|Alhaji Alhassan Mohammed Imoro|
Thirty-five people, including the top hierarchy of the National Service Scheme (NSS), who were implicated in a massive fraud at the secretariat have been charged with conniving to deprive the state of more than GH¢107 million.
They are alleged to have, between September 2013 and August 2014, acted together to loot the state through the payment of allowances to 31,516 non-existent national service personnel.
They are the Executive Director, Alhaji Alhassan Mohammed Imoro; his deputy, Michael Kombor; the Accountant, Nelson Ayeltiga; the acting Internal Auditor, Gloria Aku-Mensah; the Head of Project Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Alhassan Iddrisu, and the Director of the National Voluntary Service Scheme, Ebenezer Anim Danquah.
Others are the Internal Auditor, Sammy Ofori; a former Greater Accra Regional Director, Seth Nana Obugyei Asiedu; the Volta Regional Director, Gabriel Nyorke; the Central Regional Director, Ali Ahmed Awumbila; a former Western Regional Director, Michael Totimeh; the Brong Ahafo Regional Director, Ebenezer Edzi; the Northern Regional Director, Shaibu Temi Abiru; a former Upper East Regional Director, George Dassah Naawinyelle; the Northern Regional Accountant, Dominic Dele; the Brong Ahafo Regional Accountant, Samuel Larbi-Siaw; the Volta Regional Accountant, John Kwame Ayew; the Ashanti Regional Accountant, Mohammed Abukari, and the Eastern Regional Accountant, Francis Himbuah.
Others indicted are Nicholas Senti, the Western Regional Accountant; Solomon Kurug, the Upper East Regional Accountant; Aliyu Hussein, the Upper West Regional Accountant; Alexander Agumey, the Central Regional Accountant; Seth Quarteyli Quartey, the Greater Accra Regional Accountant; Cletus Kaba, the Northern Regional Administrator; Raphael Adu Agyepong, the Ashanti Regional Administrator; Theophilus Kwoffie, the Western Regional Administrator; Dominic Popola Maabesog, the Upper East Regional Administrator, and Joseph Bati, the Upper West Regional Administrator.
The rest are Festus Obeng-Sefa, the Central Regional Administrator; Emmanuel Asante, the Greater Accra Regional Administrator; Helena Bokoro, a secretary at the Northern Regional Secretariat; Mutaro Usif, a secretary at the Tamale Metro Office; Helena Mensah, personal secretary to the Ashanti Regional Director, and Freda Donkor, a typist at the Ashanti Regional Secretariat.
Bench warrant for arrest
Thirty-two of the accused persons were arraigned before the Financial Division of the High Court, presided over by Mrs Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, in Accra yesterday.
The other three were absent, prompting the judge to issue a bench warrant for their arrest.
They are Asiedu, Kurug and Helena Mensah.
The 32 present pleaded not guilty to the charges and have all been admitted to bail in various amounts, depending on the value of the amount allegedly stolen.
Hearing resumes on June 5, 2015.
Given the number of accused persons and the almost 20 lawyers fighting for their vindication, the case was moved to the Court of Appeal building to contain the crowd that turned up.
On a sunny day with no air-condition to keep the packed courtroom cool, ceiling fans span furiously but in vain to cool the sticky hot air in the courtroom.
The accused persons have all been interdicted, pending the outcome of the case.
They have each been charged with conspiracy, while some of them face additional charges of stealing and bribery.
Aside from the charge of conspiracy, Alhaji Imoro faces four additional counts of stealing GH¢28.7 million and giving bribes totalling GH¢100,000 to one of the investigators in the case to thwart investigations.
Kombor faces one count of stealing GH¢540,000; Dankwah has been charged with one count of stealing GH¢350,000, while Alhassan faces one count of stealing GH¢559,000.
The following are the amounts allegedly stolen by some of the accused persons: Gloria, GH¢383,000; Ayeltiga, GH¢44,000; Ofori, GH¢210,500; Totimeh, GH¢771,919.08; Asiedu, GH¢18.3 million; Nyorke, GH¢922,788.27; Awumbila, GH¢315,183.54; Edzi, GH¢2.2 million; Agyepong, GH¢3.2 million; Abiru, GH¢612,794.
