The release of the Auditor-General’s report on the government’s COVID-19 expenditure seems to have created a divide, not only among ordinary Ghanaians, but also among key members of the Cabinet of the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government.
After the release of the audit report, the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, and the Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Godfred Dame, seem to have different views on the release of the audit report.
While the Attorney General is saying that the report should not have been published by the Auditor-General, the Minister for Finance is saying that the report had to be released.
What Godfred Dame has said about release of COVID-19 audit report:
In an opinion regarding the publication on the website of the Auditor Service of an audit into the Government’s Covid-19 transactions, the Attorney-General advised the Auditor-General to pull down the report and publish it after it has been debated by Parliament and referred to an appropriate committee of Parliament in accordance with article 187(6) of the Constitution.
“The constitutional duty of the Auditor-General to submit his reports to Parliament and Parliament’s consequential obligation to debate and scrutinize same will be ‘grossly prejudiced’ by prior publication of the report,” parts of the opinion by the Minister for Justice, read.
Godfred Dame, after receiving backlash over his opinion, came out to explain that the Auditor-General is part of the Auditor General’s Department, which is part of the Public Services Commission, and the constitution mandates him to offer legal advice to all agencies under the commission.
“… the letter and spirit of laws governing the work of the Auditor-General make him part of the Audit Service of Ghana and, therefore, a regular member of the public services of Ghana to whom the Attorney-General can give advice pursuant to his mandate under article 88 of the Constitution. Article 189(2) of the Constitution provides a clue when it stipulates thus “The appointment of officers and other employees in the Audit Service, other than the Auditor-General, shall be made by the Audit Service Board, acting in consultation with the Public Services Commission,” parts of a statement he issued read.
What Ofori-Atta has said about the release of the Covid-19 expenditure audit report:
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has now posited that the release of the reports was critical to the ongoing discussion the government is having with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout.
While addressing Parliament on Thursday, February 17, 2023, Ofori-Atta, who was urging the House to pass some bills on revenue mobilisation, said that the publication of the audit report on the COVID-19 expenditure was part of agreements the government had with the IMF for the Staff Level Agreement on the $3 billion bailout.
“Mr. Speaker, all these efforts would be greatly enhanced if the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, Excise Duty & Excise Tax Stamp (Amendment) Bills as well as the Growth and Sustainability Levy Bill, which are outstanding in this august House could be prioritized and passed.
“Mr. Speaker, the passage of these Bills will enable Government to complete four (4) of five (5) agreed Prior Actions in the Staff Level Agreement since Tariff adjustment by the PURC, Publication of the Auditor-General’s Report on COVID-19 Spending, and Onboarding of GETFUND, DACF and Road Fund on the GIFMIS have all been completed,” he said.
The government has been heavily criticized following the release of an audit report on its COVID-19 expenditure by the Auditor-General’s Department.
The report indicated that the government raised nearly GH¢22 billion, as of June 2022, to fight COVID-19 in Ghana through the Contingency Fund, the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Union (EU).
However, out of the total amount raised to fight COVID-19, only about GH¢12 billion (a little over 50 per cent of the total funds raised) was used for activities geared toward fighting the spread of the virus and its impact in Ghana.
Aside from the fact that a huge amount of the money raised to fight COVID-19 was not used for its intended purpose, the A-G’s report showed a lot of infractions in the money used for COVID-19 by the various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDA).
The A-G’s report, for instance, disclosed that the Ministry of Health leased a building for 25 years for over GH¢15 million.
The report also stated that the ministry used over GH¢20 million to refurbish the building, which was to serve as a COVID-19 isolation centre but was never used.
It also uncovered that the government paid, from March 2020 to June 2022, an amount of $80 million for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. However, the vaccines have since not been delivered to the country.
The report said the management of the Information Ministry and its support staff, who are not health workers, paid themselves an amount of GH¢151,500 as risk allowance for going to work in the wake of COVID-19.