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22.10.2003 General News

African Election Authority challenges authority of Auditor-General

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Accra, Oct. 22, GNA - The Association of African Election Authority (AAEA) on Wednesday challenged the authority of the Auditor-General (AG) of Ghana to initiate investigations into its dollar accounts.

The Executive Secretary of AAEA, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan also questioned the principle under which the AG audited the accounts of the Electoral Commission (EC) from 1997 to 2001 to include the AAEA Account.

Dr Afari-Gyan accused Opoku, Andoh and Company, an audit firm appointed by the Auditor-General, of collecting information on the AAEA finances from the Secretariat in his absence and based on the information, ordered him to account for certain withdrawals from the AAEA Account.

The AAEA Executive Secretary, who was responding to reports in "The Statesman" newspaper of October 17, 2003, said: "When I received the letter I felt that the auditing firm was going beyond its authority."

He said: "The Auditor-General appointed Opoku, Andoh and Co to audit the accounts of the EC for 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. If any adverse findings have been made against anybody, or me it is only fair for him to let Ghanaians know because it is their money that we use for our activities.

"On the other hand, AAEA money is not Ghana money. I am answerable for the operations of the AAEA Account yearly to the AAEA Advisory Board and every three years to the General Assembly."

He explained that based on the accusation of an alleged financial malfeasance levelled against the EC Management, the Ministry of Finance ordered the Auditor-General to investigate the financial operations of the Commission from 1997 to 2001.

Dr Afari-Gyan, who is the Chairman of Ghana's Electoral Commission, said the International Foundation for Election System (IFES) in 1995, invited Ghana to assist the Electoral Commission of Malawi to do its voters' registration.

It was observed that the Malawians did not have enough materials for the exercise, Ghana was, therefore, asked to assist with 500 flashes, 500 cameras, 462 tripods and 414 die cutters at a fee of 56,750 dollars.

After completing the exercise, Malawi returned the items minus some of the accessories - 3 flashes, one tripod and 24 die cutters.

Dr Afari-Gyan said the Malawians lodged 56,750 dollars with IFES, which was put into an escrow account belonging to AAEA because the Controller and Accountant General refused to open a foreign exchange account for the EC.

He said by the time IFES transferred the money to Ghana it had gone up to 57,975 dollars as a result of interest earned. This money is safely lodged in that account and this could be verified.

The EC Chairman expressed disgust about the distortions of the facts by the Auditor-General on the 56,750 dollars, which warranted unwanted attack on his personality and integrity of the Commission.

He said the Commission had through a written statement explained explicitly queries by the Auditor-General on the existence of the dollar account, its signatories and location.

"Sometime after this exchange of letters, at a meeting in his office, the Auditor-General verbally told me (Dr Afari-Gyan) in the presence of Mr Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka, Deputy Chairman (Operations) that he wanted to be given access to the AAEA Account to satisfy himself that the money was in there.

"In good faith, in a letter to the Bank dated February 7, 2003, we gave the Auditor-General access to the account", Dr Afari-Djan said.

Mr Edward Dua Agyeman, Auditor-General, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra confirm the lodgement of the EC money in the AAEA accounts, stressing that once State money had been lodged in a private account it was the responsibility of the AG to investigates it.

He denied leaking information on the EC Audit report to the media, saying that no such report existed since he had not completed work, adding that the time he gave to the EC to answer a query expired on Tuesday, October 21, 2003.

He explained that the content of "The Statesman's" story emanated from a letter he sent to Dr Afari-Gyan and the leakage could have been from the EC since the initial letter that prompted the investigation originated from there.

He said EC and other governance institutions were given special confidentiality because of their nature, "letters to them do not pass through the normal registry," he added.

The Auditor-General declined to make any further comments saying that he would present his report to the Government after he had completed the work.

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