A special account at the Bank of Ghana (BoG) belonging to the Auditor-General to receive disallowed unearned salaries and allowances has accrued more than GH¢11.52 million as of the end of last month.
Of the amount, GH¢10 million from the account, known as the ‘Auditor-General’s Recoveries Account,’ set up in June last year, has been transferred into the Consolidated Fund.
The money is part of expenditure disallowances with regard to unearned salaries and other recoveries reported to Parliament through different Auditors-General reports.
The Auditor-General, Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, who made this known to the Daily Graphic in an exclusive interview in Accra, stated that the specialised account was established purposely to safeguard the public purse by tracking in real-time the progress of recoveries made through expenditure disallowances.
He explained that the account was also opened at the central bank mainly to receive the unearned salaries and allowances recovered.
“The specialised account we set up to receive unearned salaries and other recoveries has yielded GH¢11.52 million in just a year.
Consequently, GH¢10 million has been transferred from the account into the Consolidated Fund,” he said.
Until June last year, the Auditor-General’s recommendations for recoveries of unearned salaries had always been directed into the Controller and Accountant-General’s Suspense Account (CAGSA).
However, the CAGSA could not provide real-time information on those recoveries, making efforts of enforcing the rules on surcharging and disallowances appear to be yielding less positive result.
“It is in the light of this that the Auditor-General’s Recoveries Account was opened to track and report on recoveries made in implementing audit recommendations with regard to unearned salaries and allowances,” Mr Asiedu said.
Issues on infractions
Mr Asiedu observed that every year, the Auditors-General reports to Parliament were replete with issues of infractions in the use of public funds.
He explained that article 187(7)(b) of the 1992 Constitution provided that in the performance of its functions, the Auditor-General might disallow any item of expenditure which was contrary to law and surcharge the amount of any expenditure disallowed upon the person responsible for incurring or authorising the expenditure.
Mr Asiedu added that the enforcement of the law had not been without challenges because in the expectation of the public, all amounts reported in the Auditor-General’s reports should necessarily be recovered to the state and the persons involved surcharged.
He said so far, some surcharges had been successful while the majority of them were yet to yield the expected results.
Differentiating disallowances from surcharges, the Auditor-General stated that disallowance of expenditure normally led to the Auditor-General recommending recovery from individuals, public officers and institutions who committed infractions.
An example was found under paragraph five of the Special Audit Report on Disallowance and Surcharge as at November 30, 2018, and issued on December 19, 2018, in which the Audit Service recovered GH¢67.32 million from public officers, individuals and institutions that committed financial infractions in the course of performing their duties, Mr Asiedu said.
He said it was through the same process of disallowing expenditure contrary to law that the service recovered over GH¢2.2 billion between 2017 and 2020.
He noted that surcharges, on the other hand, often ended up in court.
“Any audit infraction that has the potential of surcharge is flagged and subjected to a thorough forensic examination to gather evidence that may be admissible by the courts.
“Thereafter, a notice of intention to surcharge is issued to the affected person and the person is given 14 days to respond.
On the expiration of the 14 days, if the person is unable to respond satisfactorily, a surcharge certificate is issued, and the person is again given 60 days to challenge the certificate,” Mr Asiedu explained.
He said after the expiration of the 60 days, the case was then forwarded to the Attorney-General for prosecution.
“If within the periods, the affected person is able to provide sufficient, appropriate and satisfactory evidence to the Auditor-General, the intention to surcharge and the surcharge certificate, as the case may be, becomes irrelevant for purposes of further lawsuit,” he added.
The Auditor-General reiterated the resolve of his office to continue to train staff of the service in gathering audit evidence that would be acceptable by the courts to enable more recoveries.
Mr Asiedu said that other avenues had also been adopted to retrieve all recoverable disallowed expenditure, including unearned salaries and unearned allowances.
He said all other recoveries were made to the audited entities and the Ghana Revenue Authority as recommended in the various A-G’s reports.
Mr Asiedu indicated that his office on June 27, this year furnished Parliament with 15 audit reports for the 2022 financial year in compliance with the constitutional requirement.
He commended the government and the Ministry of Finance for the timely release of funds to the service to enable it to fulfil its mandate.
“The service will continue to perform its functions to promote good governance, transparency, accountability and probity in the country’s public financial management system,” the Auditor-General stated.