President J.A. Kufuor on Tuesday stepped up the anti-corruption crusade with a directive to all chief executive officers (CEOs) in the public sector to ensure the establishment of functional internal audit units by March 2008.

Furthermore, he instructed the CEOs to develop, sign and make operational departmental internal audit charters and functional audit report implementation committees by the same period to stem corporate fraud, abuse, waste and corruption, especially in the public sector.

President Kufuor gave the directive in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Finance, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, at the second annual internal audit forum in Accra on Tuesday.

The forum, on the theme: “Mitigating corporate fraud, abuse and waste: The role of the internal auditor”, was organised by the Internal Audit Agency (IAA).

President Kufuor charged all CEOs to “ensure that all outstanding internal and external audit recommendations are cleared by June 30, 2008”.

The President also instructed the Chairman of the Public Services Commission and the Head of the Civil Service to work together to remove bottlenecks in the performance management system in the public sector to ensure that chief directors and chief executives were held accountable for agreed targets in performance agreements signed at the beginning of each year.

“The presence of fraud deterrence and prevention measures should be included in the performance indicators. I expect the annual reports of the Public Services Commission and the Head of the Civil Service to include performing and non-performing chief directors and chief executives,” he added.

He said domestically or internationally, fraud and economic crime posed a threat and had a link with terrorism, poverty and drugs.

He said the government was aware of the types and forms of fraud and corruption that might be perpetuated in the public and the private sectors, naming them as bribery, false statements and claims, embezzlement, conflict of interest, collusive bidding, price fixing and bid rigging, adding that after carefully reviewing the situation, the government had come to the conclusion that the best way of addressing the canker was to put measures in place with its symptoms in all manifestations.

“Our belief is that deterrence and prevention are better than cure but in the case of fraud and corruption, deterrence, prevention and cure must go hand in hand. It is known that the cost of deterring fraud and corruption is far less expensive than detecting and investigating them, not to mention the cost of trying to correct the irreparable damage they cause,” he added.

President Kufuor said it was in that light that the government approached the fight against corruption by projecting the values of transparency, accountability, discipline and performance, providing the appropriate legislative framework to empower Ghanaians to perform their duties without fear of victimization and developing the institutional and human resource capacity for the implementation of sound financial management in the public sector.

“We are aware that fraud and corruption thrive when people are under pressure from their personal ambitions, family, social and religious association; have opportunity through weak management and operational controls and are able to rationalise their actions either by the pervasiveness of the menace or the perceived weakness of the investigative and prosecution procedures to bring them to book,” he said.

“In order to deal with the three premises of fraud and corruption, we have adopted economic and social measures to reduce the social pressure on susceptible people. Government programmes like the capitation grant, the school feeding programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), improvement in the general economy, coupled with the national orientation programme, go a long way to eliminate any justification of fraud and corruption attributable to pressure,” he noted.

“We have also adopted a system-based approach to minimizing opportunities for fraud and corruption; Systems and institutions are being strengthened to minimise the risk of fraud and corruption in the public sector. Auditors are particu1arly important in ensuring that all risk exposures that could be exploited by fraudulent and corrupt officials are identified and addressed timely,” President Kufuor added.

He said the third reason for corruption to thrive, that is, rationalization, could be addressed if the nation launched a national crusade against all manifestations of the canker and citizens became anti-fraud and corruption ambassadors wherever they went.

The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, in a speech read on her behalf by Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo, an Appeal Court judge, said corporate fraud needed to be mitigated and urged auditors to continue to alert the chain of command to possible fraud, ask tough questions and be independent and impartial.

She said if auditors did their jobs well, they would increase investor confidence in the marketplace and the economy would flourish.

The acting Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ms Anna Bossman, called for the establishment of ethics and compliance desks at the various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to check corruption.

She noted that officials were getting away with petty thievery and, therefore, there was the need for a robust system to deal with the canker.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Patrick Acheampong, said internal auditing was a very useful tool for the police and’ stressed the importance of training in that aspect to enable internal auditors to deliver.

The Chief of Staff and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, in a speech read on his behalf, said fraud, abuse and waste were the key enemies of national development, adding that no effort should be spared to mitigate them.

The Director-General of the IAA, Mr Patrick Nomo, urged all stakeholders to play active roles in addressing the problems of corporate fraud.

Source: Daily Graphic