President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has directed heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to collaborate with internal audit units in their organisations to build robust internal control systems that will help plug waste and curb misuse of public funds.
He also asked public institutions to implement best risk management systems to boost the management of public financial resources in the interest of the country.
“We need to implement these measures to help build this country because it can no longer be the business as usual approach in managing public resources in my administration,” he stressed.
The President gave the directive in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Minister of Planning, Professor George Gyan-Baffour, at the opening session of the 2019 annual Internal Audit Agency (IAA) conference in Accra yesterday.
The conference was held on the theme: “Protecting national resources; the role of oversight bodies.”
The conference brought together key heads of oversight bodies such as the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Joseph Whittal; the Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin A. B. K. Amidu; the Director of Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Maame Yaa Tiwa Addo-Danquah; and the Chairman of the Public Services Commission, Mrs Janet Ampadu-Fofie.
The conference will discuss topics such as repositioning the internal audit function for effective protection of national resources; accountants and internal auditors as front-liners in fighting organised crime, corruption and money laundering; and integrating governance, risk management and compliance for effective public financial management (PFM).
It will also discuss the role of the Office of the Special Prosecutor in protecting national resources; prudent and responsible leadership in PFM; the role of CHRAJ in protecting national resources; and soft skills for effectiveness of internal audit.
President Akufo-Addo said in a bid to strengthen the Audit Service, the Ministry of Finance was collaborating with the IAA Board to restructure the service to make it more relevant to fight corruption in public institutions.
The move to restructure the Audit Service, he said, was in view of the pivotal role internal auditors played in protecting the public purse.
He stressed the need for heads of public institutions to prioritise the strengthening of the internal audit units and guard against sidelining the internal auditors.
“The government is taking steps to retool state agencies, including the Audit Service, and we believe that the IAA and the audit function can do better to improve public services,” he said.
The President urged the IAA to let capacity building for its members be a top priority, since it was through that means that they could improve the professional competencies and be abreast of best practices in auditing.
The Chairman of the IAA Board, Mr Joseph B. Winful, called for a review of the law establishing the Audit Service to make internal auditors independent.
He said the current arrangement where internal auditors had their employment controlled by heads of MDAs and MMDAs made it difficult for them to do diligent work.
“Imagine this situation where the person you are being asked to go and catch is the same person who will pay you at the end of the month. Internal auditors are on the payroll of MMDAs and some of them are being threatened with transfers so they are unable to do objective work,” he said.
Mr Winful said the IAA was also reviewing the qualification system into the Audit Service to ensure that only competent persons were recruited.
For his part, the Acting Director-General of IAA, Mr Ransford Agyei, said the agency would live up to its mandate of ensuring that national resources were adequately safeguarded and used sustainably.
He underscored the need for concerted efforts to protect national resources, saying it took collective responsibility to achieve that.
Mr Agyei said internal auditors had the primary responsibility to ensure the protection and optimal use of natural resources.
“Internal auditors work hard towards improving control, risk and governance through their oversight, foresight and insight roles to support management in the use, control and safeguarding of our resources.
“I can confidently state that internal auditors, against the numerous challenges, are doing their best, despite the few bad lots among us,” he added.
Conditions of service
Mr Agyei asked for efforts to be made to improve on the conditions of service of internal auditors.
He said even though the government was addressing some of the compensation packages of the auditors, their general conditions of service was still a major challenge.
“We, therefore, call on the Internal Audit Agency Board and the government that, in its restructuring efforts of the internal auditing, the conditions of service of the staff of the Internal Audit units should be at the centre stage,” he stressed.