IAA, EOCO to take action against 3 institutions …for misappropriation of COVID-19 funds

The Internal Audit Agency (IAA) and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO)is to take legal action against three public institutions for misappropriating COVID-19 funds.

The Director-General of the IAA, Dr Eric OduroOsae who made the disclosure, said the action followed a nationwide review of internally audited reports onCOVID-19 expenditure by the Agency in 2020, in line with the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act, 2016 (Act 921).

Failing to reveal the names of the institutions, he said section 14 of the IAA Act granted the Director-General independence to undertake such specific investigations and “we undertook this exercise to identify audit of all COVID-19 expenditures and we found that there were lot of disbursement that happened outside the national system.”

“We can assure you that at the moment we are working with EOCO to prosecute three institutions and as far as the Agency is concerned, we will pursue such infractions that are of criminal nature to ensure we are getting value for money,” he said.

DrOsae who was speaking at a public forum on “Accountability Gaps in COVID-19 Response Measures” in Accra on Tuesday indicated that the IAA in coming days would publish names of institutions that defaulted in filing their annual internal audit plans and quarterly reports for the year 2020.

“We are going to publish their names in the dailies and together with the Finance Ministry, we will apply the necessary sanctions,” he stated.

The Director-General called for the institutionalisation of risk-based audits within the public service to respond to organizational risks more timely and allow for management to put in right internal measures in place to control expenditure.

“The appetite for risk-based audit is very high and most private entities are adopting it but in the public sector, we delay and allow the infractions to happen before we act. Risk-based audit is way to go instead of this fire-fighting pre-auditing approach which is not helping us,” he said.

The Governance and Public Financial Management (PFM) expert, asked that performance auditing is strengthened across the country in monitoring spending and impact of service delivery projects like COVID-19 interventions.

“The challenge when it comes to COVID-19 expenditure is that it is broadening and with such spending we cannot use financial audit only to establish impact unless it is combined with performance audit to determine quality standards, whether people received the services as expected among others.”

Dr Osae called for the development of a national comprehensive framework to support and monitor financing of public projects outside the government spending system.

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, James KlutseAvedzi in a remark challenged the Auditor-General to take up auditing of COVID-19 expenditures, as a project per the powers granted him by the Constitution.          

Mr Joseph Winful, Chair of the Economic Governance Platform (EGP), said effective financial resource management was critical to sustaining democracy and upholding patriotism among citizens.

Organised by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) in collaboration with the Economic Governance Platform (EGP), the forum had in attendance, representatives from various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), Civil Society Organisations and development partners.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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