Leadership by example:

…why Controller and Accountant-General’s war against fraudsters is a good cause

Ghana’s payroll and its associated problems of ghost names, fake certificates and promotions are well-documented. Whereas the problems have been around for many years, stakeholders – especially the government through the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) -has yet to fashion out a plan to completely rid the public sector payroll of its irregularities.

But as it is said, every problem under the sun has a cause. This suggests that all problems have causative agents. If the above statements are anything to go by, then it can be concluded that every problem has an answer that must come from a problem-solver, mostly a transformational leader.

James McGregor Burns, in his Leadership book, defined transformational leadership as a process wherein “leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation”.

Transformational leadership serves to enhance the motivation, morale, and job-performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms: these include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to a project and to the organisation’s collective identity; being a role-model for followers in order to inspire them and to raise their interest in the project; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers – thus allowing the leader to align followers with tasks that enhance their performance.

And that is how the Controller and Accountant-General has set out to steer the Department’s affairs.

The Controller and Accountant General ,a former Deputy Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Eugene A. Ofosuhene comes to this position with a wealth of experience and he is determined to change the Department’s fortunes through what he calls innovative and strategic leadership.

In an interview with the B&FT, he enumerated a number of change processes he has initiated to make the Department relevant and contribute meaningfully to the country’s socio-economic development. “We will ensure that the Department is efficient ,relevant and run by a well-motivated team.”

Key among the innovations the Controller and Accountant General is bringing is a well-sanitised public sector payroll, which he explains will put to bed the age-old problem of ghost names, fake certificates among others.

Working closely with other partners, the Controller believes the fight to clean the public sector’s payroll is gaining ground, and that a lot of discrepancies concerning public sector workers are being uncovered day-by-day, with appropriate steps being taken.

The CAGD, he said, is currently collaborating with the Audit Service and other stakeholders regarding the ongoing special audit to investigate, retrieve and prosecute any head of a state institution, or worker, found to be engaged in fraudulent activities.

This special audit is unlike in previous years, when the Auditor-General presented the audited report to Parliament and little was done toward retrieval and prosecuting offending officers.

Under this new move, he said, those found to be short-changing the state will not only be required to refund all they have taken from the government’s coffers, but offenders – together with collaborators – will be prosecuted: and affected persons will only be reinstated after an appeal is upheld by the High Court.

To him, there is also a need for stakeholders to be more strategic and rigorous in identifying and addressing the underlying causes corruption, and examining the weaknesses in institutions and government policies and practices.

Another initiative being undertaken by the Department, he noted, is an Electronic Salary Payment Voucher System – aimed at addressing concerns regarding manual payment voucher system. This system ensures that payments are validated and certified before salaries are paid.

He further indicated that all public sector accountants have been asked to strictly adhere to the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), the new financial reform scheme for improved financial transparency.

He said GIFMIS seeks to promote transparency, efficiency and accountability in public financial management, and that it was illegal for accountants of MMDAs and MDAs to operate outside the platform.

Although Mr Ofosuhene admitted that the fight to rid the payroll of loopholes will be tough, he explained that the new leadership of the CAGD is committed to supporting the president’s war against corruption without fear.

It is anticipated that the current payroll headcount exercise might unearth some illegitimate public sector workers across all the ten regions of the country and will create room for more job opportunities for those qualified.

Today, he says, the Controller platform is disciplined. The urge to ensure that the right things are done properly and swiftly will no doubt position the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) to detect fraud and save the country several millions of money which otherwise would have ended up in the hands of criminals.

Additionally, the CAGD has warned financial institutions to cease sending out unsolicited text messages to workers on government’s payroll urging them to apply for loans.

A number of government workers had complained about receiving incessant messages from third parties urging them to patronise their products and facilities. Such acts, according to the Controller, are illegal and a breach of data protection laws.

He warned that the CAGD will not hesitate in taking legal action against those involved-its third-party agents- in such acts if they do not stop, adding they will be “blacklisted from engaging in any transactions with the CAGD”.

To eliminate the entrenched practice, the Controller has thus asked all employees on government payroll to report receipt of any unsolicited messages in the name of the CAGD for investigation, to ensure appropriate sanctions and possible prosecution.

He further entreated all accountants to be abreast with implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) under the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA), to enable government obtain a consolidated view of its cash resources at the end of each day.

The CAGD, he added, has been mandated by the Ministry of Finance to implement the TSA, which requires the transfer of bank accounts of all government institutions to the central bank for easy management and monitoring in a bid to ensure efficient Treasury management as required under the cash reform initiative.

The Controller and Accountant General accepted the challenge and proceeded to implement the new policy of using the Budget for Compensation of Employees to control the monthly Payroll cost.

In this direction the Controller issued a circular to all MDAs to be mindful of their monthly budget and ensure they don’t overrun their approved budgets.

Indeed ,this new policy was carried through from July 2018 which saw some staff of MDAs not paid because their budget for July fell short of their actual payroll cost.  This new policy will not only ensure legitimate staff are paid, but MDAs will now manage their human resources budget well to ensure that all re-alignment of posting data agrees with their payroll data which is the basis for computation of payroll cost.

In conclusion, there has been tremendous change management and improvement in the internal operations of Controller and Accountant-General’s Department.

The Controller and Accountant-General has instilled discipline in attitude to work, punctuality and avoidance of frivolous expenditure and waste.  He has ensured that resources are channelled to areas where staff will have access to equipment and tools to work with in a decent and conducive environment.  To this end, large quantities of Table Top computers, Lap Tops, Printers, UPS, Furniture and Fittings and Air conditioners have been procured to augment the little or non-existent stock.

There has also been serious renovation of the staff Development Centre (Training School) which was left to deteriorate for several years.  Since the beginning of the year all workshops have been organised at the centre.

There has also been a remarkable facelift at the CAGD Annex offices at Kinbu, the entire compound has been paved with concrete blocks and to beautify the environment.

As a public finance expert who has consulted for the World Bank on assignments such as ‘Strengthening the role of Public Private Partnerships in the Local Government Assemblies’, Controller and Accountant General is focused on safeguarding the public purse with discipline and transparency notwithstanding obvious obstacles.

He however called for the support of all Ghanaians, especially for accountants and heads of state institutions to embrace the fight against corruption by reporting those engaged in fraudulent activities.