The Office of the Auditor-General and the Ghana Audit Service, were established by the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. Internationally, the equivalent of Ghana Audit Service is referred to as the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI). The worldwide board of SAIs is called the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI). Whereas Ghana Audit Service is used in Ghana, the name varies from country to country. These include the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the Office of the Auditor-General, National Audit Office, National Accountability Office, Central Auditing Organization, Cour des Comptes, Comptes de la Cour Suprême, Tribunal de Contas etc.
The seat of INTOSAI and the General Secretariat is in Vienna. The INTOSAI has regional bodies, and that of Africa is called African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI) and the sub-regional body is English speaking African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions-(AFROSAI-E).
The Ghana Audit Service, established by Article 188 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana as part of the Public Services of Ghana, is the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of Ghana. The Service is the major instrument used by the Auditor-General to undertake the audit of the public accounts of Ghana and all public offices as mandated by Article 187 of the Constitution.
The Ghana Audit Service‘s existence dates back to the colonial era with a defined structure and status, though these have significantly changed in response to modern exigencies. History has it that governmental auditing began in Ghana in 1910 when the British Colonial Administration sent a team of auditors from the Treasury Office in London to the then Gold Coast colony to audit the application of funds granted to the colonial Governor to administer the colony.
Subsequently, the British Colonial Administration set up a local Audit Office instead of sending auditors from the London Office annually. The Colonial Administration, under the direction of the Colonial Audit Office in London, established the Gold Coast Audit Department headed by a Director, who annually submitted an audit report to the Director of Colonial Audit in London. The Department had five British heading from 1910 to 1963, the first of such Directors was in the person of Walter Bowerley who headed the Department from 1910 to 1932.
The Colonial Audit Office was under the supervision of the Secretary of State of the United Kingdom. Employees of the Audit Department were recruited by the Colonial Audit Office in London. This ensured the creation of an independent Audit Department because the Department’s report was submitted directly to the Colonial Audit Office through the Director of Audit
The struggle for an independent Gold Coast brought about political movements which mounted pressure in various forms resulting in the first ever elections in the country on 8 February 1951 to elect a legislative Assembly. The result of the 1951 elections led to the devolution of power from the British Crown to the local administration led by Prime Minister Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. This political transition also affected the external audit arrangements as it ushered in a new era; the designation of the head of the Audit Department changed from Director of Audit to Director-General (D-G) of Gold Coast Audit Department with the appointment of Mr. Neville Warde Sabine as the first D-G in 1951, a position he held until 1963.
The appointment of Mr. Sabine as D-G of Audit of the Gold Coast resulted in a change in the line of reporting. The new D-G began reporting to the Governor of the Gold Coast who represented the Crown as the Head of State instead of the earlier arrangement of reporting to the Director of Colonial Audit Office in London.
During the period of self-government, the Audit Department also established a link with the legislature through a newly created Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The D-G served as the Technical Adviser to the Committee, which examined the audit reports and submitted its findings to the Legislature (plenary).
The political activism for independence continued with accompanying legislative reforms especially in 1954 when the country adopted a new Constitution after yet another legislative election. The 1954 Constitution of the Gold Coast for the first time provided for the external audit function in the financial management system of the country. The 1954 Constitution also created the position of an Auditor-General (A-G) to replace the Director-General of Gold Coast Audit Department. Consequently, the Gold Coast Audit Department became the Auditor-General’s Department of Gold Coast and a part of the Civil Service.
In 1960, Ghana became a Republic and a new Constitution came into being, thus ending the Monarch and Governor-General role of the Queen in place of an Executive Presidency in Ghana. This brought changes in the structure of the nation and institutions. Of particular interest was the provision for the appointment and removal of the A-G. The 1960 Constitution stated in part: “There shall be an Auditor-General, who shall be appointed by the President and who shall not be removable except by the President in pursuance of a resolution of the National Assembly supported by the votes of at least two-thirds of the total number of Members of Parliament and passed on the ground of stated misbehavior or of the infirmity of body or mind”.
In 1963, the country established a milestone when it appointed Mr. Ahenkora Osei as the first Ghanaian A-G to head the Auditor-General’s Department. Mr. Osei held this position for 18 unblemished years outliving three constitutional (1960-1966, 1969-1972, and 1979-1981) and two military regimes (1966-1969 and 1972-1979) respectively.
