Govt. Audits 31st Dec Movement
.... To ascertain sources of funding and expenditure THE government has commenced an audit into the assets of the 31st December Women’s Movement. The audit is to establish the nature of the assets and their location. In an interview in reaction to a protest letter from the President of the Movement, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, a source at the National Security Secretariat said the audit of the movement’s activities has become necessary, following the detection that it has never submitted its audited accounts to the Department of Social Welfare since its inception, as required by law. It added that the movement also benefited from government guaranteed loans and grants over the past two decades and the audit would determine how those monies were utilised. In her protest letter to the National Security Co-ordinator, Nana Konadu said, “All our regional and district organisers have reported to us incidents of harassment in the performance of their philanthropic duties, and in particular receipt of letters from regional ministers claiming that you have authorised them to let our regional organisers declare the assets of the 31st December Women’s Movement in the regions”. The letter said this directive to declare the Movement’s assets at the regional level comes to it with concern because no other NGO has been asked to do so. “With due respect to your office, we believe that until this exercise is spread to all other NGOs, we will be left with no other option than to consider this as a further witch-hunt political operation and handle it as such”. The source dismissed allegations of harassment against the movement’s organisers and stated that following their refusal to comply with the requests for declaration of their assets, no one has confronted the movement on anything. “In fact, no security agency has been involved in this entire exercise except the requests by the regional ministers,” he stressed. According to the source, the Attorney-General’s advice is being sought on the matter. Giving some reasons for the requests, the source said the former managing director of Ghana Rubber Estates Limited, Dr Etienne Marie Arthur Popelar, who is being investigated alongside Ms Sherry Ayittey and a Ralph Casely Hayford, in a different matter, said in a confessional statement to the police that he was asked by the movement to pay £150,000 into its Austrian Account at Kathrein & Co, Vienna. Dr Popelar is said to have alleged that the money was transferred from the Liverpool branch of Barclays Bank into the account on October 7, 1998 and the receipt given to Ms Ayittey as evidence of the payment. The source said this is a serious allegation, which must be investigated to establish the truth or otherwise and stressed that “an audited account would ascertain sources of funding and expenditure as well as assets of the movement”. According to the source, the erstwhile NDC administration also channelled various government funds to support the movement’s activities, a claim which needs to be established. It cited that although there is no subsidiary agreement channelling government funds to the movement, it is linked to the Vocational and Technical Training Centre project at Dansoman which it was funded by the government. “The studies, design and construction works on the Vocational and Technical Training Centre commenced in 1996 and was completed in 1999 at a total cost of approximately $2.2 million through a Chinese Government loan of 18,583,919 RMB Yuan”, it said. The source said like all government loans, the government is required to repay to the Chinese government at the due date. It said during the visit of the Chinese Vice Premier, Madam Wu Yi in January 2000, a donation of RMB 3.0 million was provided to the government of Ghana as a grant. It said in February 2000, the Ministry of Finance allocated approximately $170,000 of the funds to the movement to cover the cost of importing fabrics from China. The source said the government has just been notified by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China that the fabric which was imported by the movement is currently on the high seas and that it has been re-consigned to the Ministry of Finance. It explained that some of these activities of the movement call for serious auditing so that the people of Ghana are not held to ransom. The source said government has since independence encouraged the activities of NGOs to promote development and that such NGOs must not be used to shield private for-profit enterprises. Therefore, as law provides NGOs must provide a statement of sources of income and fields of expenditure as well as submit annual reports by March of every year to the Department of Social Welfare. “The 31st December Women’s Movement has failed to do all these even though it has benefited from government guaranteed loans and grants; hence the need for the state to have an interest in its activities,” the source emphasised.