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General News of Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Source: Chronicle

Kofi Asante Still `Chopping`

Close to a full year after the Auditor General as well as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had in separate reports indicted the Executive Secretary of the Energy Commission (EC), Mr. Kofi Asante, recommending, among others, a refund of the overpayment of salary and rent made to him, the man still draws salary from the Energy Commission.

The Chronicle can confirm that Mr. Kofi Asante, who led the EC into renting an uncompleted building for ¢7.4 billion that was subsequently refurbished by the Commission at ¢7.6 billion, still smiles to the bank to receive a net salary of ¢9.56 million per month, in the process leaving the EC poorer by ¢11.26 million in Gross salary Following over 30 allegations of administrative and financial malpractices against the Executive Secretary, Mr. 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 and described by the auditors as improper.

The Chronicle gathered that in addition to the monthly salary Mr. Asante still continues to enjoy other benefits like any other staff of the EC, since he was asked to proceed on leave prior to the investigations into the dozens of allegations made against him.

Dr. Alfred Ofosu-Ahenkorah, current Acting Executive Secretary of the Commission, however points out that so long as Government, which is the appointing authority, has not changed the status of Mr. Kofi Asante, he is entitled to not only salaries but other staff benefits as well.

Reports of both the SFO and the Auditor–General, indicted the former diplomat to India, citing various acts of recklessness in the spending of the tax payers’ money.

Top on the list of the abuse of national resources found by the Auditor General, 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. The Auditor General, subsequently 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.

The tenancy agreement on the building covered five years and the colossal advance of ¢7.4 billion covered that period. Between October 2002 and February 2003, the report noted that ¢7.6 billion was spent 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.

Mr. Kofi Asante 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. The Chronicle checks with Valuers last year indicated that the cost of putting up the building could not come anywhere near half of the obscene amount of money that was sucked from the nation’s coffers to pay.

The Auditor-General’s report had indicted the commission members also 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. The Chronicle gathered from the Ag. Executive Secretary that the EC has since the report complied with a four-month ultimatum, by the Auditor General to the Commission to submit annual accounts covering 2001 to 2004.

The Auditor General cited also the improper allocation of one of two Land Cruiser VX vehicles purchased by the Executive Secretary 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 however recalled in the heat of the furore generated, following the report of the affairs of the commission in The Chronicle last year.

Mr. Kofi Asante kept the other VX to himself alongside a BMW salon car. He has since he was pushed aside as Executive Secretary, surrendered the land cruiser, leaving him with the BMW car.

The Chronicle investigations established that over 200,000 copies of educational manuals that he printed at a cost of ¢984 million for distribution to motorists and were dumped in the EC library for two years before the probe are still intact; fully paid for but forgotten.

A National Oil Loss Control Committee (NOLCC) had recommended the printing of 5,000 copies of the manual.

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