Confusion Deepens At NSS
Alhaji Imoro Alhassan
Details of how the Board of the National Service Scheme (NSS) managed to create and insert some imaginary (ghost) names, labelled as pin-codes, in the scheme's list of service personnel have started emerging.
So far the 25 district officers, who were arrested over the scandal, have been granted bail pending further investigations into the matter involving the payment of GH¢7.9 billion to those 'ghost' names and allegations of bribery.
But DAILY GUIDE's investigation, which has been corroborated by some sources at the National Service Secretariat, has uncovered that the 'ghost' names were created following a directive issued by the Scheme's Board, chaired by Md Gifty Mahama, to add (top-up) the number of service personnel posted to each of the 10 regions across the country.
The purpose of this directive, which was subsequently communicated to all 10 Regional Directors of the Scheme for onward transmission to the various District Directors, was intended to finance regional and district farm projects of the Scheme, especially livestock and crop farming in selected areas such as the Central Region, where it had 600 acres of maize farm at Komenda and the Volta Region where it had 300 acres of maize farm at Agbotia-Kpota.
The rest were 400 acres of maize farm at Dawhenya, over 10,000 poultry birds at Nungua farms, over 700 rabbits and pigs at Papao farms and over 20,000 fishes in a pond at Dawhenya, all in Accra.
Other projects in the Greater Accra Region included catering services at offices of the Regional Coordinating Council and a meat processing facility at the Nungua farms.
In the Ashanti Region alone, the National Service Scheme has about 1,200 acres of maize farm at Ejura, for both minor and major farming seasons; whilst in the Brong-Ahafo Region, it has about 400 acres of maize farm at Brenam. The Scheme also has about 700,000 poultry birds in the Western Region, another fish farm in the Eastern Region and a guinea fowls project with about 10,000 birds in the Upper East Region.
The Scheme's 'ghost names tactics' was necessitated by government's failure to provide the needed capital to finance those projects which were on-going at the time Imoro Alhassan, the Executive Director, took over from the controversial former NSS boss, Vincent Kuagbenu, who initiated the projects.
During Kuagbenu's tenure at NSS, he was said to have devised a means of lobbying for funds from the Ministry of Education to fund most of these farm projects.
Interestingly, monies generated from the inclusion of those ghost names (pin-codes) under the embattled Executive Director were disbursed as follows: 40% for the national head office, 30% for regional offices and the other 30% to run the farm projects at the district level, including administrative duties, monitoring and evaluation and project execution among others.
It is not clear why the Gifty Mahama-Chaired Board and the Alhaji Imoro-led NSS decided to use those 'ghost' names under the pretext of pin-codes to create an avenue to fund these projects when they could have created a proper fund such as a 'project fund' for the purpose.
According to a source, some District and Regional Directors and other members of the Board have therefore wondered what the Chairperson and the Executive Director have been using the 40% allocated to the national head office and the proceeds from the farm projects, which are forwarded to them by the Regional Directors, for.
This is in view of the fact that since Alhaji Imoro took over as Executive Director of the NSS, no department of the Scheme, including its numerous farms, is being run effectively and to full capacity. The failure of government to release funds to the Scheme has been cited as the cause.
When the issue of the 'ghost' names and the amount involved became public, Madam Gifty Mahama and the Board were the first to issue a statement to declare support for the Executive Director, expressing confidence in him. Interestingly, days later they issued another statement asking Alhaji Imoro and other District Directors of the Scheme, who were named in the scandal, to proceed on leave.
Some, including Accra-based lawyer, Samson Lardy Ayenini, have therefore questioned the continuous stay of the Board of the NSS since they are somehow complicit in the scandal.
Samson, who is also host of Joy FM ' s political programme, 'News File', wrote on his Facebook wall; 'It would appear the NSS Board was actually or constructively aware and approved a scheme to increase the numbers of service persons (ghost personnel) as a means of raising funds to run the NSS's various internal projects including maize and tilapia farms to generate funds which were later shared among the district, regional and national offices for the running of the NSS in the absence of government funding.'
'And that apart from the GH¢100,000, other alleged bribe cash was received by auditors and receipted as 'regular' feeding cash for audit rounds,' he stated, wondering 'if so, then you may fix liability on the decision maker but can the implementer suffer same or any? How easy or difficult will it be to establish a criminal mind in the said scheme or scam?'
By Charles Takyi-Boadu