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15.06.2017 Feature Article

Auditor Genera Is Now L Armed: The Public Purse Drips By The Day, As Looters Dip Their Long Hands Into The Kitty

... Is this the real deal? And would the Auditor General be able to crack the whip or live up to expectation?

The Auditor General’s Office can now bark and bite courtesy of the powers granted it yesterday by the Supreme Court of Ghana. Bark and bite, what does that mean?

It simply means the office can now retrieve all monies stolen from the state by public officials and also surcharge them. Hitherto, the Auditor General could only document cases of misapplication of public funds. Though that ammunition is in the 1992 constitution, the Auditor General’s Office had over the year’s failed to test its mettle or apply it.

Article 187 (7) (b) of the 1992 Constitution states that in the performance of his functions under this Constitution or any other law the Auditor-General -

(a) Shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority;

(b) May disallow any item of expenditure which is contrary to law and surcharge.

It was as though the apex court was telling the Auditor General’s Office to wean itself from feeding on the daily milk. It’s now time to eat bones and crack the whip. And I will urge the office to let l the wild dogs begin to bark and bite. It should also ensure that there will be no more room for fraud, pilfering, thievery and corruption.

Nobody could be happier than Daniel Domelovo the Auditor General, regarding the Wednesday’s remarkable ruling by the SC. He told the local media in Accra that he was elated as the decision reinforced his powers of disallowance and surcharge.

“This brings clarity to provisions of the 1992 Constitution which for several years have not been enforced. We have started implementing the constitutional provision,” he said.

The ruling as earlier indicated empowers the office to surcharge and retrieve monies embezzled by officials at the Ministries, Department and Agencies. It seems the old order is gone, the period that the office would hand over its final report to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) to decide on what to do. It is time for the Office to call the shot.

This is what Ghanaians have been expecting, making sure looters account for their loot and not let them off the hook. The citizenry would like to see government s give looters tougher punishments rather than rebuke them or give them a slap on the back of their hands.

Ever wondered what to do when an intruder breaks into your home?

Sometimes we have the guns inn our rooms but we lack the courage to shoot. Remember the intruder comes to steal, to destroy and to kill. One would expect the Auditor General to take his gun and do justice to it.

Interestingly the Auditor General knew about this retrieve and surcharge but for several years two powerful guns idled in his room. He couldn’t use them and never bothered to enforce them. And probably the result is what we have been reaping over the years. The looters saw the loopholes and they capitalised on them.

However, OccupyGhana a pressure group saw the absurdity in the entire process. The group saw the Auditor General’s Office as a toothless bulldog or lame duck. How could the office not bite? Why did it limit its function to only documenting cases of misappropriation of public funds and not put to use the power to retrieve and surcharge?

It was against this backdrop that the group filed a suit at the Supreme Court and asked it to remind the Auditor General of his duties of surcharge and disallowance as stipulated by law and to ensure that all public officers found to have embezzled public funds are surcharged and prosecuted where necessary.

On Wednesday 13, 2017, the court granted all the reliefs by Occupy Ghana and ordered the Auditor General to issue disallowance and surcharges in respect of all state monies found to have been expended contrary to law. The second relief granted by the Court was that the Auditor-General must take steps to recover all amounts lost to the state, and this covers private persons.

In a related development, the Attorney-General has been ordered to ensure enforcement of the orders including criminal prosecution where necessary.

To that I say kudos to OccupyGhana. Blessed are those who file law suits to stop corruption in Ghana. And now woe unto those who still think they will harvest where they haven’t sown, the wild dog has been given new teeth.

Reacting to the ruling a member of Occupy Ghana Ace Ankomah told Joy News in Accra that for once the power given to the Auditor General by the constitution, which has never been exercised will finally be exercised. He was hopeful the new Auditor General appointed in December 2016, as well as the Attorney General appointed in March 2017 will both execute the reliefs granted by the court.

An estimated GHc 5bn of taxpayer's money has lost through mismanagement by public officers. This was made known by Sydney Casely Hayford another member of the pressure group. According to him the judgement emboldens the Auditor-General to do more ‘than document the sins of public officers in his annual reports’.

“OccupyGhana will assist in this effort to identify persons who through mismanagement, negligence or corruption have caused public funds to go waste,” he said.

In 2014, the audit report revealed in 152 pages blood-cuddling stories of wastages and corruption. Some 43 district assemblies dissipated GH¢1 billion. And in last April, the Auditor-General submitted 13 reports to Parliament on public accounts for the year ended December 31, 2015. These yearly reports, according to the group are forwarded to Parliament's Public Accounts Committee where indicted public officers and managers are invited to explain themselves.

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
Gordon Offin-Amaniampong, © 2017

This author has authored 268 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: GordonOffinAmaniampong

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