A governance expert, Dr Valentin Mensah, says Ghana’s democracy appears to be on a downward trajectory because of the poor accountability architecture.
According to him, the institutions, including Parliament, Auditor General’s Department have for so long abdicated their responsibility of oversight and accountability over the executive which has led to needless judgment debts, threats of demonstrations, controversial car loans, general weaknesses in a democracy are to be expected.
Borrowing a famous statement by Alexis de Tocqueville, a popular French Diplomat, Dr Mensah said, except God, no government or authority on earth can function properly without oversight.
He was convinced that Ghana’s democracy has been defective largely because of the poor oversight and accountability regime, with passive members of the Institute of Accountants (ICAG), Civil Society Groups looking on while politicians pretend to hold each other accountable and failing abysmally at it.
He made the comments during a Corporate Governance Faculty Lecture organized by ICAG on the theme; “Dysfunctional Executive Oversight and Accountability in Ghana.”
According to Dr Valentin Mensah, successive governments have failed to deliver on the directive principles of state policy enshrined in the constitution, part of which are to ensure the welfare of citizens.
“The governments of UK, US are securing the welfare of their citizens and making them happy that is why a lot of us want to migrate there,” he said.
He was convinced Ghana’s failure to hold leadership accountable for their stewardship is the reason for the sad state of affairs.
Problems of Oversight
Dr Valentin Mensah said while elections are important mechanisms in holding governments to account, inter-institutional oversight and accountability must be strengthened in between elections.
He was unequivocal in his belief that Parliament and the Auditor General have failed in holding the executive accountable.
He said the current constitution under Articles 184 and 187 (2) only limits the AG to presenting audit reports to the house of Parliament without instructions on what the two institutions can do to collectively hold the executive to account.
In other jurisdictions Parliament plays a role in the appointment and removal of the Auditor General but not in Ghana, he lamented, adding, “The global trend is for the Auditor General to be associated with the legislature as an officer of Parliament and be both responsible and accountable to Parliament.”
He said the Public Accounts Committee which should play the role of the audit committee and bring issues of corruption by the executive out in the public domain, is faced with a myriad of problems including partisanship of MPs, lack of technical support and resources, late consideration and debate of Auditor General’s report by Parliament and lack of political will or interest in the oversight function due to political culture.
In finding a solution to the oversight and accountability deficit in governance, Dr Mensah said other key actors like the CSO and Accountants especially must be involved in the process.
If accountability is left for the politicians alone, it will be like a turntable for them. They will talk well when they are in opposition but do worse when in government, he stated.
Like it happened in the Occupy Ghana and the Auditor General case which led to a number of surcharges and refunds, the corporate governance expert said there have to be similar collaborations between CSOs to hold duty bearers accountable.
He said an oversight week or oversight month can be instituted for duty bearers to account for every penny expended on projects of national interest.
He also called for a change in the political culture of Ghanaians which, sometimes is expressed in unquestioned loyalty to groups, unquestioned obedience to authority, etc.
The president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana, Prof Williams Atuilik said Accountants have a major role to play to ensure prudent financial management and reduction in corruption.
He said ICAG will henceforth be seen to be playing a critical role in the governance process and will make appropriate recommendations to the government on best corporate governance practices.
“From the top hierarchy of corporate Ghana to the lowest, there is need for proper governance architecture, and Accountants have a critical role to play in tightening fiscal management regimes,” he stated.