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CW Report: How Airport Company, Ghana Post and Graphic managers sat on workers’ pensions and taxes

The Auditor-General has indicted some public companies and corporations for mishandling workers funds as well as taxes they should have paid to the Ghana Revenue Authority. 

The Auditor-General cites the Ghana Post Company Limited, Ghana Airport Company, Graphic Communications Group Limited, The New Times Corporation (popularly called Ghanaian Times) and the Architectural and Engineering Services Limited (AESL) for malpractices including failing to pay taxes, pensions and insurance deductions to respective institutions and funds.

It must be stated that many of the findings relate to occurrences in 2017, 2018 and 2019 financial years even though the details are captured in the Report of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of Ghana – Public Boards, Corporations and Other Statutory Institutions for the year ended 31 December 2020.

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The Auditor-General reveals that the total financial irregularities found in this round of audit at public boards, corporations and other institutions stood at GH¢12,856,172,626 as at the end of December 2020.

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Auditor General indicts Ghana’s Washington Mission officer over “missing” visa fees

…Ex-Tourism Minister, MP Queenstar Pokuah Sawyerr, Free SHS Secretariat also accused 

A new report of the Auditor-General shows that grand corruption and waste of public funds is not going away.  

Among a raft of findings is the indictment of the Honorary Consul General at Ghana’s Washington Mission and Houston Consulate for not being able to account for visa fees totalling US$354,760.00 (or two million cedis at prevailing exchange rates).

The Free SHS Secretariat is also accused of misapplying more than nineteen (19) million cedis of its allocations.

In addition, the Auditor-General says Ex-Tourism Minister Catherine Afeku is keeping three official vehicles despite leaving office.

MP Queenstar Pokuah Sawyerr is accused of spending GH¢39,000.00 of her MP allocation on non-existent works.

These are contained in the “Report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana: Ministries, Departments and other Agencies for the year ended 31 December, 2020.”

The Office of the Auditor-General, under the hand of Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, Acting Auditor-General transmitted this report to the Speaker of Parliament on 11 June, 2021. 

The big picture

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A Corruption Watch Summary of the Sputnik vaccine procurement saga

Last week, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, admitted a motion from the Minority asking for the constitution of a bi-partisan committee to investigate the  purchase of Sputnik V vaccines by the Health Ministry. 

The Minority had tabled an urgent motion calling on parliament to probe the Sputnik V vaccine transaction. The motion was based on reports that the government had agreed to purchase the vaccine at $19 per dose instead of $10 per dose. 

The sponsors of the bill, including Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu and Ranking Member on the Health Committee, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh say they want to understand the procurement processes that were used as well as demand value for  money for the Ghanaian taxpayer. 

On June 3, 2021, Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) published that it had documented how intermediaries have obtained the Sputnik vaccine and are re-selling it at a premium. “Through investigations in countries including Ghana,  Russia, Pakistan, Guyana and Iraq, VG has been able to document how the Russian vaccines have travelled via a sheik in the Emirates and round the world,” VG  reported.  

VG’s report investigates the involvement of two persons of interest to Norwegian  authorities – Per Morten Hansen (59), a man charged with money laundering and  tax offences in Norway and Umar Farooq Zahoor (45), a wanted man in Norway for what the police believe is his role in the spectacular Nordea fraud in 2010, where the conspirators emptied the account of a super-rich widow. 

For Ghanaians, the brow raisers from the VG report were the price per dose of the Sputnik V vaccine – going for $19; meaning full vaccination of one person would  cost $38 minimum.  

The other matter of concern for Ghanaians was that the Ministry of Health had contracted the “Private Office” of Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum (34) for the supply of the Russian-made vaccines.  

Coincidentally, when Sheik Al Maktoum sold the controversial AMERI Plant to Ghana via the company Ameri Group in 2015, Farooq Zahoor and the Sheik both  signed the agreement. 

These details provoked some MPs on the minority side of parliament to move the motion for a bi-partisan committee to probe the contract between government the Sheik Ahmed Al Maktoum. 

In the aftermath of the VG report, details of other contracts have filtered through.  

It has emerged that the Ministry of Health signed a separate agreement with SL Global Limited for the supply of five million doses of the same Sputnik V vaccine.  In the agreement, government agreed to pay $26 dollars per dose of the vaccine, meaning a complete pack will cost $52 per person.  

Documents show that this agreement was amended to change the price per dose  from $26 to $18.50. 

In that agreement, Cedar Point Chemist Limited – a pharmaceutical importer and  wholesaler – was designated the “Marketing Authorisation Holder” of the vaccine  in Ghana.  

