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Opinions of Saturday, 25 May 2013

Columnist: Atugiya, David

KPMG Fails In Its Professional Duty

KPMG has failed in its duty as an independent referee appointed by the Supreme Court (SC) to count or audit the pinks sheets in the custody of the SC to ascertain the veracity of the 11,842 pinks sheets exhibits that the petitioners in the ongoing election petition case claimed were provided to the SC along with their sworn affidavits challenging the declaration and subsequent swearing in of H.E. President Mahama in the 2012 Presidential elections. The fear that the contested pink sheets could be compromised in all fairness and seriousness ought to have been handled by KPMG in a very professional manner as a trusted independent referee, applying the highest professional standards and in the most transparent and even-handed process that excludes any element of doubt.

By any accounting and auditing standards the letter of engagement or appointment sent to KPMG by the Registrar of the SC amongst other things would have clearly stated the nature and scope of the task that the SC want KPMG to undertake. Additionally, by all professional standards the number of pink sheets and the number of boxes that contain or contained these pink sheets would have been clearly stated as well. KPMG being aware of the sensitivity and importance of the task given to it by the SC and the possibility that its work could be compromised , the first thing that any independent reputable referee mandated to arbitrate on such a sensitive matter ought to have ensured was the integrity of the process and materials under contention to the satisfaction of all contending parties; by first conducting an initial count when KPMG met on Monday 20 May 2013, with all the parties to work out the modalities of the conduct of the count or audit of the pink sheets. For KPMG that prides its self as a reputable international accounting and auditing firm to be quoted by XYZ News (ref to headline “We never took inventory of pink sheets – KPMG” in ghanaweb.com, 22 May 2013), as saying it did not take an initial inventory of the number of boxes containing the pink sheets (primary electoral records) in the custody of the Supreme Court’s Registry before it started auditing the sheets was professionally inexcusable.

It was shocking and depressing for the peace-loving people of Ghana to hear or read Joseph Winful, a Senior Partner with KPMG, tell XYZ News in an interview on Wednesday May 22, 2013 that it was not part of their mandate to take an inventory of the boxes of pink sheets. That was absolutely wrong and a professional lapse on the part of KPMG.

Joseph Winful to say KPMG was not directed to count the boxes or pink sheets before commencement of the job or that taking initial inventory of the boxes that contain the pink sheets before the start of counting or auditing was not part of the scope of the work cannot be right. Joseph Winful and for that matter KPMG knows too well as part auditing standards and procedures, one cannot do any stock taking or undertake any inventory of any kind without first establishing the stock or the inventory at hand by the stock/store records and physical count. The SC and Ghanaians rightly expect due diligence work from a reputable accounting and auditing firm like KPMG charged to oversee such a high-risk exercise. The admission by KPMG that they simply went ahead counting or auditing the pink sheets without bothering a hoot about how many boxes were in the strong room is an indication that they are not up to the minimum standards of accounting and auditing practice and; transparency and integrity expected of an independent referee.

Whatever the outcome of the count or audit of the pink sheets by KPMG may be as ordered by the SC, it is without doubt that KPMG has failed in one of the basic standards and procedures of accounting and auditing by not taking initial count of the boxes of pink sheets in the custody of the SC Court on Monday, 20 May 2013; and has therefore inavertedly comprised the count or audit, its position and reputation as a reputable international firm as far as Ghana’s election petition case is concerned.

David Atugiya

The author is a Human Rights and Social Justice Campaigner, Finance and Management Consultant; Specialist in NGO; Chartered Fellow CMI and Millennium Awards Fellow