Home » Presidency Denies RTI Request for KPMG Audit on GRA-SML Deal

Presidency Denies RTI Request for KPMG Audit on GRA-SML Deal

Decision Sparks Debate Over Transparency in Government Contracts

by Adenike Adeodun

The Presidency of Ghana has denied the Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) Right to Information (RTI) request for the full KPMG audit report concerning the revenue mobilisation agreement between the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Strategic Mobilisation Ghana Ltd (SML). This decision has reignited discussions on transparency and accountability in public administration, particularly concerning access to pivotal government documents.

The request by MFWA aimed to obtain detailed insights into the audit findings by KPMG, which was commissioned to scrutinize the dealings between GRA and SML. This audit was initiated on January 2, 2024, with a completion deadline originally set for January 16 but was subsequently extended to February 23, 2024. The audit explored financial transactions and compliance under the contract from 2018 to the audit date, revealing that SML received GH¢1,061,054,778.00 while only partially fulfilling its contractual obligations.

Citing Section 5 (1) (a) and (b) (i) of the RTI Act, the Presidency justified its refusal by classifying the audit report as containing sensitive information integral to national decision-making processes. The Presidency’s response, articulated in a letter from the Chief Director to the Chief of Staff, emphasized that the contents of the KPMG report included opinions, advice, and deliberations crucial to the deliberative process of the executive office, thus qualifying them as exempt from public disclosure.

This refusal underscores a larger debate about the balance between national security or executive confidentiality and the public’s right to information, especially in contexts where significant public resources and governance are involved. The Presidency’s stance suggests a prioritization of safeguarding internal deliberations at the potential cost of reduced transparency in public contract management.

In the wake of the Presidency’s decision, various stakeholders, including governance experts, civil society organizations, and the general public, have voiced concerns about the potential implications for governance transparency. Sulemana Braimah, the Executive Director of MFWA, expressed disappointment, indicating that this move might hinder public trust and the media’s role in ensuring government accountability.

The KPMG audit report highlighted that while SML had contributed to increasing revenue in Ghana’s downstream petroleum sector, there were discrepancies in the fulfillment of its contractual obligations. SML contested the figures reported by KPMG, arguing that the audit did not adequately account for its investments and tax payments during the period under review. This dispute adds another layer of complexity to the public’s understanding and the ongoing discussions about the contract’s efficacy and transparency.

The decision to withhold the full audit report from public scrutiny raises essential questions about the limits of the RTI Act and the extent to which information is shared in the public interest. It also prompts a discussion about the mechanisms in place to ensure that such decisions are made with due consideration for public interest versus the need to protect sensitive information.

As Ghana continues to navigate the challenges of governance in a democratic setting, this situation serves as a critical case study of the tensions between state confidentiality and the demand for transparency. The outcomes of this debate could have significant implications for public trust in government processes and the overall health of Ghana’s democratic institutions.

The rejection of the RTI request by the Presidency has significant implications for transparency and governance in Ghana. It underscores the need for a careful balance between protecting state interests and upholding the citizens’ right to information, especially in matters involving public resources and governance. As discussions continue, the resolution of this issue will likely set a precedent for how similar cases are handled in the future, influencing public trust and the effectiveness of governance in Ghana.

Source: My Joy Online

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