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19.05.2004 General News

Refund Monies Within 3 Weeks

By Graphic

The Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment has directed the agents of Explore Abroad and Africa, the South African company which recruited some Ghanaians to work abroad, to refund within three weeks all monies paid by the applicants.

Counsel for the company, Ms Irene C. Danquah, corporate legal advisor of Legfield Consultancy, has also been mandated to open a foreign account into which Ms Leslie Botha, the South African woman, who led the recruitment exercise, is to pay all the monies she collected from the applicants.

Failure to refund the monies will result in INTERPOL being roped in to apprehend Ms Botha to be tried in Ghana for fraud. The directive was given at a meeting held at the ministry yesterday and attended by Mr Kojo Amoakwa, Chief Director of the Ministry, Mr T. K. Essilfie, acting Chief Labour Officer and Ms Danquah, counsel for Explore Abroad and Africa.

It emerged at the meeting that 383 persons were selected during the interview organised on behalf of the company by its agents, Messrs David Kumi and Mr James Opoku, about a year ago to be offered employment in various hotels in the United States of America and Britain.

Each of the 383 applicants paid $1,000 and a non-refundable processing fee of ¢500,000. Out of every $1,000, the agents were given $200 in addition to the ¢500,000 processing fee to be pocketed. At yesterday's meeting, Mr Kumi, who operates Infohouse Ghana Ltd, a local tourism agency, was also asked to report twice weekly to the Chief Director of the Ministry until the matter was resolved.

During the meeting, it came out that the ministry did not authorise the recruitment exercise but some officials of the Labour Department defied the order by then sector Minister, Mrs Cecilia Bannerman, to go ahead in aiding the agents to recruit Ghanaians to work in hotels in the United States of America and Britain.

According to the Chief Labour Officer, Mr Essilfie, the department's employment officer, Madam Jane Frimpong, introduced Ms Botha to him as someone interested in recruiting Ghanaians to work abroad.He said he together with Madam Frimpong, took Ms Botha to see Mrs Bannerman at the ministry, but the Minister demanded documents attesting to the authenticity of the work of Ms Botha.

He said while he and the Minister were awaiting Ms Botha's documents, he heard the recruitment was going on at the employment centre of the department.“I never gave the greenlight for the recruitment exercise. I was waiting for Ms Botha to bring the documents,” he stated.

Mr Essilfie said he got to know of the exercise when Mr Yaw Barimah and Dr Angela Ofori-Atta, Minister and Deputy Minister respectively went on a familiarisation tour of the department after their appointment following ministerial reshuffle.

When this reporter requested to get in touch with Madam Frimpong, Mr Essilfie said she was on sick leave and did not know her residence neither did he have her telephone number.Mr Kumi, who is 57 years old, however, said it was Mr Essilfie who opened the door to the conference room of the department for them to start interviewing prospective applicants.

He said Ms Botha met him in Accra during a conference and requested him to assist her recruit people to work abroad. According to Mr Kumi, he helped recruit 245 people, and each of them paid ¢500,000 non-refundable processing which totalled ¢122,500,000 and $1,000 each out of which Ms Botha gave him $200 per each applicant's fee.

On her part, Ms Danquah said Explore Abroad and Africa contacted her barely a month ago when the problem erupted and wanted the involvement of a neutral person to resolve it.She said she requested for documents establishing the legal status of Ms Botha's company in South Africa which was sent to her.

She explained that she was not part of the process but only came in to help resolve the crisis.Ms Danquah said Ms Botha sent a list of applicants who have allegedly withdrawn their applications so that the refund of $800 per each applicant could be made through her.

The Labour office where the alleged scam was executed.

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