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General News of Sunday, 19 February 2006

Source: Graphic

Rot At Energy Commission

The Auditor-General?s Department has recommended that Colonel K. A. Takyi (retd), the owner of Frema House, which houses the Energy Commission, should refund ?7.6 billion spent by the commission to complete the house with interest at the prevailing rate.

It has also recommended that the ?7.4 billion paid by the commission to Col Takyi as lease rent for the building, covering a five-year period from October 2002 to September 2007, be re-assessed by the Land Valuation Board.

The recommendations are contained in a report of investigations carried out by the Auditor-General into allegations made by some staff of the Energy Commission against the Executive Secretary, Mr Kofi Asante.

The Audit Service investigations centred on allegations by some of the commission?s staff that the lease of Frema House on the Spintex Road as office accommodation cost the Commission ?22 billion for seven years.

It also looked at the purchase of four vehicles fitted with refrigerators which cost the commission ?1.8 billion, one of which was allocated to the Chairman of the board of the commission, Daasebre Osei Bonsu II, the Mamponghene.

Allegations bordering on financial and administrative malpractices were also investigated by the Audit Service.

According to the report, the ?22 billion figure alleged by the staff of the commission as the total amount spent on securing Frema House for the commission was exaggerated.

?The total amount paid to Col Takyi in respect of Frema House was, therefore, ?15.46 billion and not ?22 billion as alleged,? the report said. It gave the breakdown as ?7.86 billion being lease rent and ?7.6 billion being cost incurred by the commission to complete the building.

It further recommended that the lease agreement between the commission and the landlord (Col.Takyi) should commence from March 2003, the time the commission actually moved into the building, and not from October 2002 when work was still being done on the building and the commission had not yet moved in.

According to the report, ?the unauthorised completion by the commission before rental of Frema House was improper.?

The report also recommended that ?28 million paid by the commission to Messrs TOR MAT Limited for office accommodation but which was never utilised should be recovered, either from the landlord or from Mr Kofi Asante, if the former failed to comply.

The report said there was an over-payment of salary and rent to Mr Asante to the tune of ?259,589, 490 million which it described as improper. It, accordingly, recommended that Mr Asante should refund the amount.

It also found that board members of the commission determined the magnitude of allowances payable to them and recommended that the Minister of Energy, in consultation with the finance minister should review allowances paid to the commission?s board members.

On the purchase of vehicles, the report said ?between January and June 2004, 14 motor vehicles were bought at a total cost of over ?4.6 billion from the Energy Fund?.

It found that small fridges (cool boxes) were installed in two Land Cruisers VX at a cost of ?662 million each and that one of them was improperly allocated to the chairman of the commission, Nana Osei Bonsu II, the Mamponghene.

?It was chauffeur driven. Maintenance cost incurred from June 2003 to January 2005 amounted to ?16.4 million,? the report said. It recommended that the chairman?s vehicle and the chauffeur be withdrawn.

The report also found that 70 per cent salary increases for staff of the commission in 2002 and 67 per cent in 2005 were unauthorised and resulted in the over payment of ?3.6 billion salary arrears from the Energy Fund.

It said the commission over depended on the Energy Fund to finance its operations instead of the budgetary allocation from the Ministry of Finance.

Again, the report said four swivel chairs bought at more than ?32.8 million in March 2005 were not delivered to the commission.

The report said the procurement of capital items to the tune of ?6.3 billion without approval from the Finance Ministry was improper and recommended an end to that practice.

The report also upheld the allegations of some staff of the commission to the effect that employment and promotions were fraught with favouritism and were not competitive.

It recommended that the Ministry of Energy and the commission should review the appointment and/or promotion of seven persons who it said were appointed or promoted on selective basis and added that one such person (name withheld), who was alleged to have presented a fictitious document to facilitate her employment, should be relieved of her post for doing a non-existent job.

It also recommended that the commission should comply with Section 48 of the Energy Commission Act by depending on the Consolidated Fund allocations for its operations to ensure that the Energy Fund was used for the purposes for which it was intended.