General News of Tuesday, 5 March 2013
The National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), initiated to deal with the overwhelming level of unemployment in the country, is now bedeviled with corruption, and turned into an avenue for money-making for some officials.
An investigation conducted by award-winning journalist Manessah Azure Awuni, at the NYEP in Kumasi, Ashanti Region, revealed some illegal transfers and misappropriation of unclaimed allowances due some NYEP beneficiaries in the region.
The fraud was perpetrated by a well-coordinated network of alleged corrupt NYEP officials.
Even more worrying is what appears to be a deliberate attempt by some National Security operatives and officials of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to shield the perpetrators of the alleged malfeasance from prosecution.
The investigations, aired on Joy FM in a three-part series, reveal that some officials of NYEP in Kumasi signed copies of cheque books, account statements and a letter with a forged signature of Abuga Pele, the immediate past National Coordinator of the programme, to withdraw an amount of GH¢23,490 from the Agona Sekyere branch of the Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank.
The GH¢23,490 was credited to account number 660 named Nation Youth Employment Programme, on December 8, 2011. The surprise was that for a bank that deals with the NYEP, the new forged account name, Nation Youth Employment Programme, should have raised questions. Besides, the forged letter did not authorize the bank to pay the money into any account, but it did.
The letter was also received by the bank on December 9, 2011 and authorized for action on December 14. However, a copy of the bank statement of the account available shows the money was withdrawn on December 8, a day before the letter was received, while the second part was withdrawn on December 9, the day the letter was received.
In a similar fraudulent act, an account was opened at the Pankrono Branch of the Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank by the Kwabre East District Coordinator of NYEP, Bismark Adu Ansere, and his deputy, Abdulai Badaru.
A letter from an anonymous official at the NYEP Headquarters was then written instructing the bank to pay GH¢120, 000 into that account. The letter was purported to have originated from the national coordinator’s office.
The letter, which had the forged national coordinator’s signature, first surfaced at the Ministry of Youth and Sports but no action was taken at that level.
Abuga Pele, immediate past national coordinator of the NYEP, set up a committee to investigate the fraudulent act when it came to his notice.
The report covers three branches of Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank (Wiamoase, Agona and Pankrono) at Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, which deals with two districts, namely Sekyere and Kwabre East.
Investigations at the Wiamoasi branch revealed that eight beneficiaries had their names duplicated on the payroll and one person’s name appeared thrice.
Their investigations showed that the bank detected the duplications and sent some of the fund to suspense account but later transferred them back to the beneficiary’s accounts.
However, evidence of authority for reposting of the fund was not provided.
At the Agona branch, the committee retrieved the forged letter signed for the national coordinator, of which an amount of GH¢23,490 was credited to account number 660 named Nation Youth Employment Programme, on December 8, 2011.
The account was opened by the district coordinator and the accountant of Sekyere South District, King George Fokuo and Peter Anderson Sarpong respectively.
During the committee’s investigations, they found out that the money was withdrawn with a counter cheque in two batches by the two signatories to the account.
An amount of GH¢15, 000 was withdrawn on December 8, 2011 and GH¢8, 480 on December 9, 2011 respectively, leaving a balance of GH¢3 in the account.
The committee also found out that over 100 beneficiaries had been duplicated on the payroll from March to July, 2011. According to the branch manager, some of the beneficiaries were credited with the duplicated amount until they realized it much later.
At the Pankrono Branch, the committee observed that the Kwabre East district coordinator and the deputy had opened an account at the branch with account number 123.
The purported letter, which had originated from the national coordinator’s office, instructed the bank to transfer an amount of GH¢120,000 into that account.
The account, according to the committee’s finding, had never been operated.
Several letters were written by the regional coordinator instructing the bank to use beneficiaries’ allowances to pay a list of people attached.
Some letters were seen requesting the bank to delete some beneficiaries’ name and replace them with other names.
Several letters were seen requesting outstanding balances of all beneficiaries’ accounts including monies in sundries (suspense account) by the district coordinator, and letters were also written by the district coordinator placing and lifting embargo on beneficiaries’ accounts.
The report presented by the committee said the bank manager presented several distorted facts as they interrogated him.
“It appears obvious that the bank manager honored the letter mandating the transfer of GH¢120,000 to those involved,” the report said.
After the committee had presented the report findings to Abuga Pele, he then submitted it to the sector minister, Clement Humado, who, after going through the report, subsequently wrote an interdiction letter to the officers who were found culpable.
The investigative journalist, Manessah Azure Awuni, intercepted a copy of one of the interdicted letters asking the Deputy Coordinator II, NYEP, Tapsoba Alhassan, to vacate his post with effect from Thursday, 10 May, 2012, pending investigations.
The Minister further asked the National Security to investigate the matter based on the findings of Abuga Pele’s committee report.
According to a credible source close to the investigative journalist, the National Security found some officials culpable and recommended their prosecution after their investigations but certain powers stopped the National Security from releasing the report.
However, the journalist finally secured a signed copy of the national security report. The findings of the 18-page National Security report corroborate the findings by Abuga Pele’s committee.
On the attempts to transfer GH¢120, 000 into an illegal account, the National Security found the district coordinator, Bismark Adu Ansere and the regional coordinator, Omar Ibrahim Nyamiya, culpable.
On the illegal opening of accounts and withdrawal of NYEP funds from the Sekyere South District of the Ashanti Region, the National Security established that seven persons conspired to withdraw the money from the bank.
They are Robert Lartey, King George Fokuo, Peter Anderson Sarpong and Samule Azure, the acting bank manager of the Agona branch of the Okomfo Anokye Rural Bank.
The rest are Omar Ibrahim, the Ashanti regional coordinator of the NYEP; Joseph Osborn Djeni, deputy national coordinator of the NYEP and Tapsoba Alhassan, second deputy coordinator in charge of operations.
Joseph Osborn Djeni has since resigned to take up a new position as the community relations manager of Ghana Gas Company Limited but the other officials are still at post.
In the heat of the 2012 elections, both Abuga Pele and Clement Kofi Humado went to their constituencies to campaign.
In their absence, another committee was set up and the people who were interdicted were recalled.
But Abuga Pele told Azure he was not informed about the committee and the recall of the suspects.
The Chief Director of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Abdulai, was instrumental in the recalling of the suspects from interdiction.
He signed the letter recalling the suspects from interdiction on behalf of the Minister.
When the Chief Director was asked by the journalist why the culprits were brought back despite adverse findings against them, he said Abuga Pele’s committee’s findings were disregarded because the committee was wrongly constituted to include persons who were not in management position.
But Abuga Pele disagrees with this assertion.
Alhaji Abdulai Yakubu said the second reason why Abuga Pele’s recommendations to the minister had to be disregarded was because the people were not given any hearing.
But from the journalist’s investigations, all the people admitted they were contacted. Only Tapsoba Alhassan denied this.
Abuga Pele has however rebutted what the Chief Director said.