Ghana’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s Auditor General, to as a matter of urgency, surcharge all persons found to have misappropriated public funds.
The court also ordered that where applicable, criminal action should be instituted against such persons who have been accused of misappropriation of state funds by the Attorney General.
The decision was reached Wednesday by a seven-member justices of apex court chaired by nominated Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo.
It follows an action initiated by pressure group, OccupyGhana, which sought an order to compel the Auditor General not to only report on financial misappropriations by public officials but to take steps to retrieve all state finances that may have gone into wrong hands.
OccupyGhana sued the Attorney General and the Auditor General for refusing to surcharge persons who are said to have misappropriated monies belonging to the state to the tune of over GHc40 billion.
The pressure group in 2014 wrote a letter to the Auditor General reminding it to surcharge such persons or face them in court.
It consequently on June 22, 2016 filed a case against the two at the Supreme Court, claiming several efforts to ensure that the Auditor General makes such surcharges have proved futile.
In November 2014 the group said it wrote a letter, “reminding him [ Auditor-General,] of his powers of Disallowance and Surcharge under the Constitution, demanding that he exercises them…Subsequently we engaged several times with the Auditor-General, with a view to assisting in putting in place the structures upon which he would exercise those powers.”
“Regrettably, after a dozen letters and exchanges, and one publicized meeting on 27th March 2015, the Auditor-General has not taken any steps to exercise those powers, which would lead to the recovery of huge sums of money for the State,” the group said.
In the court action, it sought from the Supreme Court “a declaration that the Auditor-General’s omission, failure, refusal or neglect to issue any Disallowances and Surcharges in respect of the above, and as appears in his successive Reports since the coming into force of the Constitution, violates the Constitution.”
It further sought “an order of the Supreme Court directed at the Auditor-General to issue Disallowances and Surcharges to and in respect of all persons and entities found in his relevant, successive Reports to have engaged in any of the above.”
Over GHc40 billion lost in ‘irregularities’
According to Occupy Ghana, a thorough study of the Auditor General report revealed that between 2003 and 2014, the total losses the state incurred in “irregularities” arising from Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies was about GH¢2,448,968,912.29.
“This is alarming, more so when we discovered further that for just the four years, 2009 and 2012 to 2014, amounts lost to Ghana from “irregularities” in Public Boards, Corporations and other Statutory Institutions was Five Billion, Seventy Two Million, Six Hundred and Eighty Six Thousand and Seven Hundred and Sixteen Ghana Cedis (GH¢5,072,686,716).
“From our projections, since the promulgation of the Constitution, the total losses to Ghana arising from “irregularities” in Public Offices, Central and Local Government Administration, Public Institutions, Public Corporations and Statutory Bodies, possibly exceeds Forty Billion Ghana Cedis (GH¢40,000,000,000),” it said in a statement