence it adduced in court had not been solid enough to ensure success.

Appearing before the Commission on Judgement Debt which resumed its public sitting in Accra Monday, Mr Sifah expressed the hope that the capacity-building programme would ensure greater success in court.

He said beyond making recommendations, the Auditor-General did not have the powers of a High Court, as existed in some jurisdictions, to enforce same.

He said a number of the recommendations in the Auditor-General’s reports bordered on criminality but, unfortunately, the management of the affected institutions had, invariably, not attached much importance to addressing the problem.

He said although the Financial Administration Act, 2003 (Act 654) provided for the establishment of financial tribunals to deal with offenders of the law, that legal provision was yet to be actualised.

Responding to a question on the impact that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament had had on the Auditor-General’s reports, Mr Sifah said it had been very great.

He said the PAC, for instance, had given the reports much prominence through its public sittings, “so our clients are now taking the Auditor-General’s work very seriously”.

Furthermore, he said, the PAC sittings had led to many recoveries of state funds, considering that many individuals and institutions took steps to refund money to the state even before they appeared before the committee.

Mr Sifah stressed the need to empower the Internal Audit Units (IAUs) of the ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in respect of capacity building of their staff and the provision of the requisite working tools, saying that would enable the IAUs to discharge their functions effectively.

He also stressed the need for the empowerment of Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICs) to ensure that the Auditor-General’s recommendations were implemented.

The ARICs are a creation of the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584) with the view to ensuring the appropriation of state funds for their intended purpose.

“If the ARICs are working, we believe that a lot of issues will be cleared before they reach Parliament,” Mr Sifah said.

On ways to improve financial record-keeping in government institutions, he said that had been a big problem to deal with.

He, however, noted that the issue was being addressed through the implementation of the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS).

The GIFMIS, which is being piloted at the moment, is an e-governance initiative that will serve as a one-stop shop where all state institutions will undertake their financial transactions.

Sitting continues Tuesday, with representatives of the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning who had previously appeared before it expected to provide additional information.

Representatives of the Bank of Ghana are also expected to make their initial appearance before the commission.

Source: Daily Graphic

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