Sunday, November 6, 2011

AN EXAMPLE OF DUE PROCESS IN ACTION - & WHY GHANA IS MUCH BETTER OFF UNDER PRESIDENT MILLS!

A story that appeared in the 5th November, 2011 edition of the general news web-page of www.ghanaweb.com, entitled: "EDIF confirms interdiction of Ag. Chief Executive" sums up, in a nutshell, why Ghana is much better off under President Mills - than under any New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime.

Alas, that party is one that is almost always dominated by a powerful few elitist and tribal-supremacist individuals, who have the belief that some are more equal than others in Ghanaian society, and that such individuals are also definitely above the law, written into their political DNA and etched deeply into their individual psyches.

Many a discerning Ghanaian will concur that had this scandal come to light during the NPP regime of Kufuor & Co., for example, it would have been quickly swept under the carpet - and all those guilty of wrong-doing would have got away with this crime against ordinary Ghanaians and their nation.

To buttress my point, I am reproducing a press release from the Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF), meant to correct unbalanced one-sided disclosures in sections of the Ghanaian media, for readers to draw their own conclusions.

Apart from breaking up some paragraphs to make for easier reading, no editing has been done. Please read on:

"EDIF MANGO PROJECT

The attention of the Board of Directors (BoD) of EDIF has been drawn to a number of articles in the Ghanaian press relating to the interdiction of the Ag CEO, Director of Finance and Director Audit of the Fund and other related issues. Due to the selective and potentially misleading nature of some of these publications, the EDIF BoD has decided to set the record straight with this press statement.

BACKGROUND:

EDIF was established by Act 582 on the 4th of October 2000 to provide financial resources for the development and promotion of the export trade of Ghana. Operation of the fund however started in July 2001.

Its mission is to enhance the economic growth of Ghana by providing funds on concessionary terms for the development and promotion of the country’s non-traditional export sector.

EDIF has so far provided in excess of GH¢177.71 million to support 237 projects across the country.

In 2009, EDIF embarked on a major program called the National Mango Plantations Development program. Under this program, EDIF intends to earmark a substantial amount of its budget to support massive mango production in the Transitional zone and the three Northern regions of Ghana.

Farmers in these areas are to be assisted to intercrop Mango plantations with annual crops in order to enhance food availability, bridge the hunger gap and improve household income in the short to medium term.

This program was included in the 2009 National Budget, and is in support of the Government’s effort at reducing poverty and increasing the income for the poor in Ghana. The EDIF Mango Project as it has come to be called, has been in operation for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 planting seasons.

Some irregularities were however detected in the disbursement of funds under the EDIF mango project, raising the likelihood that the objectives of the program may be subverted, and that funds meant to alleviate the poverty of Northern farmers might be misappropriated by some parties.

IRREGULARITIES IN DISBURSEMENTS

* The review of quarterly financial reports, established as part of a system designed to improve financial controls of the Fund, revealed that some disbursements in the first quarter of the year had been effected without the requisite Board approvals.

* The review further revealed that on March 4, 2011, The Ag. Chief Executive usurped the authority of the Board and wrote informing thirty-eight (38) farms that the Board of EDIF had approved a recoverable facility to support their production of mangoes for export.

* The Ag. Chief Executive was issued with a written query, asking him to give reasons why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.

* In his response to the query, the Ag. Chief Executive alleged that he sent out the letters after the March 17 2011 Board meeting. Documentation available to the Board however demonstrated clearly that the letters were issued two weeks before the March 17, 2011 meeting.

* It has also been found out that in addition to sending out award letters without authority, the Ag. Chief Executive also caused various sums of money to be paid to some farms/companies before the matter came before the Board.

He again lied to the Board that the monies had not been disbursed before the March 17 meeting, until he was shown evidence on the Fund’s bank statements that the cheques cleared the bank before the 17th March Board meeting.

* In an attempt to implicate the former Board Chair, the Ag. Chief Executive told the Board that it was the former Board Chairman, Peter Illiasu who gave him the verbal approval to issue the award letters.

But in a letter to the Board, Mr. Illiasu denied giving any such verbal approval, insisting that such approval can only be given by the Board and not him, as an individual, and that an approval of this sort would have been in writing.

* After reviewing the responses of the Ag. Chief Executive Agyabeng Antwi- Agyei, the Board at its meeting on the 30th of May 2011 decided to request the Ag. Chief Executive to proceed on leave to enable the fund investigate further into outstanding matters of disbursements made in respect of the EDIF Mango Project.

* As part of the defence of his actions, the Ag. Chief Executive also stated that he signed the cheques because the Director of Finance, Mr. Joseph Attah-Quansah, had prepared them for his signature.

