The board of the Audit Service has referred an audit report that details alleged discrepancies in foreign travels of the Auditor General, Mr. Daniel Yaw Domelevo, and his six deputies to the Audit Committee.
Reports indicate that, an emergency meeting was held on Monday, where the board decided to refer the report to the Audit Committee for action, in accordance with the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921).
According to Section 88 (1) (a) of Act 921, it is mandated of the Audit Committee to ensure that, its head, the Auditor General, “pursues the implementation of any recommendation contained” in an audit report.
In addition, Section 88 (1) (a) of Act 921 mandates the Audit Committee to issue a statement indicating the “remedial action taken or proposed to be taken to avoid or minimize the recurrence of an undesirable feature in the accounts and operations of a covered entity”.
The report, which is dated 30th October, 2020 revealed that the the Auditor General and his deputies spent GH¢3.3 million on 117 foreign travels from January 1, 2017 to June 30, this year, during which they spent 1,291 days out of the country.
The six Deputy Auditor Generals named in the report are Messrs Johnson Asiedu Akuamoah, George Swanzy Afful, Blessed Baffour Atta, Benjamin Cudjoe, Ali Mohammed Zachara and Ms Roberta Assiamah-Appiah.
The audit was conducted by K&A Accounting Services, a private firm appointed by the board.
Further documents show that the board commissioned the audit due to what it said were the failure of the Auditor General and his deputies to produce reports to the board about their “many official travels”, adding that they also had “nothing to show for such travels”.
It must be noted that Mr Domelevo has challenged the mandate of the board to appoint a private firm to conduct the audit.
He has insisted that the move is in violation of Article 187 (15) of the 1992 Constitution, which makes Parliament the sole body to appoint an auditor to examine “the accounts of the Office of the Auditor-General”.
Among some of the findings of the report are that some of the travels were allegedly for personal reasons, failure to fully retire accountable imprests, absence of a written policy on foreign travels and failure to submit reports on foreign travels, as directed by the board.
On the issue of travelling for personal reasons, the report cited a trip Mr Domelevo took to Malawi from January 24 to 28, 2017.
“The travel to Malawi, from the records available, was to enable Mr Domelevo to hand over a house in Lilonwe, sell a car and a few items and ship the rest to Ghana on his appointment as the Auditor General.
“This was a five-day trip to Malawi, which cost GH¢18,427 in air travel, hotels and per diem of $930, fully funded by the Audit Service. The appointment letter of the Auditor-General, Mr Domelevo, was not available to enable us to confirm the legitimacy of the payments,” it said.
The report also cited a trip by Mr Domelovo and Mr Winful to London and The Hague from March 31 to April 15, 2018, which was termed a “familiarisation and exploratory visit” and which cost $25,770.30.
It said in a response to that particular trip, Mr Winful said it was to help management understand the operations of foreign missions for the “purpose of developing strategic audit plans and managing the audits appropriately”.
To resolve the issue of personal travels funded by the taxpayer, the report recommended that the Audit Service Board come up with policy guidelines that clearly defined foreign travels and ensured that “personal travels by management staff are not funded by the Audit Service”.
As part of its recommendations, the report said the Audit Service Board must ensure that the Auditor-General took action to correct the internal weaknesses of the service with regard to foreign travels.
“Additionally, the Audit Service Board should regulate management foreign travels with an approved policy to enable the service to obtain value for money on the trips, as some of the travels generate revenue for the service,” it added.
Domelevo challenges audit
In a letter to the Chairman of the Audit Service Board, Professor Edward Dua Agyeman, dated September 28, 2020, Mr Domelevo had said Article 189 of the 1992 Constitution, which establishes the Audit Service Board, did not give the board the power to commission audits into the activities of the office.
“Consequently, the accounting firm so appointed lacks the mandate to audit, review or examine documents and or records relating to the accounts of the Office of the Auditor-General,” he said.
Apart from the 1992 Constitution, the Auditor-General further said the move by the board violated statutes such as the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584), the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) and the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663).
“I have no difficulty if auditors are appointed (at any time), in accordance with the Constitution, to audit the accounts of the Office of the Auditor-General. It is of utmost importance that we obey the laws of this country and I will ensure compliance at all times,” he added.
The Audit Service Board disagreed with the Auditor-General’s position and said it had the power, under Article 189 (3) of the 1992 Constitution and Section 8 of the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584), to appoint a consultant to do such work as part of its mandate to “ensure the efficient discharge of the duties of the service”.
In response to Mr Domelevo’s letter, Prof. Dua Agyeman said it was the duty of the board to ensure accountability of all funds entrusted to the Audit Service.