SALLASMENSAH, CHAIRMAN OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNT COMMITTEE OF THE PARLIAMENT OF GHANA Parliaments and the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) are considered as key partners of good governance and accountability. Parliaments control the public purse by approving the annual budgets and passing the Appropriation Bill. The Executive is then given control and authority to spend, as outlined in the Appropriation Act. Parliaments seek independent assurance that public money released is applied only for purposes that are lawful and are within the appropriations voted by Parliaments. One of the tools Parliaments use to enhance oversight of the financial operations of government is a specialized committee. In the “Westminster model”, the committee is known as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The PAC is often referred to as the “audit committee of Parliament and as such is the core institution of public financial accountability. Following implementation of a government’s budget, the Auditor-General (a legislation auditor) audits the government accounts, financial statements, and operations. This audit is followed by the consideration of the audit findings, which may include value for money, and performance auditing as well as financial or compliance auditing, by the Parliament. THE ROLE AND FUNCTION OF SAIs In the “Westminster model” SAIs interact with the Parliament. The SAIs is a core element of Parliamentary oversight and there is a close relation between PAC that review the audit report and the SAI. The SAI is dependent on the Parliament to act upon its reports for audits to be effective, implying that with an impotent Parliament that do not fully discharge its duties the value of the SAIs work is considerably reduced.

There are strong safeguards of the tenure of the Auditor-General and generally he or she can be removed by an act of Parliament. In Ghana, his removal follows the same procedure as that of a justice of the Supreme Court of judicature. Ghana’s SAIs is headed by an Auditor-General who is personally responsible for his or her office, generating a hierarchical organizational structure. THE AUDIT CYCLE AND THE BUDGET CYCLE The budget cycle has four stages: i. the preparation of the budget; ii. the legislative stage (deliberation, amendment and formal passage; iii. implementation; and iv. oversight (evaluating budget compliance with the stated intentions laid out in the budget and auditing in part of the fourth and final stage. External auditing under the “Westminster model: is also cyclic in nature. The government’s accounts for the previous financial year prepared by all government departments and other public bodies are made available on a pre arranged time for the SAI to audit (in Ghana on or before 31 March). The SAI audits the accounts and produces its report(s) to Parliament, which is referred to the PAC. The Committee examines and debates the SAI’s report either in camera and in public (in Ghana Public hearing began in October 2007). Public officials, relevant parties, including civil society, representatives and officials and others from the Ministries and Departments are summoned to give evidence. When finalized, a report with recommendations and comments are laid in the House and debated upon. The report is voted on and either rejected or approved. When approved, the recommendations and comments are conveyed to the executive for implementation.

MANDATES OF SAI Mandates of SAIs are provided in various laws of the various jurisdictions. For example, in Ghana, the Constitution and the Audit Service Act provide the legal backing for the existence and operation of the SAI (Audit Service) as part of the Public Services of Ghana. Also the key statute guiding the Malawi SAI is the Public Account Act No 6 of 2003. AUTONOMY The SAI’s autonomy refers to the extent to which they are able to carry out their mandates without any interference. Critical factors include appointment, tenure, independence sources of funding and access to information. In some jurisdictions, the President potentially is able to exert undue influence on the Auditor-General in issues of appointment and removal. In Ghana, the Auditor-General is appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State. He can only be relieved from his position by the President on grounds of stated misbehavior, incompetence and incapacitation of mind or body after observing due process of removal. To maintain an independent perspective, at the apex of the SAI is a Board appointed by the President acting in consultation with the Council of State, to oversee staff appointments and efficient administration. The Auditor-General of UK and Zimbabwe, are officers of Parliament. In Zimbabwe, the Controller and Auditor-General in the performance of his function is not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority other then the House of Assembly. On the contrary, the Auditor-General of Ghana is not an officer of Parliament. Article 187 (7a) of the Constitution states, that in the performance of his functions, the Auditor-General should not be ‘subjected to the direction or control of any other person or authority. Article 187 (15) also empowers the legislature to appoint external auditors to audit the accounts of the Auditor-General.

FUNDING The level of most SAIs funding is inadequate and serves as a constraint on their capacity. In Ghana for example, the approval budget is released through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to the Controller and Accountant-General which rather frequently is unable to provide the SAI with all the funds Parliament has approved. It is also known that although the work load of the office has increased considerably in terms of number of accounts audited, this increase in work has not been sufficiently reflected in the budget of the office. The resources allocated to the office have in real terms been reduced. TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT AND STAFF Lack of equipment like computer, offices and vehicles may weaken the operation of SAI. The capacity of the SAI may be further hampered by the absence of trained staff. In Ghana, these problems are being addressed by a support to the Ghana Audit Service Project being funded by the European Commission. The project involves training in IT and financial audits, performance audit and planning, budgeting and management information systems. The project has also provided a number of computers and vehicles to the service to enhance its operations.

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