* The Director of Finance was therefore also issued with a written query to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for preparing the cheques for signature whilst being fully aware that no Board approval had been given for the disbursements. In the light of the seriousness of the breaches in controls, the Director of Finance was also simultaneously asked to proceed on leave.

* In his defence, the Director of Finance explained that the Ag. Chief Executive verbally instructed him to prepare the cheques for signature.

* The revelation that the financial controls within EDIF had suffered a severe breach required the Director of Audit to also be issued with a written query. He was subsequently also asked to proceed on immediate leave.

SPECIAL COMMITTEE AND INTERDICTIONS

* The EDIF Board Chairman in consultation with the Sector Minister, Honourable Hanna Tetteh, commissioned a Special Committee to review all the revelations of financial breaches at EDIF. The terms of reference of the special committee which had representation from the Ministry and the Board were:

i. Investigate issues of process and substance as far as disbursement of funds on the Mango Project is concerned

ii. Make observations and findings on Professional conduct of staff involved

iii. To seek to ensure administrative justice by informing the officers of the issues that have been raised against them and to give them the opportunity to be heard in order to offer whatever explanations they may have had for their actions.

* The EDIF Special Committee reached the following conclusions in respect of the three Officers after its deliberations:

The Ag. Chief Executive- Mr. Agyabeng Antwi-Agyei

1. That Mr. Antwi-Agyei did not adhere to laid down procedures of seeking Board approvals for disbursement in this matter

2. The Committee found his explanations for his actions unacceptable

3. He subsequently admitted that he had made a genuine mistake

4. He did not exercise due care in the execution of the 2011 Mango Project disbursements

The Director, Finance - Mr. Joseph Attah-Quansah

1. Mr. Attah-Quansah showed a lack of appreciation of laid down procedures

2. He did not exercise due care in the execution of the 2011 Mango Project disbursements

The Director, Audit – Mr. Kwabena Hemeng- Ntiamoah

1. Mr. Hemeng-Ntiamoah did not exhibit professionalism and competence as required by section 18 of the Internal Audit Agency Act, 2003 with regard to the 2011 Mango Project disbursements

2. He failed to report weaknesses in the disbursement processes to management and the Director General of the Internal Audit Agency as required by sections 16: 3 and 16.4 of the Internal Audit Agency Act, 2003.

3. Additionally, he failed to exercise due care in pre-auditing the disbursements for the 2011 Mango Project

* The Committee was unable to investigate issues of substance relating to disbursement of funds on the Mango Project due to constraints in time and resources, and therefore recommended a full Audit of the Mango Project be commissioned to ascertain matters inter alia:

- Selection process for farmers
- Ownership and title of farms
- Accuracy of acreages
- Whether beneficiaries of facilities actually received amounts approved
- Procurement process on supply of inputs
- Viability and sustainability of the mango project

On the basis of the findings of the special committee, the Board decided that all three officers had clearly shown gross misconduct and were liable to severe administrative sanction.

The BoD decided to inform the Sector Minister and the Office of the President that in the light of the findings it would be unable to recommend the confirmation of the Ag Chief Executive in his position.

The BoD also decided that whilst sufficient grounds existed for the outright dismissal of all three officers, on grounds of gross misconduct, that the officers should be placed on interdiction pending an investigation into their actions to determine if they were liable for criminal prosecution for their actions.

FARM AUDITS

* Revelations of irregularities in disbursement of funds to the farms raised concerns about potential fraud in the Mango Project. This necessitated a special investigation to ascertain that the farms being supported actually existed and that the acreages indicated were actually being cultivated.

* It should be noted that these farm investigations were not investigations into the substance of the breaches in controls and procedures surrounding the mango project, but were carried out first to assist the Board ascertain the acreages funded and provide the required farming inputs and support, and secondly to assist the investigative auditors to carry out their audit in due course.

* The BoD therefore engaged three organisations operating in the areas covered by the EDIF mango project to identify the farms and establish the accuracy of acreages being supported under the Project.

The organisations were appointed after authorisation had been sought and obtained from the Public Procurement Agency (PPA) to sole source because of the urgency of the situation. These farm audits were carried out in June and July 2011.

* The farm audits revealed discrepancies in the acreages under cultivation, the inability in some cases of the investigators to locate farms, and the general state of farms and problems with the quality and timing of inputs supplied to farmers under the EDIF Mango Project.

• The Farm audits also revealed that contrary to representations by the Ag. Chief Executive and the Director of Operations, two of the farms- Alliance Farms and Abotare-Ye Farms, were not located in the Brong Ahafo region, but rather the Ashanti region.

