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Monday, September 7, 2009

Conflict of interest? K-POLY RECTOR IN $19 000 CIRCUS

…Accused of breaching procurement procedures

By Issah Alhassan, Kumasi

Administration Block of Kumasi Polytechnic . Insert  Dr. B. E. K. Prah
Administration Block of Kumasi Polytechnic . Insert Dr. B. E. K. Prah
THE RECTOR of Kumasi Polytechnic, Dr. B.E.K. Prah has been caught in a web of administrative malfeasance, after being accused of breaching the 2003 Public Procurement Act (Act 663), in the award of a contract worth over $19,000 for the school’s computer workshop project.

Dr. Prah is being accused of awarding a contract to a US-based Computer System Company, owned by his own nephew, without resorting to the procurement procedures. After bypassing the statutory instrument and the school’s academic board, Dr. Prah was alleged to have unilaterally awarded the contract for the establishment of a computer workshop project dubbed - “Computer Clinic”, to his nephew by name Mr. Andrew Prah, a US-based Computer System Administrator, without open tender, raising issues of conflict of interest on his part.

According to the Public Procurement Act (Act 663), a public procurement entity shall invite consulting Services by causing a notice seeking expression of interest in submitting a proposal to be published in the procurement bulletin or national dailies for consultancy contracts, but the rector of the school was reported to have skipped the process and secured the services of the US-based consultancy services run by his own nephew, sparking anger and suspicion among the rank and file of the school administration.

According to documents and investigations conducted by The Chronicle, beside having issues with the strange nature in which the $19,000 contract was awarded, there seems to be overgrowing discontentment amongst Staff, Management and Student body over the arbitrariness with which the Rector made decisions without consulting the appropriate authorities.

The paper’s investigation revealed that between July 14 and August 22, 2008, the Rector contracted the services of the US-based Computer System Administrator to assist the school assembly, service and maintain computers.

The company later sent down an invoice which amounted to $19,000 from their base in the USA, as contract fee, which the school eventually paid from its coffers.

Some concerned members of the institution alleged that the workshop was a platform used by Dr. Prah to siphon money from the Polytechnic’s dollar account, since according to them, one Japanese volunteer, Mr. Koyabashi, popularly known as Tom, who first set up the programme, did the same work for free.

Dr. Prah’s adversaries also averred that the claim by the school that the US-based Computer System Administrator was responsible for the first computer assembled by the Polytechnic was not true, contending that it was the Japanese volunteer who taught students of the Electrical/Electronic departments of the school how to assemble, service and maintain, but could not end his service before he left the country.

Concerned members of the school have, therefore, appealed to the in-coming Board of the School to do due circumspection of the activities of the Rector and make sure every decision he makes goes through the appropriate channel.

Meanwhile, the Rector, in an interview with The Chronicle admitted contravening the procurement procedure, but said in his view there was nothing wrong with it, since the project was his personal initiative which involved the use of specific technical expertise.

According to him, the project was not just an award of contract which must pass through procurement, adding that he took the decision after consultation with the Chairman of the Entity Tender Board.

Dr. Prah also justified the contractual amount of $19,000 explaining that the amount involved the purchase of two servers and 15 pieces of up-to-date computers.

With his procurement officer beside him, the Rector said the contractual amount was far more cost-effective, insisting that the institution rather benefited from the project.

“Go to the market and find out how much is charged for a brand new computer,” Dr. Prah stated, and made a poignant accusation at the school’s branch of Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG), for being behind the moves to dent his image and that of the institution.

“I know that POTAG is responsible for all these moves, but I am not bothered because I know I am doing the right thing,” he noted. Dr. Prah also described the assertion by his accusers that the Japanese volunteer did a similar project for free as baseless, saying the work embarked upon by Mr. Koyabashi was to repair old computers at the school’s computer laboratory, while his nephew’s project was entirely a different one.

Touching on the issue of the conflict of interest, Dr. Prah stated -“Yes, its true that the man is my nephew, but look, must we compromise excellence and efficiency with that of conflict of interest, the man is a seasoned computer expert, and come to think of it, the benefit we have gained from this project far outweighs the investment we made, so what are they talking about,” he answered rhetorically.

The Rector also rebuffed allegations by his accusers that he was autocratic, and contended that he always takes decisions in consultation with the Management of the school and the Polytechnic Council.

Dr. Prah said he has become a target of criticisms and accusations because he has vowed to ensure that the proper things are done, since he took over the helm of affairs in the institution, adding that “because certain people do not have the chance to do what they used to do, they feel peeved.”

Source:The Chronicle

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