On 24 February 1966, Ghana experienced the first coup-d’état which overthrew Dr. Nkrumah’s government. Efforts to return to constitutional rule after the 1969 military overthrow led to the establishment of a Constitutional Commission to prepare a new constitution in 1968.
The Commission noted that, even though the Auditor-General’s Department was to be autonomous, in practice there were political interferences and to an extent, controlled by the Ministry of Finance, among others. These practices were against the established provisions in the 1960 Constitution, including; that the Auditor-General‘s Department was not supposed to be under any Ministry.
The 1968 Commission acknowledged that the practice was for the Auditor-General‘s report to be debated by the Public Accounts Commission (PAC) of Parliament, chaired by a prominent member of the opposition party. This practice was, however, discontinued as a result of the 1964 constitutional amendments that made Ghana a one-party state. As a result, the Chairman and members of the PAC became exclusively members of the government since there was no opposition party in the National Assembly, the public eventually lost confidence in the work of the PAC.
To cure the seeming political interference and governmental control brought about by the 1964 constitutional amendment, the 1968 Constitutional Commission recommended the appointment of an independent Auditor-General who was not subjected to the control or direction of any person or authority. The Auditor-General was given the power to audit all public accounts without exception and given free access to all books, records, returns, and other documents relating to those accounts.
The Auditor-General was further given powers for the first time, to disallow any item of expenditure which was contrary to law and surcharge any persons responsible for such items of expenditure. In addition, a Board was established for the Audit Service. The Board was tasked to appoint officers in the Audit Service, determine their conditions of service, and to ensure the effective and efficient administration of the Audit Service. These recommendations by the 1968 Constitutional Commission were adopted and subsequently became Articles 135 to 137 of the 1969 Constitution.
The A-G, Mr. Ahenkora Osei was very instrumental in the legislative reforms that were adopted by the Commission which converted the A-G’s Department to a fully-fledged Audit Service as a constitutional body and made part of the Public Services of Ghana and separated from the Civil Service in 1969. These constitutional provisions for the conversion were approved by the Constituent Assembly on 22 August 1969 thus establishing the present- day Audit Service.
The military take-over of political administration in 1972 suspended the 1969 Constitution and a decree; the Audit Service Decree, (NRCD 49) 1972, was published to give effect to the provisions in the 1969 Constitution.
The inception of the third Republic (1979 Constitution) maintained the level of independence of the Auditor General. Article 151(7) of the 1979 Constitution states “In the performance of his functions under this Constitution or any other law the Auditor-General, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority”.
The entire Article 151 of the 1979 Constitution was once again adopted after the 1981 coup d’état as section 4 of the Provisional National Defense Council (Establishment) Proclamation, 1984.
Mr. Ahenkora Osei graciously bowed out of public service in 1981 and was succeeded by Mr. James Benoni Haizel-Coleman. Mr. Haizel-Coleman served for a year and was replaced by Mr. Richard Tello-Nelson in 1983, who served from 1983 to 1989 and further succeeded by Mr. Osei Tutu Prempeh in 1990.
Mr. O. T. Prempeh served as the A-G until 2000 when he handed over to Mr. Edward Dua Agyeman (now a Prof) who was appointed as the acting Auditor-General in 2001 to succeed Mr. O. T. Prempeh and later confirmed in 2003 as the substantive Auditor-General.
Ghana returned once again to constitutional rule on 7 January 1993 with the inception of the 1992 Constitution which ushered in multi-party general elections in December 1992. Articles 187, 188 and 189 of the 1992 Constitution maintained the 1969 Constitutional provisions establishing the Office of the Auditor-General and the Audit Service.
The 1992 Constitution, Article 189 re-established that the Audit Service Board in consultation with the Public Service Commission is mandated to:
- appoint officers and other employees in the Audit Service, other than the Auditor-General,
- determine the terms and conditions of service of officers and other employees in the Audit Service and;
- By constitutional instrument, make regulations for the effective and efficient administration of the Audit Service.
The mandate for public sector audit is vested exclusively in the Auditor-General and Article 187 of the Constitution provides the mandate of the Auditor General as follows:
- The public accounts of Ghana and of all public offices, including the courts, the central and local government administrations, of the Universities and public institutions of like nature, of any public corporation or other body or organization established by an Act of Parliament shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor-General.
- The Auditor-General or any person authorised or appointed for the purpose of the audit by the Auditor-General shall have access to all books, records returns and other documents relating or relevant to those accounts.
- All the public accounts of Ghana and of all other persons or authorities referred to in clause (2) of article 187 shall be kept in such form as the Auditor-General shall approve.
