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GRA-SML deal: Akufo-Addo releases KPMG report

President Akufo-Addo has authorised the release of the full KPMG report on the audit of revenue assurance contracts and transactions between the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Strategic Mobilisation Ltd (SML).

In a statement signed by the director of communications at the presidency announcing the decision of the President to release the report dated Wednesday, 22 May 2024, Mr Eugene Arhin stated that “the KPMG report comprises opinions, advice, deliberations, and recommendations that are integral to the President’s deliberative process and, therefore, qualifies as exempt information under section 5 (1) (a) and (b) (i) of the RTI Act. Thus, the Office of the President was justified in turning down the request from MFWA for a copy of the KPMG report.”

He further noted in the statement that “it is important to recount that, even before the request from MFWA, the President had, on 24th April, 2024, caused to be published a detailed press statement outlining KPMG’s findings and recommendations, as well as his directives to the Ministry of Finance and GRA.”

“The Office of the President reiterates the necessity for those who file applications and requests under the RTI Act to have a thorough understanding of its provisions. It is vital to appreciate that the legal framework for access to information includes safeguards intended to protect the sanctity of decision-making at the highest levels of government, which must not be compromised or misused in the pursuit of access to information,” the statement read.

“However, the President, in the interest of full transparency in governance, openness, and honesty with the public, has decided to waive the privilege under section 5 of the RTI Act and has directed the publication of the KPMG report in full” Mr Arhin’s the statement further read.

“Section 5 (1) (a) and (b) (i) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act states that “information prepared for or submitted to the president or vice-president containing opinions, advice, deliberations, recommendations, minutes, or consultations, is exempt from disclosure and that disclosure of such information would compromise the integrity of the deliberative process by revealing the thought process, considerations, and influence on decision-making reserved for the highest offices of the land.”

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However, President Akufo-Addo inspite of this express provision in the law, has in the interest of transparency and honesty, decided to publish the full report to allow public scrutiny of the document prepared by KPMG and presented to the President on Tuesday, 2 April 2024.

A senior source close to the presidency on Thursday, 9 May 2024, told Asaase News that President Akufo-Addo will authorise the release of the KPMG report, describing the move as a “mere question of timing”.

The chief director in the Office of the President, H M Wood, on Wednesday 8 May 2024 declined a demand by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) for the full KPMG report on the revenue assurance contract between the GRA and SML.

The MFWA in April this year requested, under the Right to Information Act 2019 (Act 989); commonly known as the (“RTI Act”), for a copy of the comprehensive KPMG audit report on the GRA/SML revenue assurance contract.

However, in a statement issued on Wednesday (8 May), the Chief Director in the Office of the President said upon careful consideration and in accordance with section 5 (1) (a) and (b) (i) of the RTI Act, [he] regrets to inform MFWA that their request has been refused.

“I can say on authority that both the letter to GRA and the press release from the presidency on the KPMG report on the GRA-SML deal captured, without omission the substance and essence of all the material findings and, it is important to add that the president gave not his recommendations to GRA but the totality, without reservation, of all the recommendations by KPMG,” the source at the presidency told Asaase News on 9 May.

“President Akufo-Addo very simply passed on all that KPMG recommended should be done about SML contracts, including cancelling two of them, suspending two others, and renegotiating the variable fee of the one that was recommended to remain but altered to have a fixed fee,” the source further stated.
The source additionally reckoned that “the report is yet to be made public because there is a sense that GRA must be allowed to recommend without any inordinate pressure the actual substance of the recommendations”.

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GRA-SML investigations

President Akufo-Addo received the KPMG report on 2 April 2024, three months after tasking the audit firm to investigate the GRA-SML deal. The government, after reviewing the report, issued a press statement directing the GRA to review the deal, among other directives.

On 2 January 2024, President Akufo-Addo appointed and tasked KPMG, a leading audit, tax and advisory services firm, to conduct an immediate audit of the transaction between the GRA and SML, a contract which was entered into to enhance revenue assurance in the downstream petroleum sector, the upstream petroleum production, and minerals and metals resources value chain.

The president’s directive was contained in a statement issued by the communications directorate of the Jubilee House and signed by the director of communications in the Office of the President, Eugene Arhin. The terms of reference of the audit ordered by the president were sixfold.

First is for KPMG to conduct an audit to ascertain the rationale or needs assessment performed before the contract approval by the GRA and to assess how the arrangement aligns with specific needs, and, second, to assess the appropriateness of the contracting methodology, verifying compliance with legal standards and industry best practice in the procurement process for the selection of SML.

Third, evaluate the degree of alignment between current activities and the stipulated contract scope, identifying any deviations, and fourth: evaluate the value or benefit that SML has so far offered to the GRA through this engagement.

The fifth term of reference is to review the financial arrangements, including pricing structures, payment terms and resolution of any financial compliance issues. Lastly, the firm was to submit a report on its findings on the above, together with appropriate recommendations.

GRA-SML contract review

The Ghana Revenue Authority, in compliance with the recent directives given by President Akufo-Addo on its deal with Strategic Mobilisation Ghana Ltd, has terminated the transaction Audit and External Verification Service Contract (AEVS) with SML.

The GRA has also decided to amend the measurement audit for the downstream petroleum products contract by revising the fee structure to a fixed fee structure. The Authority also says it will thoroughly review other provisions such as service delivery expectations, termination and intellectual property rights.

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The GRA disclosed this in a letter entitled “Compliance with Presidential Directives on Recommendations in KPMG Report on the Transactions Between GRA and SML”, dated Friday 3 May 2024, signed by the GRA Commissioner General, Julie Essiam, and addressed to the managing director of SML.

The GRA letter is copied to the vice-president, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei- Opare, the Secretary to the President, Nana Bediatuo Asante, the Minister for Finance, Mohammed Amin, the director of legal affairs at the Ministry of Finance and the deputy commissioner in charge of legal affairs at the GRA.

“This is about the presidential directives dated 18 April 2024 on the recommendations of KPMG concerning the Contract for Consolidation of Revenue Assurance Services between the Government of Ghana acting per the Ministry of Finance, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Strategic Mobilisation Ghana Limited (SML),” the letter says.

“Following the directives of the president, GRA has undertaken a thorough review of the Consolidation of Services (Transaction Audit and External Verification Services) contract dated 3 October 2019, the Measurement Audit for Downstream Petroleum Products Contract dated 3 October 2019, and the Contract for Consolidation of Revenue Assurance Services (Upstream and Minerals Audit) contract dated 25 October 2023,” the GRA letter read.

“Based on the review, the following actions are to be taken: First, the Transaction Audit and External Verification Services Contract will be terminated. Secondly, the Measurement Audit for Downstream Petroleum Products Contract will be amended.

“Specifically, the fee structure will be revised to a fixed fee structure. In addition, other provisions such as service delivery expectations, termination, and intellectual property rights will be subjected to a thorough review.

“Thirdly, the Upstream Petroleum and Minerals Revenue Audit portions of the Contract for Consolidation of Revenue Assurance Services cannot take effect until a comprehensive technical needs assessment, value-for-money assessment, and relevant stakeholder consultations have been achieved,” the GRA letter to SML further read.

Source: Assaseradio

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