Surcharge public officers for irregularities …protesters ask Auditor-General to crack whip   

Hundred of Ghanaians yesterday marched within the Ministries enclave in Accra to put pressure on the Auditor-General to apply his constitutional mandate to disallow illegal expenditures and surcharge public officials found to have engaged in financial irregularities.

Clad in red attire and paraphernalia, the protesters held placards and banners with various inscriptions, including “Stop the Bleeding” ; “Obey the Constitution Mr A-G” ; “Taxpayers do not pay you to go to sleep”; “Protect our money”; “Put the interest of Ghana first”; and “Every Cedi must be accounted for”.

Dubbed ‘Red Monday’, the protest had its participants gathering at the entrance of the Efua Sutherland Park at about 8:00a.m.after being denied access to the park to converge, amidst some light drizzling which threatened attendance.

Although they planned to picket at the Office of the Auditor-General to intensify their demands, the protesters had to divert their route to the Black Stars Square to prevent a face-off with security personnel who had blocked the road leading to the office.

The protest was organised by Coalition for Democratic Accountability and Inclusive Governance, also known as Citizens Coalition, a group of anti-corruption groups and civil society organisations, including Ghana Integrity Initiative, Centrefor Democratic Development- Ghana (CDD-Ghana), Star Ghana, Africa Education Watch and Parliamentary Network Africa.

There was heavy police presence at both the Efua Sutherland Park and on the road and pavement leading to the Office of the Auditor-General to maintain security and order.

At the end of the protest at the Black Stars Square, Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagements at CDD-Ghana, DrKojoPumpuni Asante, presented a petition on behalf of the group to the Auditor-General, which was received by Lawrence Ayagiba, Deputy Auditor-General, in charge of Performance and Special Audit.

Earlier in an interview, DrAsante said the Coalition was protesting to mount pressure on the Auditor-General to disallow illegal expenditures and surcharge public officialscited in infractions now to save the country’s purse.

“This march is to make our voices very loud that the Auditor-General has to use its surcharge powers if we are going to ensure that we are protecting the public purse,” he stated.

The Auditor-General, he said, per Article 187 (7) of the 1992 Constitution, was required to disallow an expenditure and surcharge the amount to the officer responsible if he found it illegal such expenditure in the course of auditing.

He noted that currently, the Auditor-General had failed to enforce that provision, a situation which was likely to encourage others to engage in financial infractions.

DrAsante explained that every year, the Auditor-General’s report unearthed massive corruption in the public sector without any sanctions or attemptsto recoup the money stolen.

He noted that it was imperative Ghanaians demand that the Auditor-General use the powers to surcharge and disallow fraudulent expenditures by officials in the delivery of public goods.

“It is not enough to report infractions if appropriate constitutional sanctions are not meted out. If the Auditor-General will not do his job, it’s our job to force him to do it.

“If we do not demand accountability, we will be taken for granted and corruption will get worse. We are picketing to demand accountability,” DrAsante added.

He said it was critical that all citizens support the fight against the high level of impunity characterising the irregularities in the use of public funds.

BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS

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