Manasseh Awuni Azure
Manasseh Awuni Azure
Manasseh Awuni Azure
Manasseh Awuni Azure

Manasseh Azure Awuni is one of the few journalists in Ghana that I feel happy reading from. His letters to his future wife were articles I read all the time. In them I could see a very promising talent that Ghana will stand to benefit from. Then when he started investigative journalism, my admiration for him escalated: for it is only people like him who can help bring the educated thieves in our country to the known. This is exactly what he is doing as far as the SADA issue is concerned.

However, I was disappointed in his work when I read his stories regarding the current issues happening within SADA based on technicalities. Let me make it clear that I am not saying SADA executives are doing the right thing, never! Indeed some of the issues raised are very serious and
need critical questioning. I think SADA needs to be re-examined and the mode of operation reestablished. The amount of money they pay to people they brand as consultants is just annoying.

That is complete thievery that must stop. SADA does not need a permanent consultant who must be paid every month. Consultants are used when needed and are paid fees not salaries. The use of seed producing firms for planning and booking trips is a very big sign of fraud, and spending monies without budgets is close armed robbery!! But my emphasis is on whether Manasseh is rushing to be?recognized or doing the right thing. I shall explain why in the following paragraphs with some technical analysis from an audit point of view.

To begin with, how did Manasseh get details of an audit report which is not yet issued? What kind of an auditor did the work and how independent and professional is he if he is able to disclose details of an audit report which is not yet finalized? For those who are not familiar to auditing, I will explain: the ethics regarding confidentiality requires that nothing regarding the audit procedures should be discussed with any party other than those concerned with governance of the firm or unless laws and regulations require that. In fact confidentiality laws here in the United States require that we don?t discuss audit procedures in public places. Not on phone and not on the train: Because doing so can expose client information to the public before it becomes public: my laptop has a security screen that I must use when using it in public, so nobody can see what is on it. Why then will an auditor who is trusted to do a good job to serve the interest of the public disclose such information to a journalist when the report is not yet public?

There is no way this auditor can be trusted unless we are told that Manasseh stole the information, in which case SADA can conveniently sue him as we also prepare to sue them. My main point for raising this issue is that there is no way an auditor who cannot keep confidential information of a client be trusted to do objective work with the independence required for an acceptable audit report. It seems the auditor is having some prejudice before starting the engagement and can never issue and independent report.

SADA is a public company, as such the final audit report should not be a matter of secret and Manasseh could have waited to obtain that from the company. Another issue that bothers my mind is the issue of what Manasseh called the ?murky investment deal of GH?74.5 million.? From the story it was Joy News that took the pain to contact a specialist to find out what the investment means. I saw nothing like that from the supposed details of the auditor?s report. When conducting an audit, the auditor is allowed to use the work of a specialist to obtain evidence in areas he has no specialty. Why didn?t the auditor consult financial specialist to give him views on the GH?74.5 million investment. From an audit point of view, I have seen nothing wrong with the investment. The auditor is either lazy or does not know what he is doing that is why this is an issue. It is claimed there are no certificates relating to that investment when they requested to see one. From the hierarchy of audit evidence, evidence obtained directly from a third party are reliable than the one from the client.

If SADA could not produce the certificate why didn?t the auditor send out confirmation letters to the custodians of the said investment? Again, they are worried about the viability of the investment, I wonder if that is the duty of the auditor, but even if it is, the experts that Joy News contacted refused to speak on record because they have not seen details of the investment as presented in their own publication; ?Investment experts Joy News spoke to agree with this assertion. Though they will not speak on record until they have seen details of the account, they have indicated that the call account can only be justified if SADA management negotiated a high interest rate.? Journalist Azure yeeeeeii, how then did you conclude that the investment is murky? For your notice a call account is not a bad deal. And it is the most preferable one when an investor wants to have immediate access to his funds but wants to earn interest.

And even better, its interest rate depends largely on the amount, with higher amounts attracting higher rates: now you see where you might be wrong? What do we know about the investment and the returns? And you wanted SADA executives to tell you that? Why should they? The engagement letter they signed was between them and the auditor not Joy News.

My next point is on why I believe Manasseh is rushing for recognition rather than seeking the details. I have come to realize that most people get offended when you say they are ignorant of something. But again, ignorance is not an insult. It means you don?t have knowledge of something. I am ignorant of a lot of things, and I will never be offended when I am told the truth.

I believe Manasseh is ignorant of audit procedures and has succeeded in using that ignorance to send the Ghanaian public into an unwarranted debate. Now this is why I said so. During an audit, auditors may discover several irregularities involving huge sums of money. That does not mean there is fraud. The auditor will note all such items and report them to the client with recommendations that such items be corrected, or support documents be supplied to justify them before an opinion can be given.

It is only when the client fails to make the necessary corrections and the auditor deems the client explanation unreasonable or cannot perform alternate procedures to obtain appropriate sufficient evidence that he will give a modified opinion on the financial statements. Let me clarify things here: modified opinion can be a qualified one ? meaning the statements would have been fairly presented if not for a particular reason; or an adverse opinion ? which means the statements are not fairly presented in accordance with the applicable reporting framework. So if a journalist happens to see these noted items and start peddling them as misstatements, he is using audit work papers and not the audit report.

Unfortunately work papers are not final! In the case reported by Manasseh, the auditor is yet to receive management responses, so why do we jump to the conclusion that we are presenting to
the Ghanaian public? According to the director of finance and resource mobilization of SADA, as quoted by Joy News, he acknowledged that; ?There were a couple of issues here; first of all the audit is an ongoing thing because we haven?t received the final audit report. We are supposed to be responding to this management letter that came to us? We are to provide a response to this
and then the final report, in my opinion, would be produced, and that becomes a public document.? So how comes the ?report? is in public? Is the auditor having a pre- conditioned mind that there is no way SADA can answer the questions? An auditor is supposed to do his work with professional skepticism ? meaning he should not believe that management is not corrupt and should not also believe they are corrupt. All he needs is a questioning mind! Indeed an auditor does not issue his
report until he receives the management representation letter.

Failure to present the letter is enough for an auditor to withdraw from an audit engagement; so where from this report that we are discussing now? Hopefully Manasseh and his people can help answer this! Don?t get me wrong, as an auditor; I would be convinced that the per diems, the hotel fees and other fees that have no receipts are thievery, but I will wait until management fails to produce the requested evidence ? and that is what the profession requires. For someone who has no knowledge in auditing, this story is a very good one, but if you understand how and when an audit is complete, you will see the flaws. To conclude, I think SADA has a very big problem and needs serious attention. But if we don?t stop labeling anyone associated with it a corrupt person without justification, there is no way we can get it working.

To Manasseh Azure Awuni, you are a promising young man for Ghana and perhaps the world. Please stop chasing fame and do the right thing, and surely fame will chase you. You are doing a great job, but we can only consider you serious if you are doing the right job. I believe your work will send signals to SADA executives, but don?t send the country to a yelling bazaar with incomplete information; it will not help your career. Do your research well before coming out. And to SADA, all eyes are on you. A word to the wise is??????..I promise you that we will dig everything out no matter what it takes.

If it is concluded that you stole the money, Haaaaaja??? I rest my case!!

Source: By ABUBAKARI SADIQ IDDRISU

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