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General News of Friday, 26 June 2009

Source: GNA

Embattled Sports Minister Muntaka resigns

Accra, June 25, GNA - Embattled Minister of Youth and Sports Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak has resigned following investigations into financial irregularities levelled against him, a statement from the Presidency said on Thursday.

The statement signed by Mr Mahama Ayariga, Spokesman for the President, said President John Atta Mills accepted the Minister's resignation.

President Mills had asked Alhaji Muntaka, who is also Member of Parliament for Asawase, to proceed on leave to enable the national security to investigate the allegations made by some officials of the Ministry, led by the principal accountant, Mr Adim Odoom. The National Security completed the investigations and has submitted its report to the President.

The statement said the President accepted the report which among others established that Alhaji Muntaka applied for visa for Ms Edith Zinayela, Secretary to the Majority Leader in Parliament, to embark on a trip to Germany in his entourage.

Ms Zinayela was part of the Minister's entourage to Germany on the invitation of Souito Sports Management Group, but her visa fee was paid by the Ministry.

It said the President accepted the Minister's offer to make good to the state all liabilities incurred on account of Ms Zinayela's trip to Germany including the cost of the visa fee.

"President Mills is dissatisfied with the conduct of the Minister in his decision to embark on the German trip with Ms Zinayela and in particular in his decision to apply for a visa for her in circumstances that amounted to a mis-description of her official position. "The decision for the Ministry to pay for Ms Zinayela's visa fee was equally improper. It was an error of judgment on the part of the Minister from which it is hoped all other appointees will learn," the statement added.

It was also established that Ms Zinayela was part of the Minister's entourage to the finals of this year's CHAN tournament in Abidjan at the expense of the Government.

"After the delegation returned from Abidjan, the Minister sought the advice of the Chief Director of the Ministry who instructed the Principal Accountant to purchase the ticket for Ms Zinayela by raising a memo for the purpose."

President Mills also directed that Mr Albert Anthony Ampong, Chief Director of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, should refund a total of 20,000 dollars to Government coffers.

The amount formed monies he collected from the Ministry's accounts department on two occasions for onward delivery to the Minister, but Alhaji Muntaka denied receiving those monies.

On the first occasion Mr Ampong collected 10,000 dollars from the Principal Accountant, Mr Odoom, for onward delivery to the Minister for payment of landing rights for the CHAN finals in Abidjan. However, there was no evidence that the Chief Director handed over this amount to the Minister.

The Minister denied having received any such money. "Mr Ampong acknowledged receipt of this amount. However, there is no evidence that Mr Ampong handed over the money to the Minister." Similarly, Mr Ebenezer Lomotey, another accountant at the Ministry, indicated that he gave the Chief Director 10,000 dollars for onward delivery to the Minister.

"Mr Ampong acknowledged receipt of same. However, there is no evidence that Mr Ampong handed over the money to the Minister," the report noted.

"The Chief Director could however not recollect exactly where he gave the money to the Minister neither could he show any documentary proof of having handed the money over to the Minister."

The statement said the Chief Director and the Principal Accountant of the Ministry failed to follow laid down administrative and financial regulations and procedures required of Civil Servants.

"The President finds it particularly outrageous that the Chief Director and the Principal Accountant, if they are to be believed, paid out sums of money as large as 10,000 dollars on two separate occasions without any documentation and without any evidence whatsoever.

"On the other hand, if the moneys were not paid, then their allegation would amount to a fabrication against the Minister, an equally serious offence," the statement said adding that on either score, the conduct of the two officials would be unbecoming of the high positions they held in the Civil Service.

The President has accordingly directed that the Head of Civil Service should apply appropriate sanctions against Mr Ampong and Mr Odoom and that pending the decision of the Head of Civil Service, the two officials should be interdicted.

It said the President also ordered an audit into the affairs of the Sports Division of the Ministry of Youth and Sports covering the period 2001 to 2009 as well as a review of the organization, role and structure of the Ministry of Youth and Sports as recommended by the National Security investigation report.

