A five member committee set up by the Ho Municipal Assembly (HMA) to examine its financial books has uncovered GH¢410,000 fraud perpetuated by some staff members. The discovery has led to an uneasy calm at the assembly, with some of the staff members absenting themselves from their duties without any justifiable cause.
Information available to this reporter revealed that sometime in January this year, the Assembly Members went to the former Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Mr. Mawutor Goh and requested to know how the internally generated funds had been utilised.
When the books of the assembly were examined, the former MCE and the assembly members who went to him were not satisfied with it. It was for instance discovered that GH¢10,000 had been used to carry out repair works at the assembly, but a visit to the site showed that the projected had not been executed.
Alarmed by the development, the assembly in collaboration with the former MCE decided to set up a five-member committee to scrutinize the accounts of the assembly. They members were Hon. Stephen A.K Nibo, Assembly Member for Anyirawase Electoral area, Hon. Afrain Yao Akom, of Hlefi and Bakpe Electoral area, Hon. Mawuko Tsigbe of Akoefe-Kpenoe Electoral area, Hon. Charles Agbelie of Akrofu –Hoviefe Electoral area and Hon Kofi Bansah of Sokode-Bagble-Ando Electoral area.
The examination of the assembly accounts by the committee revealed that apart from the GH¢10,000 that could not be accounted for, as much as GH¢400,000 had also been embezzled by some of the staff members. The suspected crime was allegedly committed between January and November 2008, by some of the revenue and accounts officers. These officers reportedly signed cheques in the name of the Assembly and withdrew various sums of money for their personal use.
They also signed for certain items like furniture, which they failed to purchase. The committee also discovered that the revenue officers were in most of the cases, depositing the money they collect from the public into their private accounts, whilst their counterparts from the Environmental department were not rendering accounts from funds raised from the certification of vendors in the municipality.
The revenue collectors also arrogated to themselves powers to rent out market stalls by charging their unsuspecting victims between GH¢1000 and GH¢3000. Market plots were also sold and the money pocketed.
The committee identified such markets as Ho Central, Kpedze, Dededo and Abutia –Kesifli markets, where this fraud was perpetuated on the assembly.
The revenue officers made their operation so complex that none of the top officials at the assembly was able to detect the crime. The reporter learnt that when the former MCE, Mr. Mawutor Goh, was presented with a copy of the committee's report, he was shocked at the revelations because the financial misappropriation could be a major reason why the Assembly could not achieve much, in terms of its development targets which largely rest on the internally generated revenue.
The committee would present its report to the next MCE for him or her to take the necessary action against those who have been implicated. The embezzled money is said to be more than the assembly's share of the District Assembly common fund.
When contacted, the former Municipal Chief Executive, Mr. Mawutor Goh confirmed the story and explained that at the end of 2008, the Finance Committee of the Assembly requested that there was the need to audit the accounts to ascertain whether money generated through the internally generated revenue were properly utilized.
The MCE said after the request, a five member committee was formed by the Assembly to investigate the matter, and they came out with the report on how much the internally generated revenue was mobilized, as well as the amount that was spent.
He said, the report showed that the revenue collectors and other personnel of the assembly teamed up and denied the Assembly of revenue that they collected by diverting the money into their private pockets.
He said, even though he did not finish reading the report, he was surprised with the conduct of the personnel who were implicated in the report because the Assembly largely implements development projects, based on the internally generated funds.