Business General

A whopping GH¢12.8bn of public funds lost to Irregularities – A-G

The 2020 auditor-general’s report has uncovered that as of the time of compiling its report, total irregularities for the period stood at GH¢12,856,172,626, which included US$918,285,771.95 converted into cedis at the prevailing exchange rate of GH¢5.7602 to the US$1 as of 31 December 2020, €647,815.00 converted into Cedis at the prevailing exchange rate of GH¢7.0643 to €1 as of 31 December 2020 and £464,963.13 converted into Cedis at the prevailing exchange rate of GH¢7.8742 to £1 as of 31 December 2020.

It said the total irregularities figure of GH¢718,085,208 for 2016 increased to GH¢12,002,880,339 in 2017.

The irregularities declined by GH¢8,995,621,415 in 2018 to GH¢3,007,258,924.

However, the total irregularities increased by 81.8% from the 2018 figure of GH¢3,007,258,924 to GH¢5,468,398,431 in 2019.

During the period ending 31 December 2020, the total irregularities recorded a 135% or GH¢7,387,774,195 rise from GH¢5,468,334,006 in 2019 total irregularities figure to GH¢12,856,172,626 in 2020.

This, according to the report, was occasioned mainly by a surge of GH¢5,207,442,576 or 107% in outstanding debtors/loans/recoverable component of the total irregularities for the period ending 31 December 2020.

Outstanding Debts/ Loans Recoverable – GH¢10,067,170,560 7.

These irregularities represent trade debtors, staff debtors and outstanding loans. Included in this figure is an amount of GH¢5,487,969,144.11 due from customers for power supplies in respect of Forex Power Sales, Local Power Sales, Mines Power Sales, Other Local Power Sales, Government MDA’s Power Sales, and other Power Related Recoverables as at 31 December 2019.

Absence of effective debt collection policies, non-existence of credit controls to recover the debts and Management’s indifferent posture toward loan recovery contributed significantly to these anomalous conditions, the report said.

Also, it noted, improper maintenance of records on debtors, the absence of debtors’ ageing analyses, non-documentation of agreements stipulating the terms and conditions of loans, failure to ensure that loans are repaid and Management’s non-compliance with rules and regulations accounted for these irregularities.

The auditor-general said: “I recommended that Management of Public Boards, Corporations and other Statutory Institutions should strictly adhere to rules and regulations with regards to debts management. They should also put in place proper policies for the management of loans and other receivables as well as ensuring that loans and debts are repaid on due dates to avoid or minimise the occurrence of bad debts”.

Cash Irregularities – GH¢1,802,692,515 9.

Cash irregularities related to the misapplication of funds, nonretirement of imprest, payments not authenticated, payment of Board Allowances to Council Members without Ministerial approval, cash locked up in non-performing investments.

Out of the total figure of GH¢1,802,692,515 cash irregularities, GH¢442,730,876.74 represented cash locked up in non-performing investment by SSNIT.

These occurred as a result of poor oversight responsibility and nonexistent controls, the report said, adding: “Other contributory factors were finance officers’ failure to properly file and keep records, Management’s failure to ensure the security and safety of vital documents, non-maintenance of returned cheque registers, Management’s inertia in complying with procedures stipulated in the Public Financial Management Act, and poor accounting systems”.

The auditor-general, therefore, urged the Managements of the Public Boards, Corporations and other statutory institutions to strengthen supervisory controls over their finance officers, and ensure that they adhere to the provisions of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921).

“I also recommended the authentication of all payment vouchers, prompt payment to the bank and full retirement of accountable imprest on due dates”.

Payroll Irregularities – GH¢9,574,765

These lapses, according to the report, were caused by the failure of Management to exercise due diligence and the laxity of officers in charge of payroll validation in reviewing payment vouchers to ensure salaries were paid to only those who were entitled as well as payroll related irregularities.

They were also caused by Management’s failure to notify banks to stop the payment of unearned salaries, it noted.

