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07.08.2003 General News

Auditor-General's ¢75 million Salary Advance

By Palaver
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In our issue of last Friday, we raised issue with the propriety of the Minister of Finance Yaw Osafo-Maafo advancing the hefty amount of ¢75 million to Mr. Eddie Dua Agyeman, the over-age Auditor-General, and submitted that this is being held as a blackmail weapon over his head and explains why he has to do the bidding of the NPP Government, putting the Department into ridicule and contempt in the process.

Since the story, our office has been inundated with callers raising issues with other aspects of the story that they claim our story was silent on.

One caller who claimed to be calling from the Controller and Accountant-General's Department said that there were rules and regulations in the civil service regarding salary advances, and that a civil servant is not entitled to more than one month's salary advance.

“How much does the Auditor-General earn to have entitled him to as much as ¢75 million salary advance,” he asked. “For granting the advance and for receiving same, both the Minister of Finance and the Auditor-General have 'wilfully caused financial loss to the State”, he added.

The same caller also claimed that he knows the Auditor-General does not earn more than ¢5 million a month. A hefty salary advance of ¢75 million meant that the Auditor-General was granted more than one year's salary advance, a very serious infraction of the regulations for which somebody must answer.

Another caller, this time from the Internal Revenue Service, took the matter from the tax angle. According to him, if the Auditor-General had been receiving his normal monthly salaries, he would have been paying monthly income taxes on them, so did Mr. Eddie Agyeman pay income tax on the ¢75 million?

The caller went further to say that receiving a lump sum of ¢75 million is not the same as receiving monthly salaries of ¢5 million per month because it moves you to a higher tax bracket.

If the Auditor-General did pay tax on the amount at all, was it at the higher tax rate or was it at the normal monthly PAYE rate.

The next caller raised the issue on interest. Since the Auditor-General collected ¢75 million of the taxpayers' money at a time he was not entitled to it and for an unspecified period of time, interest should have been calculated and added to the amount, which was to be considered as the principal.

Was this done, and if so, what was the interest rate used? Another caller was interested in repayment. Has the Auditor-General repaid or is he repaying the advance? What were the repayment arrangements and have they been complied with?

A staff of the Ministry of Finance was indignant and categorical that such use of the 'Adjustment to Personal Emoluments Account' (Account Number 370.000.000-110-000) is a flagrant abuse of the Financial Administration Decree and the Financial Administration Regulations for which appropriate sanctions must be invoked against the Minister of Finance.

He added that it was wrong for the Minister of Finance to invoke 'current practice' as the reason for instructing the Controller and Accountant General to settle the residential utility bills of the Auditor-General.

“The thing to look for is his conditions of service. Does his letter of appointment entitle him to a settlement of his residential bills? If yes, then fine, otherwise he is not entitled, 'current practice' notwithstanding”, the Ministry of Finance staff concluded. Another caller was interested in the morality issue.

“Is it moral for the person who is constitutionally mandated to watch over Government expenditure from the national kitty to place himself in a situation that could so easily compromise the independence of his Office as Eddie Agyeman appears to have done?”

All the callers, and others who came to our office to talk to us on the issue were agreed on one point - that this is a matter for the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to investigate.

The ball appears therefore to be in the court of Hon. Alban Bagbin, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

As somebody was wont to say, 'eyes are looking'.

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