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02.03.2006 General News

Auditor-General threatens legal action

The Auditor-General, Edward Dua Agyeman, says he will recommend to the Attorney-General's Department to take legal action against Col K. A. Takyi (retd) if he fails to refund the ¢7.6 billion as recommended in the Auditor-General's Report on investigations into allegations of financial and managerial impropriety at the Energy Commission.

The report considered as improper the decision by the commission to spend that amount of money to complete the construction of Frema House, owned by Col Takyi, for use as its offices.

When the Daily Graphic contacted Col Takyi for his comments on the legal threat by the Auditor-General against him and other statements that the Auditor-General made in response to Col Takyi's advertiser's announcement published in this paper, the retired Colonel declined to be drawn into any verbal salvo and insisted on his position as espoused in the advertiser's announcement.

Mr Agyeman told the Daily Graphic on Tuesday that he would recommend legal action to be taken against Col Takyi if, “after a reasonable time”, he failed to refund the money or respond to the report, a copy of which had been served on him.

He denied making any vicious and wicked allegations against Col Takyi and dared the retired Colonel to take legal action against him (Auditor-General) if he felt maligned by the contents of the report.

“It is Col Takyi's right to take legal action against the Auditor-General in any court of law in respect of the report,” he said, pointing out, “The Auditor-General is doing his duty in protecting public funds. Taxpayers and the public generally have the right to know how their funds are being spent.”

Mr Agyeman was responding to the advertiser's announcement by Col Takyi published in the Saturday, February 25, 2006 and Monday, February 27, 2006, issues of the Daily Graphic which took serious exception to “errors and factual misstatements” in the Auditor-General's Report.

Col Takyi asked the Auditor-General to take “immediate steps to rectify the errors, misconceptions and misstatements” in the report and give them the same prominence as the report, cautioning, “If you fail to do this within fourteen (14) days of the date of this letter, I will take immediate steps to protect my interests in the matter without further notice to you.”

Responding to the advertiser's announcement, a copy of which he received from Col Takyi on Monday, the Auditor-General said, “There are no errors, misconceptions and misstatements in the report to rectify,” adding that the report contained facts that were accurate and incontrovertible.

In his advertiser's announcement, Col Takyi expressed regret at the failure of the Auditor-General to seek his response to the allegations made against him in the report and described the action as “wilfully malicious”.

Reacting to that complaint, Mr Agyeman explained that Col Takyi had no case to answer in the matter, since no response or explanation was needed from him.

He said the investigation was into allegations of financial malpractice and management improprieties levelled against the Executive Secretary of the Energy Commission, Mr Kofi Asante, by the Senior Staff Association of the commission.

In the opinion of the Auditor-General, there was sufficient information made available to his office through Mr Asante and documents in respect of transactions made to conduct the investigation and, therefore, he did not find it necessary to invite Col Takyi for any response.

Moreover, he added, Mr Asante had not denied the findings in the reports in respect of the ¢7.6 billion, except to make a justification that the money was used for refitting.

In Col Takyi's advertiser's announcement, he disputed the assertion in the report that “during the period October 2002 to February 2003, the commission was completing the building” and indicated that the building was completed in early January 2000.

Mr Agyeman, however, maintained that the statement in reference was factual, contrary to Col Takyi's contention.

He supported his claim with a document supposed to be Col Takyi's hand-written description of Frema House and other details of the property, which stated, inter alia, “Two years' advance required to complete the office space above mentioned in two months by 30 November, 2002.”

According to Mr Agyeman, the team of investigators contacted Col Takyi to verify the hand-written document and he confirmed it as his own handwriting.

The Auditor-General further cited a letter furnished his office by Messrs S. Tetteh and Associates, contractors on the building, which also confirmed that the building was incomplete at the time the commission spotted it in October 2002.

Mr Agyeman said a memo written by Mr Asante on March 21, 2003, to the senior accountant attached to a payment voucher numbered 004870 for the payment of ¢1.3 billion as rent to Col Takyi stated, among other things, that, “The Energy Commission took possession of and occupied its new premises, Frema House, Plot # 40, Spintex Road, Accra, with effect from Saturday, March 25, 2003.”

According to him, Col Takyi signed the payment voucher and collected a cheque for ¢1.3 billion without objecting to the statement referred to in the memo.

He, therefore, contended that on the account of the memo, he did not understand why the commission had to pay rent from October 2002 to February 2003, a period when the building was in the process of being completed.

“Clearly, Col Takyi's statement that the building was ready for occupation as of January 2000 was a lie,” he said, adding that Col Takyi's statement that no part of the sum of ¢7.6 billion was paid to him or for his benefit was “weak and unfortunate”, since he was aware that the money spent on the building by the commission, which he did not dispute, had added enormous value to the property.

On the issue raised by Col Takyi that the Ministry of Energy and the Energy Commission had breached the lease agreement by sub-letting his property to the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) without his permission and the payment of rent, Mr Agyeman said, “I am afraid the Auditor-General cannot answer.”

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