Audit reports must check corruption

Yesterday, the government launched the 2021 financial year audit in Accra.

According to the government, the financial year audit is meant to show its commitment to promote accountability and financial responsibility in the use of public funds to enhance national development.

The 2021 financial year audit, which would involve the audit of the central government’s expenditure as well as those of state-owned enterprises, is on the theme ‘Ensuring Fiscal Sustainability through Revenue Collection and Accounting: The Role of the State Auditor. 

A financial audit, also known as a financial statement audit, is conducted annually and expected to objectively evaluate the financial statements of the central government and the state institutions as already stated in this piece.

In fact, like any other, this audit is to examine and verify the public financial records to ensure that they are represented fairly and accurately by following the relevant accounting standards.

Therefore, as part of the exercise, the auditors generate reports on their findings which the Auditor-General (A-G) uses to prepare the all-encompassing Auditor-General’s Report.

This report, which contains the A-G’s opinion on whether the various financial statements he has been furnished with comply with accounting standards, is a very important document to guide certain subsequent actions.

The actions include recommended steps for improving the public income and expenditure system as well as sanctions against corrupt practices such as misappropriation and misapplication of public funds.

Overall, the audit is meant to ensure checks and balances as it is claimed to improve internal systems and controls; provide credibility; and present a situation of transparency that makes the public have confidence in the use of public revenue.

The purpose of the financial year audit sounds very melodious but the question is, “Has it changed the status quo for the better?”

It is unfortunate to say that over the years the recommendations given in the Auditor-General Reports that follow the annual financial year are not fully implemented and this is an open secret.

It is sad to say that the contents of such reports portray a picture of widespread corruption in state institutions, including even schools, hospitals and institutions in charge of sports.

These are institutions where talents are honed and the health of the people safeguarded, which should make them the last places to dabble in socio-economic rot, yet embezzlements and misapplication of state funds are strife here.

In the circumstances one wonders if the state should continue to expend additional funds on organising annual financial year audits and allow reports generated thereby to gather dust as if the reports were needed just for their sake.

The truth is that in any modern or civilized society, such an exercise is important otherwise state officials would have absolute freedom in public financial dealings and such absolute freedom would corrupt them absolutely.

Even though institutions can be classified as artificial persons liable for certain happenings in them, it must be noted that in reality such institutions cannot elect themselves to be corrupt but their officials do.

Therefore, there is the need for the state to do more in holding state officials indicted in audit reports accountable, at the corporate, district, regional and national levels and deterrent sanctions instituted against them.

It is unfortunate that oftentimes most of the public officials, particularly politicians, so indicted come out unscathed and have the impetus to rant around and dare everyone.

Meanwhile, a good assessment of the incomes and expenditure of such people would prove their underhand financial dealings.

One point too to note is the integrity of the auditor evaluating the financial statements of the government and the state institutions. Is there any collusion anywhere?

The Ghanaian Times wishes to appeal that financial statements and the A-G’s Report are tools to enhance national development by way of guiding public expenditure to ensure value for state funds.

Therefore, the 2021 financial year auditor must ensure just that and mark a turning point for the better.

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