The preparation of an audit report by PriceWaterhouse Coopers on the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) has been described by the Auditor-General as a violation of the supreme law of Ghana.
Commenting on the report, which was the subject for discussion at a press conference organised by the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) in Accra last week, Mr Edward Dua-Agyemang noted that any audit of public accounts which was not authorised by the Auditor-General was a violation of the Constitution, the Financial Administration Act and the Audit Service Act.
He explained that no independent auditor had the mandate to audit public accounts and report on it directly to Parliament.
Article 187 (2) of the Constitution provides that the public accounts of Ghana and all public offices, including the courts, the central and local government administrations, among other institutions, established by acts of Parliament shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor-General, while the Financial Administration Act, Act 654, provides that money received by or on behalf of the government for a special purpose and paid into the Consolidated Fund may be General.
“If it pretends not to be aware, then that is a reason it is incapable of conducting the GSFP audit,” Mr Dua-Agyemang stated.
"In respect of the GSFP the appointment of the independent auditors, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, was not made known to the Auditor-General. The only time the Auditor-General became aware of the audit report of the GSFP issued by PriceWaterhouse Coopers was through the press conference by the CJA," he noted.
Citing the audit report prepared by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, the CJA accused authorities of the GSFP of serious breaches in procurement procedures, imprests that had not been accounted for and monies supposed to have been transferred to some districts, inappropriate award of contracts and forged signatures.
The CJA said the audit was authorised by the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment and the report presented to the sector Minister, Mr Kwadwo AdjeiDarko, in November 2007.
But Mr Dua-Agyemang said up till now he did not know who appointed PriceWaterhouse Coopers to audit the GSFP as the independent auditor and that the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment had not made a copy of the appointment letter available to him.
He recalled that a Deputy Minister at the ministry, Mr Kofi Poku Adusei, in a letter dated April 19, 2007, had written to inform him that the Royal Netherlands Government required an independent audit of the GSFP.
He said the letter notified him that four audit firms PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Ernest & Young, KPMG and James Quagraine & Co - had been shortlisted and, therefore, sought his approval or otherwise to enable the ministry to submit the technical and financial proposals for consideration.
Mr Dua-Agyemang said he, in a letter dated April 30, 2007, had informed the minister that he had already started making preparations to audit the GSFP.
He said it was explained to the minister that the shortlisted firms did not have the staff numbers and office network to enable them to audit the GSFP thoroughly and in its entirety.
"The Auditor-General stated further that it was only the Audit Service which had the network and staff numbers to undertake an audit of this magnitude involving 975 schools in every district of the country," he explained.
Mr Dua-Agyemang said he was, therefore, unable to recommend any of the independent audit firms in the country to undertake the GSFP audit due to their staff constraints, limited operational network, the widespread nature of the allegations which had been made in respect of the programme, the remote and pervasive location of the primary schools, among others.
According to him, he had indicated that in view of the' financial support from The Netherlands government, he was ever ready to discuss with the ministry in order to reach a consensus which might be acceptable to The Netherlands government.
"The Auditor-General did not receive any further correspondence from the ministry or any other source on the matter," he lamented.
Mr Dua-Agyemang said it had also come to his knowledge that the audit report upon which the CJA issued its press statement was dated November 2007, which had been established to be a draft report.
He said he had just received the final report of the audit dated March 2008 and was studying the findings and recommendations.
Mr Dua-Agyemang .aid he would direct his district and regional auditors throughout the country to review the report in its entirety and submit their findings and recommendations on it to him to enable him to report on it to Parliament, as mandated by the 1992 Constitution.
He said he was, therefore, unable to comment on the findings and recommendations contained in the PriceWaterhouse Coopers report on the GSFP until the nation-wide review exercise.