Give priority to Risk Base Audit as a Nation : Dr. Eric Oduro Osae

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Stakeholders in a group photograph at the forum.
Stakeholders in a group photograph at the forum.

The Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Dr Eric Oduro Osae, has disclosed that the Agency is collaborating with the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), to prosecute three state institutions for misappropriating Covid-19 funds.

Dr. Oduro, said the Agency set up audit report review panels and started receiving internal audit reports from the internal auditors in 2021, with respect to the Covid-19 expenditure audit.

He was delivering the keynote address at a Public Forum organised by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and the Economic Governance Platform (EGP), on Tuesday March 1, 2022, in Accra.

Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Dr Eric Oduro Osae.
Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Dr Eric Oduro Osae

Dr. Eric Oduro Osae, strongly emphasized that, “some of the expenditure areas were revealing. Anywhere we have challenges we do a follow up. A team is sent to the field to go and validate.

Those we think have criminal consequences, we would work with EOCO to prosecute them. I’m not allowed to indicate what we are doing or the level of prosecution but I can assure you that at the moment, we are working with EOCO to prosecute three institutions.”

The Director-General of GAA, further indicated that, “As far as the Audit Agency is concerned, we continued to pursue to establish how total COVID-19 expenditure were spent, and then whether we’re getting value for money. The challenge when it comes to COVID expenditure is that, it is bothering on service delivery,…and any expenditure bothering on service delivery…..you can not use financial audit only to establish probability, you combine financial audit and performance audit.”

“The Internal Audit Agency in directing the internal Auditors across the country, the year 2022 risk base internal audit plans will direct that performance audit of all expenditure must be conducted and reports submitted to the Agency,” he stressed.

Another serious challenge Dr. Osae, underpinned was public sector internal audit being conventionally pre-auditing. Saying, “we realized that once the internal auditors passes it, it goes and they think it is a legitimate expenditure to be incurred. For a post audit to be conducted, it will be one year after. And we all know the nature of COVID! So what we are also doing at the internal auditor’s point of view, there’s a PFM requirement that every public sector institution should have an enterprise risk management system, so that the internal audit service must be risk based and not pre-auditing.”

In all these, he indicated the immediate findings are that, we need to use government or national systems anytime we face this pandemic challenges. Advising that, “Development partners financing outside government systems must stop. If you want to do it, please ensure that the government systems are involved. Because, it will help us to coordinate and properly track it. Parliament will be able to track it.

He further advised that “as a nation, we should give priority to risk base audit, for the continuous use of pre-auditing is not helping us. And also lay more emphases on performance audit and if possible, a good balance between performance audit and financial audit is key.”
The Chairman of the forum and Member of Parliament (MP) for Ketu North, Hon. James Klutse Avedzi,

Member of Parliament (MP) for Ketu North, Hon. James Klutse Avedzi.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Ketu North, Hon. James Klutse Avedzi.
also charged the Auditor-General to conduct a separate audit into the Covid-19 expenditure of the government.

“Since March 2020 when Ghana recorded its first case of the Coronavirus, government has spent billions on various interventions in a bid to fight the global pandemic to protect the citizenry. In 2020, Parliament approved some GHS11.1 billion after a request by the Finance Minister when the Covid-19 hit the country. The following year 2021, an additional GHS4.56 billion was approved by Parliament to help fight the pandemic.

Government also received $1 billion in support from the IMF plus some $430 million from the World Bank.

All these monies received by the government from international entities have been spent but are yet to be extensively audited.

“A specific audit focused on the government’s Covid-19 expenditure is needed. In the 2020 auditor general report which was published in June 2021, we did not have expenditure on Covid-19. So we are expecting the auditor general to constitute Covid-19 expenditure as a project.” Hon. James Klutse called.

In his presentation on the findings, Mr. Bright Sowu, head of programmes at the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), revealed that as the Covid-19 situation in Ghana got worse in 2021, the government failed to make a budgetary allocation to fight the pandemic.

“This is what surprised us the most in the research that we undertook, that there was no Covid funding for MMDAs in 2021 and 2022. The government did secure approval from Parliament for GHS4 million in 2021 to tackle Covid-19. However, the money was not disbursed to the MMDAs.

Ten district assemblies contacted from seven out of the 10 regions covered in the research confirmed that they receive no money to fight Covid-19.

Another reason why this is surprising is in 2020 we had budgeted and Covid came in March so we were in a bit of a panic and we had to go and find money. We moved from 2020 to 2021, we still had the pandemic and we even anticipated that the figures will even go higher because we were in an election year.

So how does it happen that for the first time we could actually budget for local governments and actually spend money to be able to effectively combat Covid, there was no money that came at all to local government for 2021. This is an issue that we seriously need to look into.

Again, from the MMDAs engaged, they said they were told to use funds from the District Assembly Common Fund to tackle the pandemic. Unfortunately, the funds were also not released by the government.

We recommend that the government accounts for monies spent, in order to clear the many issues that came up in the research bothering on corruption.

We also recommend that an audit be conducted on the Covid expenses of the government.”

On his part, the Chairperson of the Economic Governance Platform, Mr. Joseph Winful, called on Civil Society Organisations to continue pushing for accountability from government institutions. According to him, everyone has a responsibility and it’s about time we exhibited true patriotism for a better Ghana.

The forum brought together key stakeholders to look into the research findings and also to make possible recommendations on the government expenditure as far as the fight of Covid-19 pandemic started.

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