24.10.2007 General News

Attorney General disputes BNI claims

By The Chronicle
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The Director of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) would appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to clear the air following a claim by the Attorney General that his subordinates had misled him.

Mr. Joe Ghartey on Tuesday denied having in his ministry's possession a docket of two officials of the Department of Urban Roads in Kumasi who had embezzled withholding tax deductions totalling 4.3 billion cedis.

He noted that the last correspondence between him and the BNI confirmed that the docket was with the BNI, maintaining that the report of the BNI cannot be factually accurate.

The BNI had, in a confidential letter to the committee, stated that the docket were in the possession of the Attorney General's office.

The minister mentioned that over the past year, they had been looking at the business of prosecution in a very holistic manner and had realised some systematic problems which had to be addressed.

Under the Constitution, the AG is responsible for prosecution but there are several persons who also prosecute on behalf of the AG, including the Ghana Police Service, IRS, VAT, and Forestry Commission etc. Joe Ghartey noted that though they all prosecuted on behalf of the AG, they did not report back to his office. Most of them use the excuse that they have gone to the AG for advice.

He said he was glad that this had come to the fore because there have been many instances when petitions have been taken to the AG's office because they have been told that they had gone to the AG's office but when they looked into it, the docket would never be found.

He disclosed that they were reviewing the system, which would make the people who prosecute on their authority more accountable to them, not. for the purposes of interfering in their work, but to ensure that they did the right thing.

Joe Ghartey explained that they were in discussions with the Judicial Council to come out with the decision that for anyone to prosecute, they must have gone through specific training and received the authority to prosecute and also a code of conduct which would govern all prosecutors.

"The business where people without training are prosecuting would be a thing of the past," he said.

Briefing the committee on the Financial Administration Tribunal, the Minister said the contract for the construction of the three-storey building, with eight courtrooms and its executive offices near the commercial courts was underway.

He noted that the Chief Justice had been mandated to set up the Financial Administration Court as a division of the High Court by virtue of the power conferred on her by Article 139 of the constitution.

Between January 2002 and August 2005, fifty-one (51) cheques written in favour of IRS for the payment of withholding tax deductions amounting to 4,371,312,205 cedis were altered by the accountant, Mr. Nicholas Sakyi, to read LR. Samuel and sons, J.R. Samuel and Sons Limited or LP. Service Limited and the amount was subsequently cashed and misappropriated by him.

Verification of the bank statements confirmed that the cheques were cashed in the name of the above ghost companies. The accountant forged the signature of the regional engineer.

In addition, ineffective internal control and supervision of the work of the accountant by the regional engineer contributed to the fraud.

They have since been apprehended by the security agencies with the docket sent to the AG's office, but the AG is disputing the possession of the docket by his office.

Source: The Chronicle

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