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11.01.2006 General News

‘Chop Chop’ At Energy Commission ?

By newsmen

The albatross of alleged guilt still hangs around the neck of the 'pushed-aside' Executive Secretary of the Energy Commission, Mr. Kofi Asante, some eight months after he was fired by Government over alleged abuse of power and financial impropriety as the Commission's boss.

Mr. Kofi Asante was on May 4, 2005, ordered by the Energy Minister, Hon. Mike Ocquaye, to step aside for investigations into very serious allegations that border on abuse of power and mismanagement of resources levelled against him. The directive sent Mr. Asante packing alongside and the Chairman of the Energy Commission, Mamponghene Nana Osei Bonsu II, packing due to serious allegations of misappropriation against top personnel Of the Commission. But, some eight months after Mr. Asante was forced out of office, a Ministerial Committee set up by Government to probe the former Energy Commission boss is yet to establish a case of guilt or innocence against Mr. Asante.

Although a systematic audit has been conducted by both the Auditor General and the Serious Fraud Office, into Mr Kofi Asante's reign as Executive Secretary of the Energy Commission, the two bodies are yet to go public with their findings; further deepening the perception among certain circles that perhaps, Mr. Asante was just used as a “scapegoat” by the Kufuor administration in an quasi anti-corruption crusade.

Mr. Asante has long contended that his dismissal was “an act of vilification” by the President and the Government for public criticisms of the bad deal the administration had reached with the World Bank on the West Africa Gas pipeline project. He believes his criticisms of the poor negotiations done by the current government in the West African Gas pipeline project chiefly accounts for his removal from office and what he considers his public mortification.

However, contrary to this position, citi can authoritatively report that both the Auditor General's report and that of the Serious Fraud Office have identified what high ranking Energy Ministry Officials say are “serious irregularities and mal administration” presided over by Mr Asante at the Energy Commission.

Newsmen have it that the Auditor General's Report has been submitted to the Energy Minister Mike Oquaye. But, high ranking officials of the Ministry say the Minister is yet to receive the report of the SFO on Mr Asante, although the Minister has been briefed on the content of the report.

Information available to newsmen has is that the Ministry, on receipt of the SFO report, will lay the two reports before the Public Services Commission for advice. Sources say it is only after the Public Services Commission advised on the two reports that a further action will be taken against Mr. Asante. It is expected that Mr Kofi Asante's fate would be determined within the next 30 days.

During his reign, the Energy Commission allegedly expended a total of ¢809 million on foreign travels. But, Mr. Asante named the parliamentary select committee on energy, a commissioner, as well as some staff members, as those who had benefited from the ¢809 million spent on foreign travels.

Mr. Asante had been accused of taking ¢30 million monthly rent allowance, charge he denied. He had explained that the amount was a quarterly rent advance payment of ¢10 million monthly rent, approved by the Commission and the lower of two valuations carried out by the Lands Valuation Board and independent valuers.

Mr. Asante, like many other former Chief Executives of some State Institutions who have been asked to proceed on leave or step aside, is still at home. He is on record as describing the order that he stepped aside without giving him a hearing,” as “unreasonable, uncalled for, and unprecedented.”