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22.06.2004 General News

Booty Sharing At AGRIC BANK

By Chronicle
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... ¢5.5bn shared as long service awards (LSA) ... MD, others accused of grabbing double LSA in 2 years There are conflicting accounts by the Management and the Board of Directors of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) regarding the payment of long service awards to staff amounting to a whopping ¢ 5.5 billion.

Information gathered by The Chronicle alleged that the executive of the bank had hoodwinked the board of directors into agreeing to pay all staff with more than 20 years service, awards ranging from ¢80million to over¢200 with interest.

It was learnt that the ¢5.5billion spent on the project was contrary to ministerial directives against such huge payments.

Whilst Mr. Paul Koranteng, the Board Chairman has defended the payment and maintained that beneficiaries picked between ¢20 million and something a little above ¢100 million, evidence available to the paper indicates that some top officials picked between ¢80 million and well over ¢200million.

Mr. Daniel Koomson, the Public Relations Officer of the bank, speaking on behalf of the management, said the lowest beneficiaries would pick ¢20 million whilst the highest would be taking about ¢198million with the interest.

Apart from the conflicting accounts, it has come to light that some of the beneficiaries were, two years ago, given similar awards.

For instance, it was alleged that Mr. Samuel Welbeck, the Managing Director and a host of others, who were penciled for award for serving the bank for more than 20 years under the current scheme, were the people who benefited two years ago.

But the board chairman told The Chronicle that his board was not aware that some of the beneficiaries had been rewarded previously and therefore gave their blessing when the management submitted the proposal to the board on assuming office.

Mr. Koranteng, the former Managing Director of the defunct Meridian Biao Bank (MBB) said the board was not privy to information that at certain a stage the former Deputy Minister of Finance, Mrs. Grace Coleman, directed the management to halt the institution of the new awards when information got to the ministry.

But he defended the scheme as laudable and said it was proper that the bank put in place a scheme to reward its long serving workers.

Mr. Koranteng said considering the benefits that some companies or financial institutions paid their workers what the bank was paying was not extraordinary.

Though some insiders and analysts have described the awards as End of Service Benefit (ESB), both the board chairman and the PRO debunked the claim.

The analysts' reason for equating the awards to ESB was that the benefit could only be accessed after their retirement.

According to the board and the management, the new award was instituted to serve as motivation for the workers to stem the exodus of staff due to poor conditions of service.

“Due to poor service conditions in ADB most of the tried and tested staff have left the bank to seek greener pastures elsewhere and since we cannot continue to train people only to lose them to other companies, we are trying to improve conditions here”, said the board chairman.

Koomson shared the same view when he said, “we are in the public bank; due to poor salaries our best materials are poached by other organisations and the board has every right to institute what can help retain the high calibre of staff”.

He could not debunk claims that some of the staff short-listed for or who benefited in 1999 from similar awards included the current MD. The Chronicle gathered that those who benefited during Dr. P.A. Kuranchie's administration were now at the helm of affairs of the bank and got the new board to institute the new awards.

The awards are calculated on a beneficiary's salary as at April 31,2001, the cut off date, by 20 years in the service.

Contrary to the claim by the board chairman that the highest beneficiary got a little over ¢100million The Chronicle has learnt that some of the beneficiaries have since gone on retirement with the huge long service award far in excess of ¢ 100 million.

In all 128 staff members had qualified for the awards as at the cut-off date because they had served for 20 and above.

Those who have worked for 20 years but still have some more years before retirement would have their award lodged in the bank until their retirement it was leant. This means that all the interest that would accrue would be paid to the beneficiary.

The long service award was initiated in 2001 under Dr. Kuranchie, then Managing Director when the bank's computerization programme was to be introduced.

An amount of ¢30billion was appropriated from the ¢l30billion profit the bank made in 2000, to pay off the consequent retrenchment exercise.

At the end of the exercise, ¢24.5billion was spent, leaving a balance of ¢5.5billion. This amount according to The Chronicle sources was to be set aside and used as seed money for a proposed End of Service Benefit (ESB) scheme.

Therefore a committee, under the chairmanship of the former General Manager for Legal Services, Mr. Paul Agyiri, now Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, was set up to design the modalities for the scheme.

Before the committee could come out with its proposals, the board of directors decided that the ¢5.5billion should rather be shared as long-service award to all staff who had served the bank for more than 20 years.

As a result new sub-committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Attafuah Wadee, the General Manager for Administration, was set up to execute this new order.

Under the new arrangements, payments ranged from ¢80million to over ¢200million, with the Managing Director allegedly receiving close to ¢260million with the prospects of earning about ¢600 million in three years' time when he would be going on retirement.

The Chronicle gathered that when the list of the beneficiaries was drawn up there was agitation from the rest of the staff who contended that most of the beneficiaries, including Mr. Welbeck had been given long-service awards in 1999.

These agitations, it was said, prompted the former Deputy Minister, Mrs. Coleman, to direct that the whole scheme was improper and should be aborted.

But according to paper's information, the Managing Director and his team refused to give up, and instead organized a staff durbar to hush-hush the issue.

Under the scheme the payment plus interest that would accrue from it would only be paid to the beneficiaries on retirement, which makes it appear indeed like ESB or gratuity.

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