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Auditor-General has no powers to surcharge Zoomlion – SC

A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Jones Dotse, has ruled that the Auditor-General cannot surcharge private...



A seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Jones Dotse, has ruled that the Auditor-General cannot surcharge private waste management company Zoomlion Ghana.
An audit of accounts of the National Health Insurance Authority found that Zoomlion had allegedly been paid a total amount GHS184,901,650.00 between 2007 and 2018.

The apex court, while determining the constitutionality of a GHS184 million surcharge against Zoomlion Ghana Limited by the Auditor-General’s Department, said due to the peculiar facts of the case, the respondent is not liable to the powers of the Auditor-General.

The court, therefore, directed the Court of Appeal to determine the case before it, based on what the Supreme Court has said.

The court said its full reasons would be made ready at the Registry of the Court for the parties to pick it up on Friday.

Background

In October 2018, the Auditor-General, Daniel Yaw Domelevo issued a surcharge and disallowance against the waste management company for over GHS184 million for a fumigation exercise carried out for the Ministry of Health (MoH) but which was paid for by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).

The surcharge was issued after an audit of the accounts of the NHIA made findings that Zoomlion had, between 2007 and 2018, allegedly been paid a total of GHS184,901,650.00 without due process.

According to the Auditor-General, Zoomlion continued to receive payments for the fumigation exercise up to August 2018 even though the four-year contract that started in 2009, had ended.

“Dissatisfied, on February 6, 2020, Zoomlion appealed against the decision of the High Court at the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal realised that there was constitutional interpretation to the case and subsequently referred it to the Supreme Court,” the report indicated.

The apex court quoted Article 187 (7) (b) (i) of the 1992 Constitution, which allows the Auditor-General to “disallow any item of expenditure, which is contrary to law and surcharge the amount of any expenditure disallowed upon the person responsible for incurring or authorising the expenditure”.

Zoomlion, subsequently, appealed the decision of the Auditor-General at the Accra High Court on 5 December 2018 and urged the court to set it aside.

On 31 January 2020, the High Court presided over by Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa dismissed the appeal.

No evidence of fraud established against Zoomlion

Earlier, Justice Mensah-Datsa cleared Zoomlion Ghana Limited of any allegations of fraud as alleged by the Auditor-General.

The court, in its ruling on the matter, particularly on the allegations of fraud- said the Auditor-General had not been able to establish any case of fraud against the company.

Justice Mensah-Datsa’s court held that the respondent had not established that the appellant (Zoomlion) had defrauded the state.

The court further stated that the state institutions involved – the Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Authority, acting through the various officers named by the respondent as having made payments to the appellant without due process, ‘might have been negligent'.

It was the case of Zoomlion that the Auditor-General “erred on its finding that the Appellant had been paid a total amount of GHS184, 901650.00 without due process and this has occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice.”

It also contended that “the Respondent erred in its finding that the Appellant had between the year 2007-2017, been paid an amount of GHS184, 901650.00 devoid of due process without affording or giving the Appellant the opportunity to respond to the allegation, therefore, it breaches the rule of natural justice and this has occasioned a brave miscarriage of justice.”

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