Godfred Yeboah Dame
The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has described as premature, the decision by the Auditor-General to publish its report of the special audit of government’s COIVD-19 transactions on its website without the fulfilment of constitutional mandates.
According to him, the publication of the report prior to the submission of same to Parliament or a select committee of it, is contrary to the provisions of the 1992 Constitution and sections of the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584).
The Attorney General, in a letter dated February 7, 2023, for the attention of the Auditor-General, Johnson Akuamoah-Asiedu, also lamented about “glaring omissions” in the Auditor-General’s notices to his office on procedures relating to the execution of disallowances and discharges.
Mr. Dame, drawing the attention of the Auditor-General to the steps leading to the publication of his reports, referenced to Articles 187(5) and 187(6) of the 1992 Constitution and indicated that such reports ought to be submitted to Parliament to debate the report and appoint where necessary, and in the public interest a committee to deal with any matters arising from the report.
“I observe that the report of the special audit on the Government’s COVID-19 transactions has been published on the website of the Audit Service. In light of the constitutional provisions pertaining to the duty of the Auditor-General after the preparation of audit reports, I consider a publication of the COVID-19 audit report or indeed any audit report particularly when same has not been either considered by Parliament or referred to a committee of Parliament, premature,” the AG pointed out.
He said it is only after satisfying the constitutional requirement of submitting the Auditor-General’s report to Parliament, the subsequent debate by Parliament thereon and conclusion of work by the appropriate committee of Parliament, that the report of the Auditor-General may be considered final and relevant action may be taken thereon.
Mr. Dame said he is mindful of the provision in section 23 of Act 584 which seems to mandate a publication of the reports as soon as they have been presented to the Speaker to be laid before Parliament, but insisted that “the laws governing the functions of the Auditor-General ought to be construed as a whole.”
The Attorney General also pointed out that the constitutional duty of the Auditor-General to submit his reports to Parliament and Parliament’s consequential obligation to debate and scrutinise same, will be grossly prejudiced by a prior publication of the report.
He said a prior publication of the Auditor-General’s report completely undermines the purport and meaning of Article 187(5) and (6) and should not be encouraged, and consequently advised “a withdrawal of the report on the Government COVID-19 transactions from your website before same has been debated by Parliament and considered by the appropriate committee of Parliament.”
Touching on the issue of surcharge and disallowances, the Attorney General indicated that in accordance with section 17 of Act 584, certain steps ought to be complied with by the Audit Service after an audit report has been subjected to the scrutiny of the PAC, as these steps border on the issuance of disallowances and surcharges by the Auditor-General.
These steps, he pointed out, include notifying the relevant head of department or institution to whom the amounts stated in the notice of surcharge or disallowance are due, the reasons for the surcharge or disallowance as well as when this was done.
The steps also involve notices served on the Attorney-General indicating whether the affected individuals and institutions have been served with the notice of surcharge or disallowance and, if so, when this was done.
“It is only through due process, particularly the observance of the processes stated above, that we can realise the true import and effect of Article 187 of the Constitution,” he stressed.
Mr. Dame, therefore, called for enhanced cooperation between the Audit Service and the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice, and indicated that he has set up a special team in his ministry, jointly headed by the Solicitor-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions, specifically charged with coordinating the Auditor-General’s outfit in order to promptly act, in accordance with law on established irregularities contained in the Auditor-General’s reports, and urged the Auditor-General to set up a similar team to work with the AG’s office.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak