The Auditor General’s (AG) 2020 report on the public accounts of Ghana has disclosed that allocations totalling GHS7.3 million (US$1.5 million) for the Cocoa Farmers Wards Scholarship Trust Fund have been misapplied.
According to the AG’s findings, the funds covering the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 academic years were duly released into the coffers of Ghana Cocoa Board.
But its investigations revealed that the Management of Cocobod failed to transfer the funds to the Scholarship Trust for the period under review.
“Our review of the financial records of the Trust disclosed that Management did not release the amount into the Scholarship Trust. We also noted that the Board did not realign the budgets for the fund in respect of the Scholarship allocation during the period of our review,” reported AG.
It observed, however, the Cocoa Farmers Wards Scholarship Trust continued to operate over the period with funds already held and interest on its investment.
The AG observed though that “Management did not release the funds as a result of the Government policy on the Free Senior High School.”
But it explained, “Management could not confirm the account in which the funds were being held.”
Section 7 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) provides that a Principal Spending Officer of a covered entity shall ensure the regularity and proper use of money appropriated in that covered entity.
The Auditor General’s report interpreted that failure to transfer the released budget to the Trust could mean misapplication of the Cocoa Farmers Wards Scholarship fund.
Parliament approved the funds for disbursement as part of the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 budgets for COCOBOD’s annual syndicated loan for cocoa purchases.
Per the report of the Auditor-General, the loans were accessed and the funds released To Ghana Cocoa Board for the stated purpose.
In its response to the audit query, the Management of the Board said “Funds earmarked in the budget for the Scholarship Department is released based on the availability and request by the Department as the practice has been for all Subsidiaries, Divisions and Departments of COCOBOD.”
It further explained, “the Trust did not have sufficient funds to carry out its activities for the periods stated and therefore there was no need to further release funds to the Trust. Management wish to reiterate that the Trust did not suffer any operational difficulty due to lack of funding.”
“We recommended that management should desist from this practice in all future budget allocations. Management shall ensure efficient budget allocations to the Board’s activities,” the Auditor-General’s report stated.