The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) has commenced investigations to determine the authenticity of a letter purported to have emanated from the former Chief of Staff, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, dated December 30, 2008 on behalf of former President J. A. Kufuor, approving ex-gratia payment to Article 71 officials.
A number of officials connected with the payment, including Mr Mpiani, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, a former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Clerk of Parliament, Mr Emmanuel Anyimado, and Nana Juaben Boateng Siriboe, the Chief Director at the Finance Ministry, are expected to be questioned by the investigative body.
According to intelligence sources, the decision to probe the authenticity of the letter stemmed from "the mysterious manner" in which the letter emerged after the Presidential Spokesperson, Mr Mahama Ayariga, had issued a statement, dated February lO, 2009, which said, among other things, that the presidency had not seen any approval by the previous government for the payment of ex-gratia to Members of Parliament (MPs).
Mr Mpiani's purported letter, said to have given President Kufuor's approval for the ex-gratia payments to be effected, was dated December 30, 2008 and was addressed to the Speaker of Parliament titled, "Facilities and Privileges for Article 71 Constitutional office holders".
Sources said it had no reference number and that no such letter could be traced in the Office of the Chief of Staff.
Parliamentary sources told the Daily Graphic that some members of the leadership of the House only saw Mr Mpiani's letter of December 30, 2008 for the first time on Wednesday, February 11, 2009, a day after the President's statement had been issued.
They said the curiosity deepened when it was discovered that contrary to such high-level official correspondence, the letter bore no reference number nor did it carry a stamp of the date of receipt to indicate that the letter had actually reached the Speaker.
Further investigations conducted by the Daily Graphic revealed that the Chief Director at the Ministry of Finance, in preparing payments for the affected officers, had admitted, as late as February 10, 2009, that he was yet to cite a correspondence from the former President giving his approval to the transaction.
Indeed, in the said correspondence between the Chief Director, Nana Siriboe, and the transitional team members (TIM) on the Subject, "Chronology of Approval Process leading to the payment of Ex gratia and Resettlement Grants", the chief director minuted to the TIM on February 10, 2009 thus:
"Respectfully, I am yet to cite correspondence from the former President (or the Chief of Staff giving approval."
It continued, "However, in processing the request, this is why we sought the prior approval of the TIM.'"
Meanwhile, the chronology of approval process earlier referred to, stated that on January 6, 2009, the Chief Director received minutes from the former Minister of State at the Ministry or Finance, Dr Akoto Osei, on a letter from the Chief of Staff on the payment of the ex gratia and resettlement grants.
It said on January 8, 2009, the letter was minuted to Director (PARD) for the necessary action, following which calculations were prepared by PARD and kept, awaiting further instructions.
Article 71 officials to be paid ex gratia and resettlement grants which have attracted public outcry include former President Kufuor and Vice-President Aliu Mahama, the former Speaker and the leadership of Parliament and Members of Parliament (MPs) who served between January 6, 2005 and January 6, 2009.