The statement said the report also established that Alhaji Muntaka collected a per diem allowance of GH¢2,000 for a Ghana-Benin match. "This amount was authorized by the Chief Director, Mr Ampong, but the Minister had no knowledge of what his per diem for the travel was supposed to be."

The report also established that Alhaji Muntaka received a letter from the National Sports Council requesting the release of GH¢1,410,051.58.

It said the Minister minuted the letter to his Chief Director for the necessary action.

"The Chief Director presented the Minister with a duly prepared letter for his signature which the Minister signed after being convinced that due diligence had been followed."

However, this amount was not released by the Ministry of Finance to the National Sports Council.

It said a request by the Minister that arrangement for accommodation and feeding of the Black Stars players in Kenya and Sudan should be done by Tour Operators to enable the Ministry make some savings did not go down well with the Ministry officials. The Principal Accountant, Mr Odoom and an official of GFA had earlier visited Mali to make arrangements for the Black Stars without the knowledge of the Minister.

They were about to do the same for Kenya and Sudan when the Minister found out and ordered them to stop.

It was also established that the Chief Director had endorsed a request by the Minister to travel by air with his family to Kumasi. "The Chief Director endorsed the request by the Minister. The request was backed with a memo. The Chief Director did not advise the Minister that his family was not entitled to these tickets." On another occasion, the Ministry refunded to the Minister an amount of GH¢674.02 for items he was entitled to as protocol and entertainment.

The statement said the Chief Director or the Principal Accountant should have vetted the receipt and exempted items which were not allowable.

"Items like baby oil, baby food and mouth wash should have been disallowed even though they formed a seemingly insignificant part of the bill."

It said on discovering that the amount for those items had been refunded, the Minister demanded to withdraw the receipt but the Principal Accountant Mr Odoom assured him that everything was in order and that he had paid the refund from the imprest which was normal. At another time, the Minister's driver presented for refund a receipt for the Minister's household items totalling GH¢1,520 and not GH¢15,200 as alleged, but this amount was never refunded.

It said Alhaji Abdulai Yakubu, Director of Finance and Administration at the Ministry, also authorized a certain payment because the Chief Director was in Tamale and would be away for a week. The accountant objected to his authorization and the Minister directed that the documents be re-routed for the approval and authorization of the Chief Director.

The report established that under the close eye of the Minster, savings were made as a result of the payment of graduated bonuses as well as cuts in the payment of bonuses to officials. "These monies were returned to government chest and the Chief of Staff was informed in writing.

"The President is satisfied that the Minister's actions in cutting down on waste and curtailing frivolous expenditure is what incurred the displeasure of some officials of the Ministry and caused them to gang up against him. The President commends the Minister in this regard." It said a decision by the Minister to take a VW Passat with registration number GT 1351 Z, formerly used by Dr Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah, Director of Sports Development at the Ministry did not go down well with him to the extent that he (Owusu-Ansah) decided to retire before his due date.

"This source of conflict between Dr Owusu-Ansah and the Minister apparently caused him to team up with others like the Principal Accountant Mr Odoom to create problems for the Minister."

It was also established that Mr Odoom typed his allegations on Dr Owusu-Ansah's laptop in his office and that Dr Owusu-Ansah admitted that he took copies of the allegations to Mr Kofi Adams, Special Assistant for former President Jerry John Rawlings for the attention of former President Rawlings. He also gave copies to other persons.

The statement said the report did not establish that the Minister collected 2,000 dollars imprest for the finals of the first CHAN tournament in Abidjan.

It was also not established that he collected 10,000 dollars for landing rights for the aircraft which took the government delegation to the CHAN finals in Abidjan.

The report could not establish that Alhaji Muntaka personally arranged for accommodation and feeding of the Black Star players in Kenya and Sudan, neither was he paid GH¢15,200 as refund for meat and food items.

It was also not established that the Minister's wife was allocated VW Passat Number GT 1351 Z and that he demanded immediate payment of or was paid GH¢1,000 per match for the services of a Mallam.

The allegations that the Minister requested or collected GH¢12,000 for gifts for his constituency on his last trip to Kumasi and that he was allocated five official vehicles, were also not established.
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