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07.04.2006 General News

Visa Deals Hit Kumasi Abattoir

By Chronicle

The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) has since March 24 launched full investigations into financial mismanagement and malpractices bordering on visa deals at the Kumasi Abattoir Company Limited (KACL).

In 2002, the company was cited for financial mismanagement, which culminated in the interdiction of the then Managing Director during investigations by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The management of the company established in 1998 under a CIDA grant has already been quizzed in connection with the spate of visa deals by management recently. KACL, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, has SSNIT as its major stakeholder with the KMA and the various Butchers' Associations as main shareholders.

Last Thursday, management personnel comprising Mr. Richard Todd Hackman, acting administrative manager, Mr. Fred Asante, financial manager, Mr. Charles Boakye, internal auditor, and Mr. John Owusu Abrefa, managing director, were summoned to the BNI offices where the MD gave a statement. The others' statements are yet to be taken. The BNI has also requested personal files of all those involved and is yet to interrogate Messrs Abdallah Rashad, Sanni Innusah and Joseph Boakye, chairman, secretary and assistant secretary, respectively, of the local union.

Management of KACL is tight-lipped over the issue. Managing Director Owusu Abrefa was too busy and hard pressed for time last Friday to the paper's enquiries. The Chronicle has gathered that the board chairman, finance manager and the managing director are the architects of the visa deals in which non-employees are recruited for fees and sent abroad for alleged industrial training at the expense of the company.

The Chronicle can authoritatively report that following the rejection by the State Insurance Company (SIC), KACL sought insurance certificates from the Vanguard Assurance Company to cover four 'engineering staff' to facilitate processing of visa applications and other travel documents to Germany. The company had presented Messrs Benjamin Owusu Gyamfi as head of engineering, Gilbert Adu as senior mechanical technician, Osei Kwabena Afriyie as mechanical technician and Raphael Boadi as principal electrical officer for insurance certificate as a pre-requisite for applying for German visas.

Of the four, two turned out to be non-employees. The company does not know Osei Kwabena Afriyie at all. The Chronicle has gathered also that although Raphael Boadi is an employee (principal electrical officer) with staff number KA/0005/014, he was not the person who traveled to Germany by this arrangement. It took the vigilance of the BNI to chance upon Boadi sitting in his office against statement by the Managing Director that he (Boadi) was outside the country on a course, pointing to the fact that some other person bearing his name and particulars was in Germany reaping the benefits of a so-called 'industrial training'. Boadi, whom management initially tried to hide from BNI inquisitions in an attempt to cover up the deal, has eventually given a statement to the BNI. As expected, the group has since last weekend returned from Germany without Osei Kwabena Afriyie and 'Raphael Boadi'. It is believed that the two paid a total of ¢72 million to management to have their way.

Management has reportedly promised Boadi ¢5 million to keep quiet in order to 'kill' the case being handled by Investigator Agyenim Boateng of the BNI in Kumasi. It is learnt that somewhere last year Boadi was to go for training in Germany together with other colleagues but was later asked to wait for his turn at a future date because as the second in command at the engineering department, he could not leave together with Owusu Gyamfi, the head.

Workers of the KACL are fuming and have complained about the financial mismanagement of the company and called on the Serious Fraud Office to probe management before the company collapses. On February 15, 2006, the Managing Director approved the payment of ¢2,150,000 as the estimated cost for a trip to Accra by the four persons for interviews at the German embassy. The breakdown was given as ¢800,000 for transportation, ¢1.6 million as interview fees, ¢250,000 as pocket money for the four and ¢500,000 for contingency.

Owusu Gyamfi did sign and receive ¢1 million as second payment for traveling to Accra for an interview at the embassy per disbursement voucher No. 02/100. In October last year, an amount of ¢1,520,000 was drawn from the company's ADB account per cheque No. 431593 after a disbursement voucher No. 10/059 had been raised for a nonexistent 'Yaw Boateng' for vehicle repairs. The workers have questioned the payment of ¢1.5 million every month as duty allowance to one Immanuel Nii Aryee Saba employed by the company to gather data on an Ex-Im Bank-funded project on developing meat processing and marketing. They suspect Aryee Saba as the facilitator of all visa deals at the embassies.

Over the years, the company is believed to have recruited non-employees for similar industrial training programmes in Denmark, USA, UK and, lately, Germany. The German Embassy too is currently investigating this.