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Ghana: Millions siphoned off into private pockets in massive public payroll fraud

By Dasmani Laary
Posted on Monday, 6 October 2014 11:51

Investigators say in an attempt to cover up the con, officials at the national service secretariat, including the Executive Director, Alhaji Imoro, offered bribes in cash and kind to the BNI officials.

I want to see them in handcuffs and their photos splashed on the front pages

The investigation into activities of the country’s national service secretariat covered more than 100 districts nationwide in July and showed that each national service person had consistently been paid an allowance of Ghc350 a month for a year, which went into public officials pockets.

All 23 officials indicted in the scandal have since been asked to step down by the governing board of the Ghana National Service Scheme (NSS) to pave way for further investigations.

The revelation has drawn sharp public reaction, with international business consultant and political analyst, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko blaming state authorities for failing to make theft and fraud in public office a high risk venture.

“The impunity of actually bribing or seeking to bribe the BNI officials was eloquent testimony to how audacious people have become, there is only one way you can stop it, fear, I want to see them in handcuffs and their photos splashed on the front pages,” he said in a
local radio discussion at the weekend.

Opposition lawmaker, Papa Owusu-Ankomah told local media that the government must, as a matter of urgency, investigate the entire public sector payroll to rid it of any plausible malfeasance.

“The payroll must be investigated,” he said. “It must be investigated comprehensively; you can’t withdraw these monies without the knowledge of the bankers in the bank. There should be thorough investigations into all public sector payrolls.”

The report has also agitated many Ghanaians who have called on the government to move quickly into action and prosecute everyone cited in the reports and deal with them according to the dictates of the law.

Another presidential pardon

A private legal practitioner, Yaw Oppong, however, expressed doubts about prosecuting and sentencing public officials and political appointees, as history indicates that such officers “will eventually be given a presidential pardon”.

“Retrieval of the money should supersede prosecution of the officials,” he said, adding “I am all for prosecution, but more importantly, recovery of any monies that have been lost to the state.”

Public sector payroll fraud is a rampant phenomenon and spans all segments of the economy which several regimes in the past had pledged to address but unsuccessful leading to the state losing millions of cedis to ‘ghosts.’

Ghanaian journalist, Malik Kweku Barko believed Ghana would not need to run to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial bailout if government took the necessary steps to end payroll fraud.

“The quantum of money we have lost as a nation through these fraudulent activities, perhaps if we had it we would not be talking about IMF support,” he said.

Ghana’s audit department had reported that “The national service scheme invested GH₵600,000 in seven farm projects; the proceeds out of it is about GH₵82,000.

There is an excess expenditure of GH₵511,000 and there are no records available for the auditor general to determine how those monies were expended, who and who worked on the farms and how much they were paid.