Details of a third deal are filtering through. This third deal, our sources claim, has not been fully consummated but could be pushed through soon. It involves a  proposal from UK-based Gemcorp Capital LLP in partnership with Cedar Point  Company Limited (same one appointed in the SL Global deal) which was  submitted in April this year to supply 15 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine at  a cost of $12.50 per dose.

A letter dated April 22, 2021 relating to this deal was written to the Minister of  Health by Atanas Bostandjiev, the Group CEO of Gemcorp. It was copied to the Secretary to President Akufo Addo. 

Corruption Watch sources say that there are more contracts on the books for the  Sputnik V vaccine. Some of them, our sources say, have terms that are unfair in the  sense that they pose corruption risks, do not assure value for money, and appear as  take or pay agreements that could result in huge compensations if cancelled.  

Besides, all the three agreements we have highlighted are potentially international  agreements. However, none has gone through parliament. 

Corruption Watch has discovered that SL Global Limited, which many Ghanaians considered to be a Ghanaian company, cannot be classified as a local company. 

Company registration records reveal that Arthur Kweku Ackah-Yensu and Great  Continent Holdings International Limited (a company registered in the Gulf) have  equal shares in SL Global Company Limited. Ghanaian company and land  ownership laws stipulate that a company registered in Ghana with minimum 40  percent foreign ownership shall be classified as a foreign firm. Therefore, the agreement should have been submitted to parliament for ratification. 

Before VG published its report on Ghana’s purchase of Sputnik V vaccines in the  contract with the Private Office of Sheikh Al Maktoum, Finance Minister Ken  Ofori-Atta disclosed the presence of “snake oil salesmen” in the corridors of the Ministry of Health. 

Source: Frederick Asiamah (Corruption Watch)

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Full Report: Pay or Die: The agony of pregnant women in hospitals

Pregnant Nana (Not her real name) is rushed to the Maternity Unit of the 37 Military Hospital in labour.

She is a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) subscriber, meaning she did not have to pay for anything under the Free Maternal Healthcare policy but what turned up was a total cash-and-carry affair as she paid for covered services before being provided the needed healthcare upon arrival at the hospital.  

Nana and her husband, a farmworker, lacked the finances to pay for the bills so every bill given to them was followed by phone calls to relatives and friends to beg for money.

After spending over GH₵3,000.00 already on bills, the couple is hit with the tragic news: their newborn could not survive. 

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Auditor General finds 25 financial irregularities at Cape Coast varsity

…As total infractions hit GHC5.46bn at end of 2019

The Auditor General has discovered that 25 instances of financial irregularity took place at the University of Cape Coast and its various colleges and subsidiaries as at the end of 31st December, 2019. 

Corruption Watch’s tabulation of the amount of individual irregularities shows that the infractions involve a total of GHC88,289,417.16. In addition, the amount constitutes 49.09% of irregularities recorded for institutions under the ministry of education. 

According to the Auditor General, “…the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ghartey Ampiah entered into a 10 year Build, Own, Operate and Transfer Agreement with KLEOS UK Ltd for the provision of information and communication technology (ICT) services at a cost of $300,000.00 per year totalling $3,000,000.00 for the contract period without seeking approval from the University Council, the Minister of Education and Public Procurement before committing the University to such financial obligation.” 

The “contract signed by the Vice Chancellor was only witnessed by the Director of ICT services Dr. Regina Gyampoh-Vidogah. Consequently, the Auditor General recommended that “the Vice Chancellor should submit the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer Agreement (BOOT) with KLEOS UK Ltd to the University Council, Minister of Education and Public Procurement Authority for approval, failing which the sanctions in section 92 (1) of the Public Procurement Act shall be applied.”

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Audit bodies chase Mental Health Authority

Corruption Watch has discovered that the Mental Health Authority (MHA) is becoming a serial offender in effectively accounting for public funds allocated to it. 

The Auditor-General, for instance, questions the whereabouts of almost 200 thousand Ghana cedis of funds disbursed to the MHA in recent years.

In addition, the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) has shamed the MHA for failing to submit three consecutive quarterly internal audit reports and one annual internal audit work plan. 

The IAA insists that the submission of various reports and plans to the Agency provides “an assurance that existing control systems are working in the form and manner required.”

Reacting, Professor Akwasi Osei, the Chief Executive of the MHA, said he was not aware that the IAA had shamed the MHA for audit infractions. Besides, doubted the IAA’s claim that the MHA had not submitted internal audit work plan and reports, saying he needed to confirm from his team whether they did not submit the reports. 

