Financial irregularities in five ministries between 2009 and 2011 cost the nation GH¢246.5 million, according to an abridged version of the findings of the Auditor-General’s Report published by Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the anti-corruption organisation.
These “irregularities” described in the report include poor cash management practices, non-collection of outstanding debts, procurement and contract irregularities, payments not supported by appropriate documentation, stores irregularities, misappropriation of cash, payments of unearned salaries, payroll irregularities, and major breakdown of controls over tax administration.
The report, titled “Show Me the Money”, reviewed the Auditor-General’s Report of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Sports, and Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Department.
It shows the deep-seated, systemic nature of financial mismanagement in the country, and the failure of authorities to act to stem or punish what sometimes appears to be plain stealing, but has been given the label of “financial irregularities”.
The report calculated the total amount of “financial irregularities”in the Ministry of Finance to be GH¢11.9million, GH¢80.7million, and GH¢54.6 million in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively.
At the Ministry of Education, financial irregularities amounted to GH¢717,029, GH¢2million and GH¢3.3million within the same period.
The recurring financial irregularities at the Ministry of Youth and Sports were tax irregularities, petty cash not accounted for, and unpaid staff advances. These irregularities amounted to GH¢14,037, GH¢1.2million and GH¢278,733 in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
At the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Department, total irregularities uncovered amounted to GH¢48,469 in 2010, and GH¢16.3million and US$65,929 in 2011. There were no adverse audit findings in 2009.
According to GII’s report, which was presented by Mr. Albert Kan-Dapaah, the consultant for the project, the objective of the report to ascertain the extent to which audit findings and recommendations have been implemented.
However, beyond verbal assurances from key officials that action had been taken,the report’s authors could not be establish or verify whether the audit findings had truly been acted upon.
“It is not the normal practice of the Auditor-General to ascertain whether action has been taken on their audit recommendations of the previous year. The Auditor-General, therefore, does not have any record on actions taken,” the report’s authors said.
“At the same time, the ministries were reluctant to allow access to their books and records by the public,” they added.
Mr. Kan-Dapaah, a former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, said in his presentation that audit findings must be acted upon, otherwise the whole audit assignment is rendered useless.He also said the responsibility to ensure that actions are taken and sanctions applied as necessary is placed on the Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICs).
The creation of ARICs is mandated by section 30 of the Audit Service Act 2000 (Act584), which provides that bodies and organisations which are subject to audit by the Auditor-General must establish an ARIC.
According to Mr. Kan-Dapaah, the ministries studied generally did not attach particular importance to the role of the ARICs between 2009 and 2011, although frantic efforts were being made in the last year to establish the ARICs and ensure their efficacy.
The report revealed that in all the three years that were examined, the five ministries did not comply with the statutory financial reporting requirements demanded by the Financial Administration Act, 2003, compelling the Auditor-General to restrict himself to an audit of transactions of the MDAs, as opposed to an audit of their financial statements.
The report therefore called on government to take steps to compel the MDAs to comply with this requirements, as the current practice limits the scope of the audit as is envisaged by the law.