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General News of Monday, 13 February 2006

Source: Chronicle

Audit exposes Energy Commission boss

The Man who was reported to have engaged in massive name-dropping in his dealings with the staff of the Energy Commission has been indicted by an audit report that investigated multiple allegations of misfeasance leveled against him by his own staff.

Mr. Kofi Asante, who is also a senior partner of a private law firm in Accra, was found wanting on several counts of reckless profligacy, including spending the taxpayers? money without a faint of national interest and promoting and paying staff who were his favourites, including one who actually used fictitious documents for ?non-existing jobs? at the commission.

In one of the most flagrant and cold acts of wicked profligacy, Kofi Asante dipped into the coffers of the commission and spent ?662 million, the cost of a small village clinic, on refrigeration in his car.

The value of the fridge was higher than that of the car, which was a land cruiser (?650 million).

Indeed, he paid for two of the cool boxes and installed the other in the land cruisers VX, one of which the auditors ascertained ?was improperly allocated? to the Mamponghene, Daasebre Osei Bonsu II, known in private life as Saint Oswald Gyimah Kessie, who was the board chairman of the commission.

The vehicle was recalled in the heat of the furore that was generated, following the report of the affairs of the commission in The Chronicle last year.

Top on the list of abuse of national resources found by the Auditor General, Mr. Dua Agyeman, was the payment of ?15.46 billion ($1.5 million) to Colonel K.A. Takyi of East Legon, the owner of the two-storey building christened Frema House. He also collected the huge sums of money when it was apparent that the cost of putting up the building itself could not be anywhere near half of the obscene amount of money that was being sucked from the nation?s coffers to pay.

Subsequently, the Auditor General has recommended that Colonel Takyi be made to refund ?7.6 billion spent on the completion of the building, plus interest at the rate prevailing at the time of payment. Kofi Asante, a former diplomat who served in India and exited his career under interesting circumstances, had told the auditors that he had to refit the building (Frema House), as a conversion for an office unit with board room and seminar rooms, restaurant, library and rooms for consultants.

There was no evidence that Colonel Takyi contributed a farthing to the conversion, though it added value to the property, which was going to be turned over to him in five years. The tenancy agreement covered five years and the colossal advance of ?7.4 billion covered that period.

The report noted that ?7.6 billion was spent between October 2002 and February 2003 to finish the conversion without any agreement with the landlord, who also collected a cool ?487 million for the lease of a small gate house at Frema House, observing that Kofi Asante was an easy touch, since he was spending his own money.

The sense of unfeeling dissipation of the taxpayer?s money was exhibited again when Mr. Asante ordered four relaxation chairs at a cost of ?32.8 million, and pleaded with the auditors that, those chairs were meant for his private residence and so he should be allowed to keep them as he was entitled to furniture by virtue of his office. He was let off on that one.

However, 250,000 copies of manuals that he printed at a cost of ?984 million for distribution to motorists were dumped in a small room for two years; fully paid for but forgotten.

Independently, the Chronicle is investigating several aspects of the allegations, which were overlooked by the auditors. On another aspect of the investigations, the pushed-aside Kofi Asante was asked to refund over-payment of salaries and rent with a social security payment component that were paid to him amounting to ?260 million. This was described by the auditors as improper.

The report carpeted and indicted the commission members for awarding themselves allowances and procuring capital items to the tune of ?6.3 billion without reference to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

To cap the list of improprieties and abuse, the audit gave a four-month ultimatum, ending June 30th 2006 to the Commission to submit annual accounts covering 2001 to 2004, with a threat of punitive sanctions. The audit may show the depth of rot that characterized the ?reign? of gutter-to-gutter friend of President Kufour.

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