You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2016 05 31Article 443336

Opinions of Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Corruption: The Attorney-General and Alhaji Fear God’s rhetoric

An enterprising herbalist called Alhaji Baba Fear God has built himself a spanking website and buys advert columns in newspapers to communicate messages about his traditional medical services. He also advertises his herbal concoctions on Alhaji Fear God Television, Facebook and YouTube.

He offers therapy for a long list of what I presume to be psychological and medical problems, which he refers to in his adverts and on his website as “challenges.”

Unfortunately, the clarity of the messages relating to some of the “challenges” he offers to treat is obscured. His prose is as linguistically outlandish. For example, he offers to treat such “challenges” as “love me alone”, “promise and fail”, “duping or fake”, “market call”, and “Come back to me”.

The puzzling thing about it all is that he is able to communicate clearly when it comes to other “challenges.” He offers therapy for “smoking habit”, “drinking habit”,” marital problems”, “bad luck”, “bad mouth odour”, “vaginal odour”, “stroke”, “menstrual problems”, “hypertension” and “staphylococcus” ; the last one having probably been dropped on his lap by a medical laboratory technician friend.

His potential patients apparently fall under two categories: The general public and a segment of society which has its own secret dialect. I don’t know which of them are more of an irritant: those who never mean what they say or those who never say what they mean.

Leave Alhaji Baba alone for a moment, and let us take a critical look at the watchmen over state coffers and the strange language in which they keep speaking to us about financial accountability or the absence of it in public institutions:

First, there is the Controller and Accountant-General. He has established financial administration decrees, regulations and instructions for all public institutions to abide by.

Previous audit reports and even admissions by the Accountant-General’s own office support the view that violations of these regulations and instructions have been endemic.

What we might ask-is the sense in the Controller and Accountant-General establishing rules and regulations for public institutions and then relying solely on the goodwill of people in those institutions for compliance, instead of adopting appropriate methods of enforcement?

The results might be interesting if an independent team of experts undertake an exercise to determine if accounting personnel of government institutions have been preparing monthly expenditure and bank reconciliation statements on schedule.

Next comes the Auditor-General: The Auditor-General is required by the constitution, to audit the whole of the public sector including the local government administrations, the courts, universities, public boards, corporations and all other public institutions operating or funded with public funds.

Over the past 30 years and longer, the Auditor General has maintained his ritualistic habit of announcing in his bi-annual report on public sector financial administration that financial improprieties in the sector are endemic.

Then he typically goes on to report how public money has been, “embezzled” “misappropriated” or “diverted.” I usually wonder what the hell he is talking about. The man is usually talking about the plain theft of public cash, isn’t he?

Thank you so very much sir, Mr. Auditor-General, but where is the annual ritual getting us? Should auditing of the accounts of public institutions not be more frequent? What is the sense in allowing a thief to scoot with loot before sounding the alarm?

Then there is Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee:It is the duty of this Committee to examine audited accounts showing the expenditure of funds granted by Parliament to meet the expenditure of the government, as presented to Parliament by the Auditor-General for approval.

After examining the Auditor General’s report, the Public Accounts Committee is required to submit its recommendations for appropriate action to be taken on the Auditor-General’s reports.

Sittings of the Public Accounts Committee are usually given wide media coverage but then, guess what happens next? Nothing. How come nothing ever happens after the revelations of widespread financial improprieties in public? The institutions of public accountability only appear to be constantly taking us through stage-managed, ritualistic motions when it comes to sanctioning corrupt public officials.

The Committee has kept insisting that the law does not give it the powers to pursue the prosecution of the offending officials, and that the Committee always expects the Attorney-General to prosecute the offenders to serve as deterrent to other public officials.

The Attorney-General says she cannot be blamed for the nation’s failure to prosecute public officials cited in the Auditor General’s report for financial malpractices.

The last time Attorney-General, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong commented on the issue, she was quoted in the media as saying: “there is a process of building a docket with witnesses’ statements, charge statements, caution statements…a whole lot of things that should constitute a diary of action.

It is not just the Attorney-General, it’s a holistic thing. We must work with the Public Accounts Committee and the investigative body.”

That leaves us asking the obvious question: When do we bring the not-so-merry-go-round to a dead halt, or rather, where does the buck stop?

In the meantime, the financial maladministration keeps on picking up progressive steam: In its 2014 report to Parliament which was only recently released, the Auditor General indicated that 43 Assemblies had failed to account for over one billion Ghana Cedis! What can’t one billion cedis do when it comes to the provision of critical infrastructure, social services and funding programmes of social intervention?

Reports have abounded about members of District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies launching spirited protests against acts of corruption and inefficiency on the part of Assembly Chief Executives. People and groups have gone on demonstrations against the Chief Executives for the same reasons.

Most of the complaints and criticisms against them have ranged from excessive or unauthorized spending of Assembly funds, through the award of questionable public contracts with inflated costs, to conflict of interest situations involving Chief Executives.

Yet, as we have already pointed out, it is rare to hear that on the basis of the Audit-General’s reports of financial improprieties at ministries and departments, sanctions have been imposed on the public officials responsible for the misuse of public money and steps taken to retrieve the monies.