SFO TO CHARGE ASANTE, DAASEBRE
THE NEXT STAGE in the fight to uproot corruption from the system after years of dithering is unfolding as The Chronicle gathered last week that the Serious Fraud Office has also concluded its simultaneous probe of the extensive stench at the Energy Commission concurrently with the Auditor-General which also made its damning findings.
The SFO went a step further and established conduct of criminal nature on the part of the two presidential friends who bombed out the Energy Commission, Messrs Kofi Asante, the Executive Secretary and St. Oswald Gyimah Kessie, the Mamponghene, Chairman of the Commission.
Over the last week, Mr. Asante, hanging tough, has proclaimed his innocence in a series of interviews in which he intimated that higher powers have tried to cow him by attempting to push through a deal with the Nigerian-owned Sahara Energy Resources, but documentary evidence shows that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) found a list of criminal conduct and have already initiated moves to have the two men docketed and prosecuted under section 18 of the SFO Act, 466.
The SFO invited Kofi Asante and Daasebre Osei Bonsu 11 (the Mamponghene) to face a caution statement, but they refused to put in appearance, and the office formally complained and indicated that they were going to arrest the men.
What is staying their hand is that they want to avoid press uproar, which would be inevitable should they move to seize them forcibly to face the court.
The SFO officials noted that when they confronted the Mamponghene, he was particularly arrogant and flatly refused to cooperate or answer a questionnaire sent to him.
The team that conducted the investigations has recommended to their bosses that apart from the criminal charges against the Daasebre, he could be stripped of his post and not be eligible to occupy any public office for the next ten years at least.
Nana Osei Bonsu is a member of the Judicial Service and a retired registrar of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
The SFO, which was charged to investigate the allegations of impropriety against the Executive Secretary by the Senior Staff Association of the Commission, found criminal implications in several areas including the 'unlawful payments to the Executive Secretary of the sum of ¢10 million each month as rent allowance', as against the Land Valuation Board's ¢5 million assessment; 'the permanent use of a landcruiser with a driver in Kumasi' and 'the contract for the architectural remodeling, demolition and refitting of Frema House', something that the Auditor General had also found.
With respect to the rent allowance, the SFO said because the Land Valuation Board (LVB) had advised the sum of ¢5 million after due valuation of his house, 'the total of ¢240 million from 1st September to date has been stolen, contrary to S 124 of Act 24/60' and so members of the Board who acted to approve this payment must be held jointly in a conspiracy with the Executive Secretary for this offence.
The brief said, “His act of appropriating 12% of his salary to the total of ¢31 million in lieu of social security contributions, amounts to stealing, contrary to S124(1) of Act 29/60.”
Kofi Asante was born in 1936 and would be 70 years old in July this year, effectively putting him past the statutory age for which pension contributions ought to be made by the commission. Even though he was disqualified from contributing the required five percent, he was criminally collecting the 12.5 percent employer's contribution as top-up.
It said further that the permanent use of a car and a driver at the expense of the Commission amounted ' to a reckless dissipation of public funds through a conspiracy of the Executive Secretary and the Chairman:
The sum dissipated will be the cost of the driver's salary for the period plus the cost of the use of the car at the rate of rental for similar cars charged by car hiring companies in Accra', and regarding the refitting of Frema House it said, “The refusal to heed the quantity surveyor's advice is an act of recklessness which will validate a charge of reckless dissipation of public funds in the sum ¢779,315,214…”
Meanwhile, the Auditor- General's report on investigations into the same allegations, has corroborated the various findings by the SFO.
The Auditor-General, Mr. Edward Dua-Agyeman had reported that contrary to procurement procedures and practices in the public sector that required the purchasing department to obtain ministerial approval for all purchases made from either the Consolidated Fund or Trust Fund monies among others, the Executive Secretary of the Energy Commission, Mr. Kofi Asante, arbitrarily dispensed ¢6.3 billion for unbudgeted items.
The items included vehicles, computers and relaxation chairs.
According to the report, the Energy Commission paid ¢10 million monthly rent to Mr. Kofi Asante, who was staying in his own house, after the Land Valuation Board (LVB) had evaluated the rent at ¢5 million. As a result, he was paid a total of ¢450 million, instead of the LVB's ¢225 million for the period January 2002 to December 2005. The Auditor-General has therefore recommended the recovery of the excess rent of ¢225 million, since the determination of rent payable by government is the prerogative of the LVB.
Mr. Asante, according to the report, used his own discretion to dissipate an amount of ¢1.9 billion towards the acquisition of four vehicles, a Nissan pick-up with registration number GT3008V, a BMW (GT3129V) and two Toyota Landcruisers. One of the Toyota Landcruisers, which contained cool boxes, was allocated to the Board Chairman of the Commission, Daasebre Osei Bonsu II even though he was holding a non-executive position.
The A-G found improper, the payment of rent for the period October 2002 to February 2003, during which the Commission was completing the building and recommended therefore that the LVB should revalue it and determine the appropriate rent payable and that the payment of rent should commence from March 2003 (and not from October 2002), should government still be interested in renting the building.
The Executive Secretary objected to the A-G's recommendation that rent for the Frema House should not be paid from October 2002 to February 2003 on the grounds that the commission took possession of the building before commencing the 'refitting' works.
However in a memorandum dated 21st March 2003 to a senior accountant authorizing him to pay additional rent of ¢1.3 billion, Mr. Kofi Asante had stated that the Energy Commission took possession of and occupied the Frema House with effect from Saturday March 15 2003.