- In the performance of his functions under this Constitution or any other law the Auditor-General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority;
- He may disallow any item of expenditure which is contrary to law and surcharge: (i) the amount of any expenditure disallowed upon the person responsible for incurring or authorising the expenditure; or (ii) any sum which has not been duly brought into account, upon the person by whom the sum ought to have been brought into account; or (iii) the amount of any loss or deficiency, upon any person by whose negligence or misconduct the loss or deficiency has been incurred.
The Audit Service Act 2000 (Act 584) enacted in 2000 by Parliament; gave clarity to the Constitution, allowing the Service to adapt to changing times and put in place operational procedures. Section 16 of ACT 584 provides that the Auditor-General may in addition to the audit of public accounts, carry out in the public interest such special audits or reviews as he considers necessary and shall submit reports on the audits or review undertaken by him to Parliament.
Additionally, Article 286 of the 1992 Constitution and Act 550 (Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act), 1998 mandate the Auditor-General to administer the declaration of assets and liabilities by public office holders such as the President, the Chief Justice, Ministers, and Members of Parliament amongst others.
The passage of Act 584 coincided with Prof Dua Agyeman’s term of office. He initiated various reforms in the Service with the support of development partners such as the European Union. Under his leadership, the Service developed capacity in modern areas of auditing such as Performance, and Information Technology audits.
One of the achievements during his tenure was; the Service published a performance audit report on Police Accommodation which was adjudged the Best Performance audit report produced in 2008 among members of AFROSAI-E, a regional body of Supreme Audit Institutions. Prof Dua Agyeman left office in 2009 and was succeeded by Mr. Richard Quartei Quartey whose term spanned from 2009 until December, 2016.
During his term of office Mr. Quartey, the Service firmly associated itself with the Canadian Accountability and Auditing Foundation (CAAF), the International Centre for Information Systems and Audit (iCISA) and the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) who assisted to build capacity of staff in the areas of public sector auditing, performance audit, Information System audit, environmental audit and infrastructure audits.
The Service has over the years won bids to serve as external auditors for the International Maritime Organisation for the period 2012 to 2020.
The Audit Service has its head office situated in Accra within the main Ministries enclave. It has 16 regional offices and 70 district offices- each Audit Service District office is responsible for more than one administrative district. The current staff strength is approximately 1800 with over 300 professional staff. Due to the diversity of audits performed, the Service prides itself with staff from diverse academic and professional backgrounds such as;
• Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA),
• Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA),
• Certified Information System Auditors (CISA),
• Ghana Bar Association (GBA),
• Institute of Public Relations (IPR),
• Project Management Institute (PMI),
• Ghana Institute of Surveyors (GIS),
• Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA),
• Ghana Institute of Engineering (GhIE) and
• Human Resource Professionals amongst others.
The Service has always taken the task its mandate and prides its ability to curb corruption and has diligently done so since its establishment. The performance of the Service is also attributable to diligent and experienced leaders who have held the mantle from Mr, Ahenkorah Osei, the first Ghanaian Auditor-General, and others as; J.B Haizel-Coleman, R.T Nelson, O.T Prempeh, Prof Dua-Agyeman, Richard Quartey, and Daniel Domelevo who all worked selflessly to achieve our outstanding feat to date.
In curbing corruption, between June 2017 and November 2018, the Service had issued 112 surcharge certificates and returned a total amount of GHS67.3 million (USD12.2 million) back to government coffers. In another exercise, the total outstanding commitments submitted by the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies for verification of arrears amounted to GHS11.3 billion (USD2 billion), 51% of which were rejected by GAS as invalid arrears due to fraudulent reasons. These achievements inspired other African SAIs to pass similar legislation on disallowances and surcharges.
The Service due to its diligence and respect attained by its performance won seven national awards in 2019 including the prestigious Integrity Personality Award. The Service prides itself in having won also the Best HR strategic plan for 2019 amongst Supreme Audit Institutions in the sub-region. The Service also won contracts for the audits of the UN specialized agencies including audits on International Organisation of Migration (2016-2022), International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (2016-2019), and African Union Organisation (2018-2020).
Currently, under the leadership of Mr. Johnson Akuamoah Aseidu, the Service remains committed to an unflinching performance by ensuring the discharge of its mandate, collaboration with stakeholders, and the use of available resources effectively and efficiently in protecting the public purse for the socio-economic development of Ghana, whilst achieving international recognitions.