By Agnes Ansah
The Auditor General (AG), Mr Daniel Domelevo, has hinted that his outfit would a conduct construction audit into all the Sinohydro deal projects.
It would be recalled that President Akufo-Addo, on Wednesday this week, launched the Sinohydro project, a barter agreement in which infrastructural projects would be delivered across the country in exchange for the delivery of Ghanaian manufactured aluminum products to Sinohydro, a China company.
This development, according to the AG, is very timely, because it would afford his outfit the opportunity to put their construction audit, which was initiated two days ago, to work to ensure that there is value for money.
“Two days ago, we also started another type of audit, which is Construction Audit. We have moved onto the road and into government constructions to see if roads are being constructed according to the specifications, or buildings are being put up according to the specifications.
“This is very timely, because I hear the President commissioned the roads under the Sinohydro projects some days ago, so, as they construct, we follow them and take the measurement to ensure that we get value for money,” he said.
He said that the act is not witch hunting, but just to ensure that the government gets value for money, since most contractors are fond of delivering below standard.
Mr Domelevo was speaking at forum organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Ghana Anti Corruption Coalition, Send Ghana, in collaboration with the Audit Service, to discuss the changing landscape of audit in Ghana, with specific focus on the AG’s disallowance and surcharge mandate, and the way forward.
Mr Domelevo indicated to the audience, who gathered for the programme, that the Construction Audit machine, known as Query Machine, is able to take a sample of construction material and measure it to ensure that the required materials and specifications for a particular project is being used.
This way, “we would be able to determine if you followed the required specifications, or you cheated the country, and if we think you cheated, then disallowance and surcharge will follow.”
He indicated that one of such audits had started on the Madina road, and wished to continue with other roads and building works in the country, especially, the Sinohydro, which just began.
Aside the Construction Audit, the AG said that his outfit had also launched a Procurement Audit. He said that the AG is actually required under the section 91 of the Public Procurement Act to carryout annual procurement audits, and that’s what his outfit had started doing.
“We started a week ago, and we have selected a few institutions, including the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) itself. We want to use the PPA as a benchmark for others, because they are experts in procurement, so it’s better we look at how they do their procurement, and use it as a yardstick against others. We have started it, and we think it will help us get value for money. We just want to ensure the country is getting value for money.”
At the ongoing Public Accounts Committee sitting, concerns have been raised on the kind of punishments meted out to offenders.
Many are of the view that there should be much more stringent measures than what exist at the moment, but Mr Demelevo, who responded to these concerns, indicated that he agrees the punishments should be more stringent to deter others from committing the same infractions, but he doesn’t have the power to prosecute, so there is little he can do.
He said he can only surcharge and disallow allowances and salaries of public officers who flout the rules.
“Though I agree that there should be stiffer punishment, but it must be done in the context of law. The law mandates me to discharge and surcharge, anything beyond that is above my limit.”
Again, concerns have been raised as to why the Public Accounts Committee usually takes long to sit on audit queries, this, the AG advised that Ghana’s Parliament should take a cue from Kenya. He said that in Kenya the law mandates the PAC to sit within three months after the submission of audit reports to Parliament.
This, he said, would enable the actual officers who committed the infractions to answer to the queries themselves, and not someone else.
“In some jurisdiction, especially Kenya, when the Auditor General presents its report to Parliament, the law requires that they should sit on it within three months, so there, Parliament has some time limit.
But here, only the AG is given a time limit to present its report, while Parliament takes it time and sits on the report until 3-4 years before they start sitting.
So the issue here is for us to change our laws to compel Parliament to also work on it within a particular time limit.”
He also took time to assure the public that the collaboration between the AG and the Special Prosecutor is ongoing, and very soon, Ghanaians would see some legal actions being carried out against those who flout the rules of auditing.