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03.04.2007 General News

SFO Is Dying

By Daily Guide

Information gathered by Daily Guide indicates that Mr. Theophilus Cudjoe, acting Executive Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), who recently applied to be transferred to National Security, has been asked to remain in the problem-riddled SFO.

The much-dreaded Cudjoe, who is currently on a four-year accumulated leave, was on Friday informed of the decision after a protracted board meeting, the first in the year, prompting agitations from some of the staff, while many more are said to be running for cover.

Less than 24 hours before Friday's decision, the board chairman told some prying journalists that many of the problems at hand were the handiwork of the acting executive director.

Even though he was on the four-year leave, Cudjoe was regularly at post, taking decisions many workers feared could duplicate those of Mr. Jerry Fiawoyipe, who was supposed to be acting in his stead, leading to a possible administrative stalemate.

Ghana's main anti-graft body, is currently in such a pitiable state that the establishment stands the risk of crumbling if nothing pragmatic is done to 'resuscitate' it.

The development had been identified as the main reason for the tall list of cases reportedly unattended to.

While the Board of Directors have not been able to meet and deliberate on nagging issues early December 2006 year, the legal depart had remained grossly de-motivated, with agitations flying all over.

“Practically, nothing is going on at the SFO, which is a big problem. If much seems not to have been done, it is because the legal department is de-motivated,” admits Justice N.Y.B. Adade, chairman of the Board of Directors.

In an interview with the chairman, acting CEO and a number of investigators recently, Daily Guide gathered that SFO had more internal problems than was known outside, such that even the exact number of cases being handled by the office became a puzzle.

Justice Adade pointed out that one major problem facing the office was the failure of Mr. Cudjoe to appreciate the fact that like a number of his predecessors, he was not a member of the board because he had not been appointed by the president.

He hinted that by his status as Acting CEO, Cudjoe was not in any position to convene a Board Meeting, stressing that even if he was invited to any such meeting, he could neither vote nor be counted in the formation of a quorum.

Quoting Section 9(1) of Act 466 of the constitution, which established the office, which stated that “The president shall in accordance with the advice of the Board given in consultation with the Public Services Commission appoint for the Office an Executive Director and Deputy Executive Directors,” the chairman expatiated further, saying Section 5(2) of the same Act recognized a duly appointed Director of the Office, not just anyone occupying the position in an acting capacity.

According to him, SFO, by the magnitude its functions, was run in the manner of a large Law Firm, but the establishment had been mandated to create divisions as and when necessary.

He lamented however that because the Office had been without a board for a long time, it was run in an ad-hoc manner and without transparency, so some members of staff felt uncomfortable when one was eventually put in place in March last year.

“Let me bare my chest and say that personally, I think it is good that you are showing interest in the SFO, and I will encourage you to do that because I myself think that it's about time that the public got to know about what is happening here,” he said.

The Board chairman condemned the way the system had been run all along, in that he thought the acting director was acting like a dinosaur, whose actions could not be questioned.

He admitted that there was low output at the office, leading to the tall list of cases lying uninvestigated, and attributed it to poor administration and lack of rapport between the acting director and other members of staff.

On why there had been no substantive director all these years, he said it went beyond the sole duty of the board, and being a political appointment, called for recommendations, interviews and clearances from other bodies.

Describing the SFO as a specialised government agency with the task of monitoring, investigating and, upon the A-G's authority, prosecuting offences involving serious financial or economic loss to the state, the chairman said a lot of revamping needed to be done to put things on the right course.

He lamented that a lot of information had been leaking out of the office due to the disaffection and mistrust among top management people, but assured that some consensus was being built.

The two-hour frank interaction brought to the fore as well, the fact that a chunk of the staff, including directors, had not gone on annual leave for several years, and a number of them was owed as many as 196 working days' leave.

Some investigators, (names withheld), in their contribution, said they had little idea what the state of affairs were because cases were handed out directly by the acting director.

Jerry Fiawoyipe admitted that a lot had gone wrong in the past, but was quick to add that things had been much better in the past three months and morale among staff had started to improve.

Even though the board chairman accepted the prying eyes of the media and assured of his support, two issues that were left in the lurch were the actual number of cases at hand and when a substantive director would be appointed.