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16.03.2007 Crime & Punishment

Chief Treasury Officer Arrested Over ¢3.5 bn Theft

The Chief Treasury Officer of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Francis Aryeetey, has been arrested by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) for allegedly stealing ¢3.5 billion belonging to the state.

Aryeetey, 43, is alleged to have fraudulently awarded a contract to Malpress Company Limited to print and supply 900,000 booklets of vehicle registration certificates at the cost of ¢3.5 billion.

An accomplice, identified as Halm Lutterodt, who withdrew the money from the account, is being sought for by the BNI.

All the documents which Aryeetey allegedly used to secure the payment of the money into an account he opened with a rural bank in the Greater Accra Region have been confirmed to be fake.

The documents included a payment voucher, expenditure authorisation, purchase order, activity and expenditure initiation form, notification of award of contract letter and store receipt advice.

Aryeetey is also alleged to have forged the signatures of 14 top officials at the Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD) and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, including a Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, to ensure that the deal was successful.

He is alleged to have also succeeded in withdrawing nearly ¢1 billion before his arrest.

A source at the BNI which disclosed this to the Daily Graphic said a scrutiny of the documents had so far shown that apart from the waybill from Malpress, which showed that the items were delivered on November 1, 2006, all other transactions were effected in a day.

It said the notice of award of contract was dated December 29, 2006, the same day that a letter for financial clearance from the CAGD was written to the Ministry of Finance.

The source said the Ministry allegedly also gave the financial clearance on the same day it received the application for the clearance, with the CAGD also issuing the cheque covering the amount on the same day, December 29, 2006.

It said from the waybill, it meant that Malpress supplied the items even before the contract was awarded.

It said further investigations had also revealed that nobody at the Ministry's Treasury's Unit worked on the payment voucher and that, contrary to the norm, there was no bank transfer advice from the CAGD before the payment was effected.

According to the source, the money was lodged in the bank account on February 5, 2007 and ¢915 million withdrawn on February 13, 2007.

The Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Christian Sottie, told the Daily Graphic that there was no way the Department would shield any of its staff found to have indulged in any criminal act.

He said when the deal came to his knowledge, he immediately called the BNI to arrest Aryeetey and investigate the matter.

According to him, the department had not awarded any such contract to any company and that it could only be a fraudulent deal.