General News of Wednesday, 22 June 2005
Accra, June 22, GNA - Ghana and the European Union have signed an agreement for a grant of 4.6 million Euros, approximately 50.4 billion cedis, from the European Development Fund to support the Ghana Audit Service (GAS) from 2005 to 2009. The agreement is to span the second phase of development support for the Service after what the EU described as a successful first phase that ran from 2000 to 2004.
Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Finance, signed for Ghana while Mr Stefan Frowein, the EU Ambassador, signed on behalf of the EU. The second phase of assistance would consolidate the achievements of the first phase and would further deepen and extend the institutional strengthening of the Service.
Mr Baah-Wiredu thanked the EU for its support stressing that there was a constant need to build on the capacity of the GAS as the supreme body for ensuring transparency and efficiency in government expenditure. He said the signing was coming at a significant period when good governance had been identified as a major pillar for development, especially under the Africa Peer Review Mechanism. "In this regard, strengthening the Ghana Audit Service to perform efficiently and effectively its constitutional mandate is a step in the right direction." He noted that the project would focus on financial audit, performance audit, information technology, management and administration.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said with the implementation of the first phase the GAS was now capable of carrying out performance audit adding that that was a significant achievement in this era of high accountability and transparency requirements. He, however, indicated that the project could not address in sufficient detail the improvement in GAS' management, as well as the need to address structural, strategic and managerial issues within the GAS.
The Finance Minister described the provision of capacity for GAS as providing a powerful and credible tool to further reduce fiduciary risk, which in turn was a pre-requisite for continued macro-economic support to Ghana. He said the Government was committed to the implementation of the reform programmes and would not relent on efforts to achieve all targets set.
Mr Frowein said the paramount reason for the second phase was to make the GAS an institution equipped with adequate range of skills and infrastructure for the consistent, effective and efficient planning and discharge of its auditing responsibilities. He said the European Commission had long been an advocate for regular audits not only for the EDF, but also for public funds in general. "A supreme audit institution, like the Ghana Audit Service, needs to be a major watchdog to make sure public funds are used correctly, efficiently and effectively. "This is obviously important as public funds are ultimately tax-payers' money and we all want to see our tax money spent correctly... "
The EU last year provided 27.8 million euros in budget support to Ghana and this year 24 million euros has been earmarked for general budgetary support. "Such type of support can only be maintained if the necessary checks and balances are in place, including timely audits by the Ghana Audit Service," Mr Frowein said.