The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame has protested what he says is a premature publication of the report of the special audit on the Government’s COVID-19 transactions by the Auditor-General.
He has consequently asked the Auditor-General to unpublish the report, pending the fulfilment of constitutional injunctions leading to the ultimate publication, including submitting the report first to Parliament.
Publishing the report ahead of its scrutiny by Parliament or a committee of it, is unconstitutional, the A-G points out.
In a letter dated February 7, 2023 for the attention of the Auditor-General, Mr. Johnson Akuamoah-Asiedu, the Attorney-General referenced “various discussions between your good self and me regarding the effective implementation of reports of the Auditor-General on audits into the public accounts of Ghana, particularly with regard to the issuance of disallowances and surcharges,” and pointed out that “The matters discussed have become more pertinent in view of the intense controversy generated by the publication of the report on the special audit of Government of Ghana Covid-19 transactions for the period March 2020 to June 2022 on the website of the Ghana Audit Service.”
According to the Attorney-General, while Article 187(5) of the Constitution mandates the Auditor-General to submit his report to Parliament and in that report, draw attention to any irregularities in the accounts audited, Section 16 of the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584) clearly indicates that reports on special audits and reviews, as the one conducted in respect of the COVID-19 transactions, are subject to the requirement for the Auditor-General to submit the reports to Parliament.
Again, “Article 187(6) of the Constitution requires Parliament to debate the report of the Auditor-General and appoint, where necessary and in the public interest, a committee to deal with any matters arising from it. This is repeated in section 21 of Act 584. Over the years, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) seems to be the committee designated by Parliament to interrogate issues arising out of the Auditor-General’s reports. 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”, the A-G argues.
“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 Attorney-General said while 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,” “the laws governing the functions of the Auditor-General ought to be construed as a whole.”
Godfred Dame argues 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.
“The proceedings of the PAC provide an opportunity for irregularities raised by the Auditor-General to be interrogated and queried. Persons and institutions affected by the report receive a further hearing on the findings of the Auditor-General’s reports at the proceedings of the PAC in Parliament. 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. Consequently, I advise 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,” said the A-G.