Abuga Pele and Philip Assibit
Former Minister of Youth and Sports, Clement Kofi Humado, has pointed out that the announcement by government that $65 million had been secured for the Youth Enterprise Development (YEP) project was nothing but 'semantics'.
In the runup to the 2012 general elections, the public was inundated with news that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government was going to empower the youth with the World Bank facility, but Mr. Humado told a Financial Court in Accra yesterday that the $65 million never came as claimed.
'I was the minister on the ground and as far as I am concerned, no such facility was secured. No money was released to the Ministry of Finance for them to transmit it to the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It remains a question of semantics,' he told the court, presided over by Justice Afia Asare Botwe.
The court – where Abuga Pele, former National Coordinator of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) and Phillip Akpeena Assibit, CEO of Goodwill International Group (GIG), are standing trial for causing financial loss to the state – heard how cabinet on July 18, 2012 wrote a memo to the youth ministry, directing it to take steps to restructure the NYEP into YEEDA (now GYEEDA) because $ 65 million had been secured.
In the said memo signed by then Cabinet Secretary, Ben Eghan, the government had suggested the name Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (YEEDA) in the restructuring exercise to give it a legal backing, but it has since metamorphosed into Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA).
Raymond Bagnabu, counsel for Assibit, pointed out to Mr. Humado – who is the fourth Prosecution Witness (PW4) – that even before the executive's approval he (Humado) had appeared at the 'Meet-the-press' briefing on December 8, 2011 to announce the $65 million (after which counsel tendered the statement in evidence through the witness.)
Mr. Humado, Member of Parliament (MP) for Anlo, admitted making that statement but said he announced that the World Bank had 'pledged' $65 million for the YEDP and it had been facilitated by Management Development and Productivity Institute and Goodwill International Group (MDPI/GIG) consortium, which the PW4 said was led by Assibit.
Counsel (Mr. Bagnabu): So you confirm that you indeed announced that the World Bank has pledged $65 million?
Witness (Mr. Humado): Yes, but a pledge does not mean the money has arrived.
Counsel: At Peki Senior High School, you also delivered a brilliant speech and repeated that the World Bank has pledged $65 million.
Witness: The official position was that a grant of $65 million has been secured but one needs to reconcile with reality. As far as I knew as a minister, the $65 million had not been secured. The word 'secured' was a matter of interpretation.
Counsel: So you were deceiving the public then?
Witness: In my speech I said the World Bank had 'pledged' and in the Cabinet memo it was read 'secured' but as the minister on the ground, I knew no money had been released…it was a matter of semantics.
Counsel: Was it a political statement?
Witness: It was not a political statement. It was a reality.
Mr. Humado then told the court that it was the National Coordinator (Abuga Pele) who had made the contribution on the portion of his 'Meet-the-press' statement about the World Bank facility but said, 'I bear the responsibility.'
He admitted that before the ministry's letter to the ministry of finance requesting them to officially approach the World Bank for the facility, the NYEP was already in consultation with the bank, saying he knew they were working with the MDPI/GIG consortium.
When it was suggested to him by counsel that once the consortium worked on the YEDP preparatory document they were entitled to payment for work done, Mr. Humado replied, 'If the YEDP was developed by the consortium then they were entitled to it.'
The accused persons are on trial for the various roles they allegedly played, which the Attorney General's Department said caused huge financial loss to the state.
Mr. Kofi Humado is accused of wilfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢3,330,568.53 while Assibit is being tried for defrauding the state of an amount equivalent to $1,948,626.68.
The two have pleaded not guilty and are currently on bail.
Sitting continues on October 27, 2014.
By William Yaw Owusu