Auditors of collapsed banks must be investigated – Analyst

Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Ernest Addison

Auditors and accountants of the seven recently defunct banks must be thoroughly investigated and face the applicable penalties, including losing their licences if they are found to have been compromised, a lecturer at the Ghana Banking College, Francise Owusu-Acheampong, has said.

His comments come on the back of a statement released by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana (ICAG): that it will conduct investigations into the actions of its members to ascertain their role in the banks’ collapse.

“The Professional Standards and Ethics Committee of the institute, in line with its mandate, has initiated the necessary enquiries into the matter, and appropriate actions will be taken if merit to the complaint is established,” the ICAG statement said.

Mr. Acheampong, drawing lessons from his experience as a former head of risk management in one of the country’s large banks, said accountants and auditors cannot be fully trusted – hence, proper investigations must be conducted into their actions.

“The auditors have disappointed all of us. From my experience in the bank as head of risk management, I don’t trust accountants one bit. They are part of our problems. In countries where systems work, no accountant or auditor who audited those banks would go scot-free. Are they saying they didn’t see all that was going on?” he asked in an interview with the B&FT.

Auditors of a company have the responsibility to express an independent objective opinion on the company’s financial statement. As one of their required procedures, auditors ask management to communicate their responsibility for financial statements to the auditor in a representation letter.

Taking their roles and responsibilities into consideration, Mr. Owusu Acheampong said auditors have failed miserably and must be made to face the law if found guilty.

“They have let us down, and if they are investigated and found guilty the sanctions, which could include revocation of their licenses, must be enforced. Professionally, they have erred and erred seriously,” he said.

Several institutions have called on various bodies and authorities to investigate all actors whose roles may have led to collapse of the seven banks — UT, Capital, Unibank, Beige, Sovereign, Construction, and The Trust bank — which comes at some GH₵8billion cost to the economy.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has, for example, urged the central bank not to treat with kid-gloves any official found complicit in the banks’ collapse – but rather apply the country’s laws to the fullest.

“To prevent a repeat of the irregularities, including regulatory and supervisory failures which have led to the current situation, it is important the activities that have led to the current banks’ collapse – and necessitated what is perhaps the biggest bank bailout in Ghana’s history – must be properly investigated and those culpable punished in accordance with the laws of the land,” the statement said.