In a telephone interview with Corruption Watch on Tuesday, Professor Osei disagreed with the recommendations of the Auditor-General that he should refund unaccounted funds that had been disbursed to the MHA’s partners. 

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RTI Commission urged to quickly complete necessary Legislative Instrument

The Right to Information (RTI) Commission has been prevailed upon to expedite action on the processes would see the passage of the needed Legislative Instrument for the full operationalization of the Right to Information law.

The Right to Information Bill was passed by the 7th Parliament of the 4th Republic on March 26, 2019, and assented to by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on May 21, 2019. It was however scheduled to be implemented beginning January 2020 so that it could be captured in the 2020 budget. Since it came into force in January 2020, it has been without a Legislative Instrument as is required.

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School Feeding Programme shrugs off corruption allegations

The Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) has described as “palpably false, frivolous, unfounded and malicious” claims that the current leadership is corrupt.

“It was only calculated to tarnish the image of the leadership of GSFP and bring the name of the secretariat into disrepute,” a newspaper rejoinder issued by the Programme on Tuesday, September 28 insisted.

This comes in the wake of a publication in the Weekend Crusading Guide on Saturday, September 10, quoting one Madam Caroline Aboagye, with the headline ‘School Feeding Needs Overhauling’ that leadership of the Programme is not transparent in its dealings with caterers and other stakeholders.

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MDAs financial infractions decline by 32% in 2020

Financial infractions by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) declined by 32 percent in 2020, compared to the previous year, the Director General of the Internal Audit Agency, Dr. Eric Oduro Osae has revealed.

Speaking at the 2021 Annual Conference of Internal Auditors, with a focus on Sustaining Internal Controls; Risk Management and Business Continuity in the Public Sector, the Director General said that the Internal Audit Agency, working through internal auditors and audit committees across the country saved the nation GH¢235,229,749.08 in 2020 fiscal year.

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ASEPA petitions Special Prosecutor to probe Frontiers-Airport COVID-19 testing contract

The Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA) has petitioned the Special Prosecutor, Mr Kissi Agyebeng to investigate circumstances that led to the contractual agreement between the Frontiers Health Services contract and the Ghana Airport Company Limited with regards to the mandatory COVID-19 testing at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).

The Frontiers Health Services was contracted to conduct mandatory COVID-19 tests for travelers at the airport at a cost of $150 per head.

There have been several concerns about the contractual agreement and cost of the test among others.

Latest to join the fray of concerned citizens is ASEPA.

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Kissi Agyabeng takes office as the second special prosecutor

President Akufo-Addo, on Thursday, August 5, officially swore into office, Kissi Agyebeng as the Special Prosecutor.

The 43-year-old Lawyer takes over from Martin Amidu who resigned from office in November 2020 after accusing the President of interference in his work.

Mr. Agyebeng was vested with the new authority on Thursday at the Jubilee House in the presence of the Chief of Staff, Attorney General, other government officials, and some traditional leaders.

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Fight corruption independently, impartially – Akufo-Addo tells Kissi Agyebeng

President Akufo-Addo has tasked the newly appointed Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, to fight corruption independently and impartially.

“I ask the new Special Prosecutor to bear in mind at all times that the Office carries an extraordinary responsibility to fight corruption independently and impartially. Indeed all institutions of state will work and cooperate with him in the same spirit which he articulated at his approval proceedings in Parliament,” President Akufo-Addo said this during the swearing-in of Kissi Agyebeng at the Jubilee House Thursday.

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Restructure Corruption-Fighting Institutions

The objectives for the creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor have not been met, and they may never be met. The Office has not displayed any positive character in its strategies to fighting corruption in Ghana. There cannot be an effective prediction of the success of the Office in achieving its purpose.

Fighting corruption will require the commitment and toughness of the personnel leading the institutions in the fight. But the commitment and toughness of persons, appointed by an institution such as the Attorney General which serves the interest of a particular government, will not be had, in leading such institutions. The interest of the Office of the Special Prosecutor and that of the Attorney General will not be different in fighting corruption as they both emanate from the same roots. The Attorney General is appointed by the President of the republic, who subsequently nominates an individual to be vetted for the position of the Special Prosecutor.

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New Public Officers Bill will boost fight against corruption – Attorney General

Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame is confident a new Conduct of Public Officers Bill to be presented to Parliament will boost the fight against corruption.

This bill, he explains, is to strengthen the role of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate various matters involving Public Officers.

This includes issues of conflict of interest, non-declaration of assets, among others.

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