Monday, June 27, 2005

Maybe when they have set up their systems they will teach us

Here is some news to gladden one’s heart and tickle the funny bone. An agreement has been signed between Ghana and the European Union, whereby the EU will hand over €4.6 million (c 50.4 million cedis or just over £3 million) to support the Ghana Audit Service from 2005 to 2009.

The rationale, as expressed by Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Ghanaian Minister of Finance and Mr Stefan Frowein, EU Ambassador (who says the EU has no diplomatic service?) is that as the EU handed over €27.8 million in budgetary support (a.k.a. aid) last year and will give another €24 million this year, the money ought to be properly audited.

In fact, the Ghana Audit Service has already had money from the European Union for the first phase of reform and strengthening and this had run successfully from 2000 to 2004.

One might wonder how is it that the recipient countries are left to audit funds handed over to them by donors, clearly in conditions that leave much to be desired. Would it not be better for the donors to do the auditing to find out where the money has gone to?

Well, maybe not. After all, the EDF (European Development Fund) and ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office) are among the most problematic parts of the whole EU structure.

The Court of Auditors has produced report after report, lambasting every single project and it was a report by a special commission on certain activities within ECHO that brought down the Santer Commission.

And talking of the Court of Auditors, have we not had a bit of trouble there with the EU’s own budget? For instance, I cannot recall a single occasion on which the budget was signed off by the Court. Each time a devastating report appears, the Commission blusters and promises to mend its ways, gets the budget passed in the European Parliament (ex post facto) and the whole charade begins again.

This is what Ambassador Frowein said about the Ghana Audit Service:
“A supreme audit institution, like the Ghana Audit Service, needs to be a major watchdog to make sure public funds are used correctly, efficiently and effectively. This is obviously important as public funds are ultimately tax-payers' money and we all want to see our tax money spent correctly.”
Quite so. And maybe when the GAS has proved its worth it could send its representatives to Brussels to teach them about accounting for taxpayers’ money.

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