Go For GH¢5bn Stolen Cash -Supreme Court Says
The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Auditor General (AG) to chase all public officers, who have been cited for misappropriating monies belonging to the state and surcharge them.
The court's decision to get the AG to enforce its laws in order to protect the public purse had stemmed from a suit filed by pressure group OccupyGhana, which is currently at the forefront in the fight against corruption.
The supposed looted money is said to be over GH¢5 billion, mostly siphoned through dubious transactions like what happened at SADA, GYEEDA, the Woyome judgement debt, among others.
A seven-member Supreme Court panel presided over by Justice Sophia Akuffo – who is awaiting parliamentary vetting to become the next Chief Justice – granted all the reliefs sought by OccupyGhana in respect of the Auditor General’s powers of disallowance and surcharges.
On June 22, 2016, OccupyGhana filed the suit against the AG seeking a declaration that “the Auditor General's omission, failure, refusal or neglect to issue any Disallowances and Surcharges in respect of the above, and as appears in his successive Reports since the coming into force of the Constitution, violates the Constitution.”
The pressure group also sought an order of the court “directed at the Auditor General to issue Disallowances and Surcharges to and in respect of all persons and entities found in his relevant, successive reports to have engaged in any of the above.”
“The Auditor General must issue Disallowance and Surcharge in respect of all state monies found to have been expended contrary to law,” it averred.
The group prayed the court that“the Auditor General must take steps to recover all amounts lost to the state, and this covers private persons. The Attorney General must ensure enforcement of the orders, including criminal prosecution where necessary.”
According to the group, over GH¢40 billion has been lost due to 'irregularities' of public officials.
It noted that a thorough study of the Auditor General Report revealed that between 2003 and 2014, the total losses the state incurred in “irregularities” arising from Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies was about GH¢2,448,968,912.29.
“This is alarming more so when we discovered further that for just the four years, 2009 and 2012 to 2014, amounts lost to Ghana from 'irregularities' in public boards, corporations and other statutory institutions was Five Billion, Seventy-Two Million, Six Hundred and Eighty-Six Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixteen Ghana Cedis (GH¢5,072,686,716),” OccupyGhana observed.
“From our projections, since the promulgation of the Constitution, the total losses to Ghana arising from 'irregularities' in public offices, central and local government administration, public institutions, public corporations and statutory bodies, possibly exceeds Forty Billion Ghana Cedis (GH¢40,000,000,000),” the statement added.
Before the court action, the pressure group had said it wrote to the Auditor General in 2014, reminding it to surcharge all those indicted in his respective reports or face the group in court.
Without getting any positive response after about two years, the group issued a statement, saying, “In November 2014, OccupyGhana wrote a letter, reminding him – the Auditor General – of his powers of Disallowance and Surcharge under the Constitution, demanding that he exercises them.
“Subsequently, we engaged several times with the Auditor General, with a view to assisting in putting in place the structures upon which he would exercise those powers.
“Regrettably, after a dozen letters and exchanges, and one publicized meeting on 27th March, 2015, the Auditor General has not taken any steps to exercise those powers which would lead to the recovery of huge sums of money for the State.
“That the Auditor General's omission, failure, refusal or neglect to issue any Disallowances and Surcharges in respect of the above, and as appears in his successive Reports since the coming into force of the Constitution, violates the Constitution,” OccupyGhana stressed.
By William Yaw Owusu