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General News of Wednesday, 8 January 2003

Source: Palavar

CEPS Boss Indictment, A Test For "Zero Tolerance"

MR Opoku Ntiamoah, the immediate past Commissioner of Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), was dismissed from office for causing financial loss to the state. Thanks to the vigilance of the "Crusading Guide" newspaper, the Hon. Minister of Finance, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo, in a letter dated November 1, 2002, ordered that an investigative committee be appointed to look into the allegations against Mr Opoku Ntiamoah.

After its deliberations, the Committee found the Ex-Commissioner guilty of not conducting himself well regarding the release of 100,000 bags of sugar (50kg) imported into the country by Tondi Ghana Limited owned by Alhaji Tondi Abdoulaye.

Alhaji Tondi, the cousin of Alhaji Maiga, an NPP guru, had defaulted in paying duty on the commodity. Mr Opoku Ntiamoah, allegedly connived with Alhaji Tondi to deprive the state of an amount of ?5,707,068,801.32 including (pecuniary penalty) which was estimated by CEPS officials on the line of duty. In fact the Ex-Commissioner did not heed to the advice of an Assistant Commissioner who advised him that Alhaji Tondi was an unreliable importer.

On another occasion, he did not take the recommendations of two of his Assistant Commissioners?Messrs Kofi Dankwa and J. K. Oklu?on two separate occasion that pecuniary penalty of 300 per cent penalty should be imposed on the importer (Alhaji Tondi). Mr Ntiamoah used his power of discretion to impose a pecuniary penalty of only 100 per cent whereby 300 per cent would have been dearly justified and proper.

Now that Mr Opoku Ntiamoah has been found liable to have aided Alhaji Tondi Abdoulaye to deprive the nation of ?5,707,068,801.32, is he going to be made to face the Fast Track Court for Causing Financial loss to the state? This is a question that can be rightly posed to the President, Mr John Agyekum Kufuor who promised Ghanaians "Zero Tolerance of Corruption" in his administration.

For the President's crusade not to be seen to be selective, it will be equitable as far as justice is concerned that Mr Opoku Ntiamoah is put before the Fast Track Court for causing financial loss to the state. His dismissal alone is not enough. It seems the Minister of Finance, Mr Osafo Maafo is shielding the Ex-CEPS boss because official information released to the media from the Minister's office indicated that Mr Opoku Ntiamoah is going on retirement while all indications point to the fact that he has been dismissed due to misconduct which caused the nation to lose billions of cedis. Mallam Issah was jailed four years for causing financial loss of $46,000 to the state. He was not given the chance to repay the money to the state, he was sacked as the Minister for Youth and Sports and put before the Fast Track Court and jailed. Some former NDC Ministers and MPs are before the Fast Track Court for allegedly causing financial loss to the state. As such Mr Opoku Ntiamoah's indictment is a test for President Kufuor's zero tolerance for corruption.