The Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) in collaboration with Economic Governance Platform (EGP) and some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have urged government to, as a matter of urgency, account for and report on how COVID-19 financial resources have been expended.
They recommended to government the need to resource Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to continue sensitisation, protocol enforcement measures and further review the country’s COVID enforcement strategy.
According to the coalition, an efficient and effective government response to the COVID-19 pandemic relies on sound Public Financial Management (PFM) and practice. Therefore, there is a critical need to track receipt and disbursement of funds.
They indicated that such accountability and demand for financial discipline will prevent corruption and misappropriation of funds. It will also promote efficiency, getting value for money; and also provide the much-needed safeguards and checks on government’s COVID-19 response strategy and financing of it.
Giving the keynote address at a public forum on the topic ‘The Accountability Gap in the COVID Responses of Ghana’, Director-General-Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Dr. Eric Oduro Osae, said that auditing expenditures within the mainstream national system, the COVID Trust Fund, is ongoing. He however noted that most of the expenditures were done outside the COVID Trust Fund – and that is a challenge, since it is difficult for them to be tracked.
“We noticed that there were a lot of COVID expenditures happening outside the mainstream national system, and that is where the problem is. Those that came through the mainstream national system paid through the established financial management system, the Trust Fund was established. The Internal Audit Agency worked with the Trust Fund. Those that were spent outside the national system, these are interventions and support from development partners to institutions outside the national system, and it will be difficult to track those ones,” he said.
Dr. Osae further indicated that the IAA is working with Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to prosecute three institutions in connection with the COVID expenditure, but was tight-lipped on names of the institutions and the level of prosecution.
“We also set up an agency known as Audit Report Review Panel in 2021. We started receiving internal audited reports from the internal auditors as far as COVID internal audit is concerned. We started reviewing them in 2021 and some of the expenditure areas were revealed. Anywhere we have challenges we do a follow-up, a team is sent there to find out.
“Those that have criminal consequences, we work with EOCO to prosecute them. I’m not allowed to indicate the level of prosecution, but I can assure you that at the moment we are working with EOCO to prosecute three institutions.
“As far as IAA is concerned, we continue our pursuit to establish how total COVID expenditures were spent and whether we are getting value for money. The challenge is that it borders on service delivery, and any expenditure on that you cannot use financial audit alone to establish culpability; you combine financial audit and performance audit,” he added.
For his part, Chairman for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, James Klutse Avedzi, was happy with the initiative from GACC and EGP, adding that the recommendations they have made will go a long way to boost donor confidence and assist in policy implementation.
“The recommendations are to help improve the system that we are using. Then, also, ensure that the expenditure for the pandemic is properly accounted for. And then to also give confidence to the donors who are supporting us to give us more funding. I completely support and agree with the findings’ recommendations, and I hope that when copies are given to government agencies they will study and use them for their policy implementation,” he said.