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General News | Nov 4, 2004

New twist to Minister’s ‘extortion’ charges

Chronicle

... Minister's secretary was secretly asked to refund ¢2m

New Evidence gathered by the Chronicle in the case of extortion charges against the Deputy Minister for Manpower Development and Employment, Dr. (Mrs.) Angela Ofori Atta has contradicted the lame denials by the Ministry. The new evidence suggests that the Deputy Minister changed the procedure to allow the coordinators of the program pay monies collected as commitment to her Secretary instead of the Accountant, a move which the sources said gives room for misappropriation of funds.

Hitherto, cash payments as commitment fees were paid in cheque to MMDE.

Chronicle has gathered that the Deputy Minister engaged the Women's World Banking, a corporate body to supervise and monitor the disbursement of the ¢5 billion, which is the set up capital for the graduate trainees of the STEP programme.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the Deputy Minister and the Women's World Banking indicated that 5% of the ¢5 billion amounting to ¢250 million would be given to the consultant aside their consultancy fee.

One Dr. Horney is also said to have been engaged on the presidential job summit scheduled for next year. These engagements are without the knowledge and approval of the sector Minister.

Whilst the Ministry denies any 5% deduction from monies to be paid to service providers, it has been proven by MOUs duly signed by the service providers that “the amount of money payable to trainees comprises 30% honorarium to persons involved directly with the training, 45% for training materials, 20% for administrative cost and 5% for monitoring” and that this 5% would be deducted at source, prior to the commencement of the programme.

The 5% amounting to ¢380 million was intended for monitoring, for which the government had already approved ¢ 400 million out of the ¢7.6 billion provided for the STEP programme.

When The Chronicle asked the Minister why the 5% deductions whereas the government had provided ¢400 million for the intended purpose, she said “that was her own way of supplementing government's effort.”

Chronicle investigations have it that the service providers signed blank MOUs without knowing how much they were going to pay and that figures were fixed after the STEP staffs signed the MOUs.

Contrary to denials by the sector Ministry, Chronicle can report that the Sector Minister actually set up a committee to investigate the charges of extortion which found Agatha culpable, leading to her suspension for two weeks without pay.

Chronicle has further gathered that the Deputy Minister's secretary, Agatha had to refund about ¢ 2.1 million to the accountant after it was found that she had engaged in extortion.

The Public Relations Officer who is now allegedly scribbling defences for the Minister was only two weeks old in office at the time The Chronicle was investigating the matter.

He had confided in this reporter that he (Aggrey) did not know anything about the STEP programme and had to be briefed on the matter.

In the circumstance, Aggrey declared that he could not defend any of the allegations against the Deputy Minister.

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