The rest are: Naawinyelle, GH¢335,716.26; Dele, GH¢189,152.40; Larbi-Siaw, GH¢577,000; Ayew, GH¢44,900; Himbuah, GH¢210,000; Senti, GH¢99,000; Kurug, GH¢184,602.67; Hussein, GH¢210,000; Agumeh, GH¢283,825.16; Quartey, GH¢4.4 million; Kaba, GH¢189,152; Adu-Agyepong, GH¢52,000; Kwoffie, Maabesog, GH¢173,852; Bati, GH¢210,000; Obeng-Sefa, GH¢63,575; Asante, GH¢200,000; Bokoro, GH¢51,739; Usif, GH¢18,869; Helena, GH¢52,000, and Freda, GH¢29,800.
Scramble for sureties
There was a scramble for sureties at the court when the presiding judge announced that the accused persons would need two or three sureties to meet their bail conditions.
Mrs Justice Mensah-Datsa had announced that the offences for which the accused persons were being held were bailable, hence the 32 accused persons who appeared in court should do their homework to meet the bail conditions.
Her announcement triggered a rush by the defence lawyers to locate family members, relatives and friends who had come to the court to support the accused persons.
With their freedom at stake, some of the accused persons also dashed out of the courtroom to make frantic calls to potential sureties to come to their rescue.
In the ensuing melee, Alhaji Imoro sat quietly in the dock, as he had already satisfied his bail condition.
After six adjournments, as a result of non-completion of investigations by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the state finally indicated its preparedness to begin calling witnesses at the court’s sitting yesterday.
Making a case for bail for the accused persons, some of their lawyers said the accused were responsible people who would come to court when needed to stand trial.
The facts of the case, as read out by a Chief State Attorney, Ms Penelope Marmattah, were that in July 2014, the BNI commenced nation-wide investigations into the operations of the NSS with regard to the payment of monthly allowances to service personnel.
The investigations established that between September 2013 and August 2014, the payroll of the NSS was bloated with 31,516 ghost names for both the postings and the national voluntary service recruitment.
During that service year, national service persons were paid GH¢243 per month as allowance from September to December 2013 and GH¢350 from January to August 2014.
According to the prosecution, an elaborate plot hatched by Alhaji Imoro, supported by senior officers of the scheme at the National Service Secretariat and regional directors of the scheme, and implemented by the district directors, involved the generation of “ghost” names at the head office in Accra.
“These ghost names were added to the genuine names on the nominal rolls on which payment vouchers were prepared. The payment vouchers were prepared by the Chief Accountant of the scheme, Gloria Aku Mensah, whose duty it was to audit and vet all the accounts and yet passed them on.
“Ayeltiga and Mensah received regular payments from some regional directors,” the prosecution noted.
It said the ghost names, which were detected in all the districts in the country, were mostly posted to the rural areas and in some cases to non-existent institutions and departments.
The names of personnel posted to self-accounting public and private institutions were converted to and retained on the government payroll without effecting the required amendment with the consultant to the scheme.
The executive director had dealings with his regional directors and the regional directors had dealings with the district directors who worked directly under them. The executive director never dealt directly with the district directors. The ghost names were sent by the executive director to the regional directors with firm instructions as to how much was to be sent to him every month.
The number of names the executive director gave to each regional director depended on the trust and loyalty he had developed with each regional director.
On receipt of the ghost names and the instructions thereof, the regional directors in turn passed names to district directors, with a set of instructions as to how much was to be sent back.
According to the state, Alhaji Imoro began sending out names in September 2013 shortly after the postings.
The names then increased from October through to January 2014 when the postings stabilised and no more names were given.
In addition, all the senior officials at the scheme who were implicated in the fraud had their own separate deals with the regional directors independent of one another.
“They have confessed to having each received regularly every month several thousands of Ghana cedis from the regional directors.
“The regional directors have also admitted having made regular payments to them,” the prosecution noted.
“At the end of the service year in August 2014, the amounts that the regional and district directors shared included travel and transport allowances meant for service persons to travel back to their various destinations.
“All the regional directors were involved and they have all admitted their involvement. They have promised to refund their share of the proceeds.
“At the secretariat, with the exception of the Executive Director, Alhaji Imoro, who has repeatedly denied any involvement, all the others cited in the fraud have confessed to their involvement.
“All the regional and district directors, as well as the senior officials at the secretariat, have all made part payments in satisfaction of their liabilities.
“The executive director has, however, not made any payment, although he has been furnished with his liability,” the prosecution added.