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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghana@50 Probe Ends

Justice Isaac Duose-Chairman of the commission
AFTER TAKING evidence from 238 witnesses comprising suppliers, contractors and service providers, the public hearings of the Commission of Inquiry probing the activities of Ghana @ 50 Secretariat finally drew to a close yesterday.

The public hearings commenced on July 23 this year, after the Commission had done preliminary work which included visits to some Ghana @ 50 project sites and organizing volumes of memoranda and petitions it had received at the time.

The Chairman of the Commission, Justice Duose, who announced this soon after three officials from the Office of the President testified before it, said the Commission would be writing its report as required by law.

He said recommendations from the Commission would indicate the way forward for the 60th anniversary or any other public event so as to avoid malfeasances that were exposed during hearings. Besides, he said, reports will help move the country forward.

“As to what kind of advice to give the President, the Commission will be rising now and start writing its reports. In a few weeks you will hear about the report,” he stressed.

He gave the assurance that the Commission would consider in its report views of those who are against the conduct of the commission.

Justice Duose pleaded for forgiveness from any individual or group that the Commission might have caused any displeasure during the process, adding, “We are humans and capable of making mistakes, forgive us if we have said anything that may cause your displeasure”.

While expressing appreciation to all and sundry for their support, Justice Duose promised: “We will do our best to ensure the report covers everything. We will be as fair as possible”.

Earlier, three officials told the Commission that to date the Office of the President has not yet determined the salary of the Chief Executive of the defunct Ghana @ 50 Secretariat, Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby.

According to them, the Office of the President was not aware of the CEO’s letter of appointment that would inform government as to how much he should receive as salary.

The three officers were Samuel Azu Aziako, Director of Administration, responsible for budget at the Office of President; Annor Kissi, Chief Internal Auditor and Naa Yussif Mumuni, Chief Treasury Officer.

It would be recalled that the CEO, during his appearance, told the Commission his appointment letter, by which he was to be paid a monthly salary of $5000, is at the Office of the President.
He also said the government owed him salary arrears of $146,000.

However, Mr. Aziako, who confirmed that the Office of the President raised an advance payment of $75,000 to the CEO for medical check-ups, said there was no basis for the CEO to demand salary arrears from the government, since the Office was not aware of his appointment letter.

Mr. Aziako pointed out that the CEO was not being paid alongside staff of the Secretariat.

When asked why the Office did not do so, he remarked, “It is not our making, whenever he takes the claim to them for payment his name was not added to the list”.

He told the Commission that as at Wednesday, the Office of the President had released an amount of GH¢7,448,028.56 to the Secretariat while the Office has an amount of GH¢7,522,115.97 which has not been pre-audited.

The Office of the President, he added, also spent an amount of GH¢39295011.43 between November 2006 to December 2008 during the celebrations, pointing out that no payment was made without the knowledge of the CEO.

Confirming to the Commission that they have no idea whether or not monies were released to Ghana’s Mission abroad for the celebrations, Mr. Aziako said as at December 2008, there was an outstanding debt of GH¢11million and a cash balance of GH¢622626.28.

On whether or not the Secretariat indeed made any surplus as alleged by the CEO, he said he would not be able to tell the Commission.

During cross-examination, the Chief Internal Auditor at the Office of the President, Annor Kissi told the Commission that the Secretariat did not supply accounts for annual auditing; adding that his outfit has no record of the Escrow account. “The Escrow account was controlled by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning”.

According to him, the Office of the President’s records or figures of transactions might not exactly reflect that of the Secretariat because in his view, payments were made directly from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and therefore the Office might not have direct documents covering all transactions.

“Records in our custody are that of the treasury and the internal audit unit. You will not get documents of internal payment of the Secretariat from the Office of the President”, he elucidated.

When the Commission Chairman enquired from the three officials what roles they played during the celebrations, Mr. Aziako explained that none of their officers was an employee of the Secretariat, whether directly or indirectly, and that their role was to convey executive decisions to the Secretariat and counter sign cheques.

They also prepared pay vouchers and subject matter for action, he added.

By Sheilla Sackey/Daily Guide

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