Since the Bureau of National Investigation’s investigation revealed that financial malpractices are going on at the National Service Scheme, there have been calls for the government to audit the public sector payroll.
Hon. Paapa Owusu-Ankomah, member of Parliament for Sekondi, has called on the government to “as a matter of urgency, investigate the public sector payroll to rid it of any malfeasance”.
The audit of public accounts is the responsibility of the Auditor-General. Article 187 clause (2) of the 1992 Constitution provides that the public accounts of Ghana and of all public offices, including the courts, the central and local government administrations, of the universities and public institutions of like nature, of any public corporation or other body or organisation established by an Act of Parliament shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor-General. This function has been well performed by the past and present Auditors-General.
Recent reports of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana have shown that there are financial malpractices in the public sector. The report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana for the year ended 31st December, 2006, for example, found major breakdown of controls over tax administration, cash management, procurement and payroll. The report revealed that there was a total of Gh˘279,771.8 million in cash irregularities, payroll overpayments, and stores and procurement irregularities.
The report of the Auditor-General on the public accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) for the year ended 31st December, 2011 disclosed massive discrepancies and financial malpractices in the public accounts.
These common and recurring problems which run through the reports of the Auditor-General from year to year have not been effectively addressed by the executive. The Auditor-General presents these reports to Parliament as required by law, Parliament deliberates on them and often the press gives them the needed publicity and that is where they end. The culprits are not prosecuted, no efforts are made to recover the funds from them and in the end they remain in their posts in the same public service.
These corrupt practices exist in the public accounts because the public accounts are not audited as regularly and as often as required. One reason for the late and irregular audit is lack of sufficient funds. Quite recently it was reported that the Auditor-General has not been given the funds required to audit the public accounts. What that means is that the audit of pubic accounts is going to remain in arrears.
In the year 2001 the Auditor-General discovered that the audit of public accounts has been in arrears for periods up to seven years in some instances. This state of affairs led to non-disclosure of irregularities and financial malpractices. For example in 2002 the Auditor-General discovered massive payroll fraud in the public sector, just as the Bureau of National Investigations has discovered. Part of the reasons was that there had been delays in the audit of the publicunds for the period 1996 to 2000. The Auditor-General was under resourced and faced massive budget cuts.
If the government is serious in its efforts to combat corruption then the Auditor-General should be given all the resources he needs to be able to perform his duties. Regular and effective audit of the public accounts will certainly reduce the incidence of financial malpractices and ensure that the controls put in place are working.
Source: The New Crusading Guide
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