While the decongestion exercise being executed by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has brought smiles to the faces of motorists and pedestrians, The Chronicle says its investigations have revealed that some members of the Assembly's task force, who are to ensure the success of the programme were gradually tainting it with corruption.
These task force officers hired by the AMA to ensure strict compliance with the exercise have turned the exercise into a gold mine, with full determination to milk the Assembly dry for their selfish gains.
After weeks of monitoring the exercise and the activities of the task force officers, following complaints that they were into extortion of monies, it came to light that some of the officers have set out their own penalty charges for offending hawkers though under the laws that govern the exercise, a court should be the decider of whether someone was guilty or not and also what penalties to exact on offenders upon conviction.
Some of the victims of the officers who spoke to the paper but did not want to be identified, for fear of being harassed, said sometimes the task force men intentionally arrested traders, seized their items and sent them to their office.
They told the paper that when they get to the officers to get back their wares the AMA officials would then give them the option of either paying a fraction of the fine for offenders in court as penalty or go and face the AMA court.
According to the victims they are cowed to pay the monies to the task force men because they are threatened that if they go to court they would not be allowed to have lawyers to represent them.
It was gathered that, last Saturday, the Task Force executed an exercise to arrest some shop owners at the King Tackie Tawiah Roundabout, who had displayed their items on the verandahs of their shops.
After the arrest, the shop owners were detained at the police station and were asked to weigh the two options: either pay the illegal penalties or face the court penalties, which they said would be very severe.
The paper said after negotiations with the scared shop owners, the AMA men managed to extort between ¢1 million and ¢2 million each and eventually released the items back to their owners.
What the paper found amazing was that after the payment of the monies by the traders, they have since been displaying their goods on their verandahs, without any harassment from the task force.
Another disgusting act by the Task Force is how they have been consuming the seized Items, especially foodstuffs.
According to the paper, it is common for the officers to buy polythene bags between the hours of 4pm and 5pm to carry home some of the seized items.
Eyewitnesses to an embarrassing case narrated to the paper that last week, a mobile phone trader was prosecuted by the court for hawking on a pavement.
One of the eyewitnesses, who gave his name as Kwame Brown, said when the depressed trader came to the officers after the case for his mobile phones, which were contained in a glass case, he observed that the lock had been broken and most of the latest brands of phones he had, had been made away with.
Brown said when demands for the return of the phones failed, the owner could not help but break down in tears and started shouting on top of his voice, creating a big scene.
According to Brown, the mobile phone trader left the premises with the threat that he was going straight to his hometown to consult a god there to cast a spell on any beneficiary of the stolen mobile phones.
Other sources disclosed to the paper that, sometimes some of the innocent people who know their rights do not pay the illegal penalties but rather insist that they should be sent to court where they are freed upon defending themselves.
Ali Baba Abature, Special Assistant to the Assembly's CEO, Stanley Nii Adjiri Blankson told the paper he had been informed about such attitudes on the part of the task force men but said that any time he confronted them they denied involvement in any such deals.
He said since those who defrauded them did not issue receipts to victims, it would be difficult to identify those behind the acts and deal with them and lamented how people had intended to undermine the efforts of the AMA.
He advised that victims of such illegal actions of the task force should kindly report to him directly for the necessary actions to be taken.
The Special Assistant expressed surprise at the allegation of looting of foodstuffs, saying that he thought that those involved had stopped after one of the task force members was recently caught in the act and dealt with.