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20.11.2003 Feature Article

Ghana’s Auditor General Must Be Fired!!

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On Friday October 31, 2003, The Network Herald, a Private Newspaper in Ghana carried a story which sent shock waves throughout the country, well at least for those who value responsibility, accountability and decency in public service. In response to queries from the Newspaper as to why the Auditor General’s Department was contracting the services of private accounting firms to audit government books for which his department was set up, the Auditor General, Edward Dua Agyeman dropped a shocking bombshell. He said the inability of his department to audit the books of government departments over the years has been due to the fact that the staff of his department are incompetent. He described them as lacking "commitment and discipline needed for an effective realization of the terms of reference of the Auditor General’s Department". Lord Have Mercy on Ghana!!

The Auditor General’s Department is a very large bureaucracy with buildings and infrastructure larger than most Government Ministries. It has offices in all Regional Capitals and most District Centers across the country. The total independence of that department and its work is enshrined and protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana under Article 187. Article 187 (7a) says inter alia "...in the performance of his functions under this Constitution or any other law, the Auditor General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority". It has a huge budget and the headman of that Department, The Auditor General, now in the person of Edward Dua Agyeman, is paid an obscene huge amount of money, benefits and pecks that are charged on the Consolidated Fund under Article 187 (11).

The constitutionally guaranteed total independence of the Auditor General also confers certain responsibilities on the headman and his Department to serve the country. Article 187 (subsections 2,3,4 and 5) of the Constitution spells out these responsibilities in clear unambiguous terms: "The public accounts of all public offices of Ghana, including the courts, the central and local administrations, universities and public institutions of like nature...shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor General" It states further "The Auditor General shall within six months after the end of the immediately preceding year ...submit his report to Parliament and shall in that report draw attention to any irregularities in the accounts audited and to any other matter which in his opinion ought to be brought to the notice of Parliament".

The Auditor General’s Department is currently about nine years behind in its audit of public accounts and has therefore not submitted any report to Parliament as required by the Constitution and for which the headman and his huge staff are well paid. When confronted with this apparent dereliction of duty and abdication of his responsibilities, Mr. Duah Agyeman said that the blame for this should be placed on his staff and not him. He had this to say: "They are not performing due to their appalling attitude towards work and hence their reports are always negative". He has therefore resorted to hiring private accounting firms and paid them huge sums of money to do the same work that his outfit is paid to do and for which he is also paid very well with constitutional guarantees to supervise. A few examples. He has been hiring very expensive foreign-based accounting firms like Ernst and Young, Deloitte and Touche, Price Waterhouse, KPMG and a Ghanaian-owned firm Baffour Awuah and Associates. The latter alone has been paid a whooping amount of six hundred and five million cedis for their services. Payments made so far to the foreign firms have not been disclosed but your guess is as good as mine.

Where in this world apart from Ghana will this blatant misuse of public funds and abdication of responsibility by a highly-placed public official occur with such impunity? And he has no shame saying this in public and still keeping his job. The same section of the Constitution which guarantees the job, salary and independence of the Auditor General also demands certain behavior of public officials in charge of public accounts including him!! Article 187 subsection 7 (b) (i & ii) empowers the Auditor General to "disallow any item of expenditure which is contrary to law and surcharge." And subsection (b) (iii) makes this even more explicit: The Auditor General may "disallow and surcharge the amount of any loss or deficiency, upon any person by whose negligence or misconduct the loss or deficiency has been incurred".

By publicly admitting knowingly hiring and keeping incompetent staff persons in his outfit, by condoning the non-performance of his staff over the years, by failing to take action against such incompetent staff and by causing public funds to be paid to such staff who do not perform their duties, the Auditor General Mr. Edward Dua Agyeman has woefully shirked his responsibilities for which he was appointed and paid. And most seriously by failing to get the work done and failing to report to Parliament for nine good years as required by the Constitution which guarantees his job, his obscene salary and perks, Mr. Dua Agyeman certainly has no more legal or moral reasons to stay in office for one more day. He should do the most honorable thing left for him. He should resign!! And if he does not, the President should invoke the necessary constitutional provisions and fire him NOW!!.

These provisions for firing an incompetent Auditor General is provided for in Article 146 of the Constitution. This section also relates to the removal of Justices of the Superior Courts. Article 146 (2) says that the Auditor General can be removed "for stated misbehavior or incompetence or on grounds of inability to perform the functions of his office arising from infirmity of body or mind". The current Auditor General certainly meets all these constitutional requirements for removal.

Michael Baffoe
Michael Baffoe, © 2003

The author has 7 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: MichaelBaffoe

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