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31.10.2007 General News

Audit Reports Were Not To Indict Ministers - Auditor General

Mr Edward Dua Agyeman, the Auditor General yesterday said the just ended proceedings of the Public Account Committee was not an indictment on Ministers but a wake-up call for the various ministries to effectively manage affairs.
'No Minister should be held accountable for the financial improprieties of any public servant for his or her personal gains. After all, the day-to-day mechanism of disbursements is the responsibility of the Chief Director and his desk officers'
Mr Dua Agyeman was speaking at the opening of a two-day validation workshop organised by the Internal Audit Agency and the Audit Service on the guidelines of the roles and responsibilities of Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICs) to enable them to function effectively.       
Among those present at the workshop were the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Mr Sallas Mensah, Chief Directors and Heads of Institutions as well as internal and external auditors.    
Mr Dua Agyeman expressed regret that a section of the public and the media had put political flavour on the proceedings and had therefore missed its import.
He said the actual persons responsible for answering to the queries raised in the Auditor General's reports were the public servants of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
 He said they should be mindful of their duties as the operating officers of the public funds and should be accountable for any of their misdeeds.     Touching on the roles and responsibilities of ARICs, Mr Dua Agyeman noted that ARICVs were to study audit reports and recommendations arising from audit findings, monitor and ensure that management took action to implement the audit recommendations.
'In effect, the work of ARICs is meant to improve good governance practices and ensure the existence of robust internal assurance mechanisms in public sector institutions, with special emphasis on financial management.'     He said ARICs were supposed to have come into being about seven years ago after the passage of the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584) and that section 30 (1) of the Act required MDAs and all institutions subject to audit by the Auditor-General to set up ARICs.
Mr Agyeman said though section 16 (8) of the Internal Audit Agency Act 2003 (Act 658) reinforces that requirement, many years down the line only a few institutions had established functioning ARICs.    He said these may be due to the absence of very clear and precise guidelines on the membership and their operations and urged participants to take a cue from countries like the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada, which had established such committees.
He said members must detach themselves from the day-to-day operations of an entity and focus dispassionately on strategy and risk management.  Mr Sallas Mensah, Chairman of the PAC called on the Chief Justice to empanel the members of the Financial Administration Tribunals to complete the accountability cycle of the public financial management of the country as required by section 66 of the Financial Administration Act (Act 654) of 2003.
He said parliament, through the PAC placed great reliance on audit reports, especially the Auditor General's report to form opinions and assure itself on whether approved funds had been used for intended purposes.
Mr Mensah congratulated the Audit Service and the Internal Audit Agency for organising the validation workshop, adding that they would serve as efficient means to implement the recommendations of auditors.
Mr Patrick Nomo, Director General of the Internal Audit Agency called for a close co-operation between the auditor and the ARICs to improve auditing in the public sector.   He said the current guidelines on the composition, roles and responsibilities of ARICs were prepared and circulated to the various MDAs
and MMDAs in October 2006.
 The workshop would enable the collation of participant's views, comments and suggestions to enhance the quality of the document for implementation.