Scandal Rocks President's Office - Part I
... Dep Minister involved ... NPP’s ultimate conman “Hon. Bamba, are you a shareholder, director and secretary of Emrate Investment Limited?” The Chronicle asked. “No sir,” he answered politely. “Honorable, are you saying that there can’t be any evidence to prove that you are a shareholder, director and secretary of Emrate Investment Limited? The Chronicle pressed. “Along the line I have some explanations to make, can I go on? You see I was just trying to help that guy who contested as our party’s MP.” The sun is bright each day, amid constant singing and dancing to the rhythm-less tunes of sea waves on the sandy beach front of the colonial slave dungeon which now houses the office of Ghana’s highest and most powerful public servant- The President. But inside this high office, Chronicle investigations have uncovered that top bureaucrats have swept a big scandal which rocked the Office of the President under the carpet for two years and failed to press the hot buttons on the artists of the scandal to avoid what insiders call “political embarrassment”. The scandal involves Hon. Moctar Bamba, Deputy Presidential Minister who is also Deputy Chief Of Staff, Member of Parliament (MP) for Wenchi East, Chairman of NPP’s NASARA Club and Chairman of the Auction Committee of confiscated vehicles. The second artist is a hard-core New Patriotic Party (NPP) member. The scandal, according to investigations, is known to almost all the powerful men at the Presidency - The Chief of Staff of the Office of the President, Kwame Mpiani and some of the special advisors to the President are but a few of the officers who are aware of the scandal. Gurus at the ruling New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) headquarters such as the nice and frank General Secretary, Mr. Dan Botwe, as well top BNI and police officers at the Castle and the Police Headquarters are some of the individuals outside the President’s Office who are aware of the scandal. The Minister whose direct connection with the two-year old scandal is undisputed is said to be one of President Kufuor’s closest aides. Meet the real McCoy, “Hon. Raymond Akuffo,” a second participant and a hard-core NPP man, who contested the 2000 Parliamentary elections on the NPP’s ticket in the Upper West Akyem constituency but lost to NDC’s Sallas K. Mensah. For Akuffo, losing the 2000 Parliamentary elections did not prevent him from being a Member of Parliament. Three years after a failed attempt at becoming a member of the honorable house, he continued to introduce himself officially to banks, business partners and other government institutions as the MP for Upper West Akyem and a high ranking member of the Finance Committee of Parliament. Company documents of which the Minister is a co-signatory also portray him as “Hon. Raymond Akuffo” Chronicle investigations have confirmed that the Minister and “Hon. Raymond Akuffo” are steeped in deep controversies of corruption, conspiracy to commit fraud, committing fraud, impersonation and abuse of office. It all began soon after the 2000 elections when a new company called Emrate Investment Limited was born at the Registrar General’s Department. The company listed their areas of operation as Management Consultancy Services, Road and Building Construction, Civil Engineering and Electrical Works, Transportation Services (Air, Sea, Land), Travel and Tour Operators and Financial Services. Since its establishment, the company has been involved in several fraud controversies. At least, two banks have confirmed that Emrate Investment Limited, submitted letters from the Office of the President purporting to give a government guarantee for private loans and letters of Credits that were being sought for the company. In his letters to such banks and in official correspondence examined by The Chronicle, Mr. Akuffo wrote his name as “Hon. Raymond Akuffo,” to confirm his claim that he was a Member of Parliament and a prominent member of the Finance Committee of Parliament. Meanwhile, investigations at the Registrar-General’s Department last year lists Deputy Minister Moctar Bamba as a director, shareholder and secretary of Emrate Investments Limited, while “Hon. Raymond Akuffo” is also listed as a shareholder and executive director of the company. It also emerged that the letterheads from the Office of the President which sought to guarantee the private loans for Emrate Investment Limited had also come from the office of the Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs and had forged signatures of Ministers of State. When Chronicle questioned the deputy minister last month in an interview on his status in Emrate Investments as director, shareholder and secretary of the company, he flatly denied it, but later admitted under pressure from The Chronicle. “Hon. Bamba, are you a shareholder, director and secretary of Emrate Investment Limited?” The Chronicle asked. “No sir,” he answered politely. “Honorable, are you saying that there can’t be any evidence to prove that you are a shareholder, director and secretary of Emrate Investment Limited? The Chronicle pressed. “Along the line I have some explanations to make, can I go on? You see I was just trying to help that guy who contested as our party’s MP.” When asked whether the only way to help Akuffo was to take shares in his company, become a board director and serve as secretary, the Minister attributed it to ‘Negligence.’ He added: “You see, my office is a political office of the President. It is here that party members who want minor contracts, who want to go to the university, who want to see a minister or their MP or who want to travel come for assistance.” Bamba also confirmed that the letterheads, which were fraudulently issued to guarantee private loans in the name of the government for Emrate Investments Limited, came from his office, but vehemently denied any personal involvement in the fraud. Apart from carrying himself as MP, Akuffo also told the BNI two years ago that he was an employee in the Office of the President and that he worked in the office of the Deputy Minister. This made him a subordinate as well as a business partner of Hon. Bamba. At least, two people confirmed to The Chronicle that they knew “Hon. Raymond Akuffo” as a staff of the Office of the President because he had introduced himself as such, and that they had telephoned him on countless occasions at the office of the Deputy Minister and also met him there for a couple of business transactions. On allegations that Akuffo was fronting for him, the deputy minister only said, “La ila la ilala,” a Hausa expression, which connoted his surprise and innocence. He said Akuffo could not be fronting for him because even before becoming a politician he had been a successful businessman. Hon. Bamba also denied that Akuffo had ever been a staff of the Office of the President. “He used to hang around here in my office but he wasn’t a staff. He was usually hanging around my secretary’s desk, that is where I think he got the letterheads.” The minister described his business partner as a “thief,” adding that he might have “stolen the letterheads from my secretariat.” Investigations revealed that one of the fraudulent letters from the Office of the President, which was presented as a government guarantee for the private loan also carried a forged signature of Hon. Kwamena Bartels, Minister for Private Sector Development. Chronicle could not establish which of the two partners forged the signature of Hon. Kwamena Bartels because both “Hon. Akuffo” and the Deputy Minister denied the forgery. Hon. Bamba denied forging the signature in an interview with the Chronicle while Akuffo also denied it in his statement to the BNI. Moctar Bamba, however, fingered Akuffo as the one who forged it. When Chronicle quizzed him whether he was aware that as a Minister, Member of Parliament and Deputy Chief of Staff he was not allowed to do any private business, he said, “Well I can do business with permission.” He did not, however, mention whether he had permission to do private business in spite of his numerous government portfolios. But Chronicle gathered that the MP is still in the spare parts business and was expecting a $75, 000 consignment of second-hand engines in the first week of January 2004. “Granted that you don’t know anything about this fraud, what did you do as a law maker, a Minister of State and a good citizen of Ghana, when you found out that Akuffo had impersonated a Minister of State, attempted on one occasion and succeeded on another in defrauding banks with stolen letterheads from the Office of the President? In your own words, you called Akuffo a thief; knowing that stealing is a criminal offence under our criminal code, what did you do?” Chronicle quizzed. At this point, the Hon. Minister asked that the reporter’s recorder be switched off and intimated that “Castle had conducted investigations into the matter,” and cleared him. The Chief of Staff managed the investigations, according to the Minister. Investigations by The Chronicle revealed that even though no official charges were made against the culprits by the office of the President, the Minister was invited by the Police headquarters for questioning following a complaint filed by one of the banks. To this, the minister said he had gone to the police headquarters voluntarily and that a police officer who was dispatched to his office from the Police headquarters was only there to inform him of the arrest and detention of Akuffo. “I drove to the headquarters on my own and I saw Akuffo in detention. The investigator said: ‘Please Honorable, we have realized that you are not involved. Please go,’” he told The Chronicle. By the time the minister walked out of the Police headquarters in 2002, he had been cleared while Akuffo was asked to go and told if needed he would be recalled.