The mango project had been targeted at the Brong-Ahafo, Northern, Upper East, and Upper West regions. The application from Alliance Farms (on its own letterhead) shows that the applicants indicated its location as the Ashanti region, but by the time it got transcribed onto EDIF documents by the office, this had been changed to Brong-Ahafo.

RESIGNATION OF NANA YEBOA KODIE ASARE II - Board Member representing the Private Enterprises Foundation (PEF)

* An application for variation of the terms of the grant was submitted to EDIF by Alliance farms. During deliberations on the application, it transpired that Nana Yeboa Kodie Asare II had an interest in this farm, which he had not as yet declared.

* This farm was one of the farms, which was falsely indicated to the board to be located in the Brong- Ahafo region, whilst actually being located in the Ashanti region.

Alliance Farms, according to documents from the Registrar General’s Department, was not a registered company as at March 4, 2011 when the Ag. Chief Executive issued them a letter awarding them GH¢201,660.00 for their 100 Acre Mango farm.

According to the Registrar General, Alliance Farms Limited was incorporated on March 15, 2011, and a certificate to commence business issued on March 16, 2011.

* Nana Yeboa Kodie Asare II, presided (as Acting Chairman), over the March 17 Board meeting that approved payments to the farms, including Alliance Farms. He however failed to declare his interest in the farm, in contravention of Article 11 of the EDIF Act (Act 582).

* He told the Board that he had been appointed a director of Alliance Farms and was not a shareholder, but documents from the Registrar General show that at the time of registration he was actually the majority (90%) shareholder of Alliance Farms holding 45,000 shares in his private name Benjamin Kwadwo Addae. [The only other shareholder was Nana Kwabena Ofori, with 5,000 shares]

* Nana Yeboa Kodie are II’s resigned from the Board, a few hours before the Board was to hold an extraordinary meeting to deal with the matter.

INVESTIGATIVE/FORENSIC AUDIT

* The Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry in consultation with the Board, engaged the Auditor General to conduct an investigative audit, as recommended by the Special Committee into the Mango Project from 2009- 2011.

* This audit is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The objectives of the investigative audit are to:

• Determine whether any irregularities were committed in the performance of the project
• Identify the parties involved in such irregularities
• Determine as far as possible the amount (if any) of public funds misappropriated and misapplied
• Advise on any corrective action to be taken against any individuals."

End of the press release from EDIF.

Well, there it is, in black and white - and from the horse's own mouth, as it were, dear reader. There is no question that this scandal would have been swept under the carpet, had the elitist some-are-more-equal-than-others kings of nepotism, the NPP, been in power.

This is an example of due process and respect for the rule of law, being championed by President Mills, at work, in his administration. Under the NPP, a cursory look at those involved, by any independent-minded and apolitical Ghanaian, would have led to one conclusion only: that this scandal would have been kept under wraps - and the big-names involved would have got away with their perfidy.

This is a prime example of the quiet revolution, unleashed by President Mills, since he came to power in January 2009 - in which those who break the law (no matter how influential in society they might be), and are reported to the authorities - with solid evidence to back the allegations against them - are eventually sanctioned.

An oil-producing Ghana needs a man of integrity like President Mills, who believes that all human life is of equal value - and therefore rich and poor alike must be treated the same, when it comes to the unpleasant business of facing the music for white-collar crime and the like, in the better Ghana he is trying to bring about, for all the people of this country.

Let all those fair-minded and patriotic Ghanaians (the so-called "floating-voters" whose crucial swing-votes now decide who leads Ghana), who have forgotten the past so quickly, and have allowed themselves to be beguiled by the NPP's clever "Enkoyiee" propaganda narrative, recall the endless nepotism, massive tax-evasion and plain thievery by the powerful and well-connected few, who prospered so mightily (and ruthlessly exploited our national economy for private gain - at public expense), when the NPP of Kufuor & Co. was in power.

Would this dreadful and shocking example of elite-greed, not have been quickly swept under the carpet, had it come to light, during the sunny days of the golden age of business for the perfidious Kufuor & Co.?

An oil-producing Ghana will definitely be much much
better off, under President Mills' NDC, than any NPP administration - because, in the main, most of that greedy and selfish lot, believe that some people in society must never be sanctioned: even when they are involved in infractions of the law, because they are more equal than the rest of us.

Who needs a regime like that in 21st century Africa, I ask? Ghana has been a better place since President Mills came to power - and it has been the concerns of ordinary people, not that of the well-connected and greedy fat-cats that have underpinned all he has done since coming to power. A second term for him is a must - for the sake of ordinary Ghanaians and that of Mother Ghana. A word to the wise...

Tel (Powered by Tigo - the one mobile phone network in Ghana that actually works!): + 233 (0) 27 745 3109.
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