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05.03.2009 Regional News

SFO, BNI BEGIN PROBE INTO MISSING GH¢410,000… At Ho Municipal Assembly

By Samuel Agbewode, Ho - Ghanaian Chronicle

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has begun investigations into an allegation that some staff of the Ho Municipal Assembly (HMA) had misappropriated GH¢410,000.

The investigating body has already sent invitation letters to the five members of the committee who uncovered the fraud. Also invited to assist in investigations are the Municipal Finance Officer, the Presiding Member and the Coordinating Director.

A Member of the Committee, who wanted anonymity, confirmed to this reporter that they had been invited by the SFO to assist in further investigations. A source at the assembly also told this reporter that when The Chronicle broke the news, the Regional Minister, Mr. Joseph Amenowode, and the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), also visited the Assembly to find out the authenticity of the report.

Mr. Amenowode reportedly ordered the committee, which investigated the case, to make their final report available to him, for the necessary action to be taken.

Some of the assembly members, who spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity, are demanding for the quick release of the report, to ensure that those cited to have committed various financial malpractices, were either prosecuted or the stolen money refunded.

The assembly members are furious, because they think the misappropriation of funds at the assembly was the cause of under development in their electoral areas.

According to the angry assembly members, they were under pressure, as the people who elected them wanted to see more development activities, which were not forthcoming. Some of the elected assembly members, who claimed they had sighted the report of the five member committee, alleged that GH¢20,000 worth of building materials were missing from the stores of the assembly, without any record on how the materials were used. Revenue from public toilets was also not accounted for.

The Assembly Member for Ho-Borsontoe, Madam Jocelyn Akofa Ochlich, said if really the committee had uncovered such negative financial dealings at the assembly, then the image of the assembly has been badly tarnished.

Madam Ochlich pointed out that local governance was to promote development at the grassroots level, and that if resources that were mobilised, such as internally generated funds, went into the personal accounts of a few people, then it ought to be taken serious.

The assembly members commended the members of the five-member committee for exposing what they called evil practices at the assembly.

To them, there should be a revolution at the Ho Municipal Assembly to streamline revenue generation. Contributing, the Queenmother of Ho-Dome, Mama Atrato, said the outcome of the committee's findings was not a surprise to her, because she had mixed feelings about the mode of revenue collection of the Assembly.

She noted that sometime ago, it was suggested to the assembly to involve women leaders, including market women, in the collection of revenue, in order to ensure accountability, but the suggestion was ignored.

The traditional ruler, who is a retired BNI officer, said since the committee findings had exposed the financial misconduct at the Assembly, she was calling for the necessary steps to ensure that those who would be found guilty were prosecuted, to serve as deterrent to others.