The Controller and Accountant General’s Department also did not promptly delete names of separated staff when notified to do so. In other instances, Management also did not transfer statutory deductions in respect of SSF contribution. Contained in the total irregularity of GH¢9,574,765 is an amount of GH¢4,168,263 attributed to Ghana Railway Company Limited in respect of outstanding 1st and 2nd tier pensions contribution due from Management of Ghana Railway Company Limited to SSNIT and other pension scheme managers.

“I advised the Management Teams of the affected Institutions to promptly notify the bankers of the separated staff to withhold and pay to Government chest all unearned salaries. I also recommended that officers in charge of payroll should exercise due care in the discharge of their duties as well as ensuring that 1st and 2nd tier contributions for their employees are promptly and regularly transferred to the various pension schemes”, the auditor-general said.

Procurement Irregularities – GH¢846,134,269

These irregularities occurred as a result of Managements’ non-compliance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2003, (Act 663). Out of the total irregularities, US$39,000,000.00 (GH¢224,647,800) represented award of contract without following due processes by Management of Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST), the report said.

“I once again recommended that Managements of the various Institutions should undertake procurement transactions strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act as amended”.

Tax Irregularities – GH¢29,201,677

The Tax irregularities related to failure to pay statutory tax deductions on due dates, and non-deduction of applicable taxes. They also related to transacting business with non-VAT registered persons or entities. Out of the total tax irregularities of GH¢29,201,677,] an amount of GH¢12,449,542 is attributed to Architectural and Engineering Services Limited (AESL) for unremitted P.A.Y.E and VAT deducted.

“I recommended that the Finance Officers should strictly adhere to the tax laws to ensure that all tax revenues are promptly collected and paid to the applicable revenue agencies”, the auditor-general said.

Stores Irregularities – GH¢11,591,519

These irregularities, per the report, include non-documentation of store items, lack of awareness of officers assigned to store duties and inadequate supervision. Included in the sum of GH¢11,591,519 is an amount of GH¢11,581,019 worth of electrical materials that were given out on loan to eight (8) beneficiary Companies. These materials were issued out between 2014 and 2018 without any specific terms of agreement.

“I recommended the strengthening of controls over store management and accounting, and also recommended strict adherence to Rules and Regulations that govern the effectual conduct of public financial business”, the auditor-general said.

Contract Irregularities – GH¢89,807,321

These mainly relate to delay in construction projects in the various Public Boards, Corporation and other statutory institutions.

The auditor-general, therefore, “urged Managements to strengthen controls over contracts and ensure that funds are available in order to engender speedy completion of earmarked projects”.

Audit Opinion

The financial statements submitted for validation presented financial information in accordance with applicable statutory provisions, and my office was satisfied in all material respect that the financial statements complied with stated accounting policies of the government and is in accordance with generally accepted accounting standards and essentially consistent with that of the preceding year.

In my opinion all the financial statements presented a true and fair view of the financial positions as of 31 December 2020, and financial performance of the organisations for the period ended 31 December 2020 except the Institute of Local Government Studies and General Legal Council who had a qualified opinion expressed on their financial statements.

Accounts Submission

All the audited entities presented their financial statements for audit except National Communications Authority, Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST), Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (INSTI) and Du-Bois Centre who did not submit their financial statements for audit during the time of our reviews and as such my office could not form an opinion on the financial statements of these four institutions. However, in the case of Ghana Technical Training Centre (GTTC) my office could not express opinion on its financial statements because they were submitted late.

Conclusion

As part of the processes of good governance, I urged the appointing Authorities to ensure that Board of Directors are constituted promptly for organisations having none. The absence of Governing Boards tends to delay the signing of the financial statements resulting in avoidable delays.

The operational results and financial positions of the Public Corporations and other Statutory Institutions during the period under review, could have been healthier if there had been effective supervision of schedule officers.

I reiterated my advice to Managements to strengthen their Internal Audit Units to ensure effective and efficient internal control systems.

I also recommended that Managements should establish and strengthen the Audit Committees within the organisations in accordance with Sections 86 to 88 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) to ensure that audit recommendations are duly implemented.

Source: classfmonline.com

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