Two former deputy chief executives of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) have responded to a damning report by the Auditor-General (A-G) on the authority that accused them of engaging in some acts of impropriety.
Messrs Akilu Sayibu and Eric Amoako Twum rejected the report outrightly, since, according to them, it did not portray the true picture of developments.
While Mr Sayibu provided some explanation for his rejection of the report, Mr Twum briefly told the Daily Graphic on Thursday that the A-G did not write to him for a response and that he only heard about the report in the media.
Consequently, he said, his lawyers would obtain a copy of the report, study it and provide the necessary responses.
A-G’s Special Report
The A-G, in a Special Audit Report, indicted GEPA and some of its former leading officials for abusing their offices that led to the state losing various sums of money.
The audit was carried out on selected state institutions in 2018.
In the report, the A-G indicted GEPA for making “unsubstantiated and unjustified payments” totalling GH¢192,400 to the members of the Parliamentary Select committees on Trade and Industry, Tourism and Finance and the Women’s Caucus in Parliament between August and December 2017.
According to the A-G, the payments, which were described as “honorarium, courtesies and protocols, special and sitting allowance”, were not done according to laid down regulations and could be described as double honoraria.
“The payments made to the committee members which were not signed for could amount to double honoraria for the same activities undertaken; the absence of beneficiary signatures does not provide reasonable assurance and evidence that the monies were actually received by the parliamentarians
“The A-G has, therefore, asked the Executive Secretary (ES) of the GEPA and the Director of Finance to justify the payments or be jointly held liable in refunding the amount,” it said.
Unauthorised single sourcing
Apart from the unjustified payments to the committees and the Women’s Caucus in Parliament, the report also found that the management of GEPA engaged resource persons for the provision of various consultancy services amounting to GH¢269,473.50 and $123,000 through single sourcing but was unable to provide correspondence from the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) authorising the use of the single source procurement method.
It said a request was made to the GEPA management to provide PPA’s approval for the use of the single source procurement method on the engagement of consultants amounting to GH¢269,473.50 and $123,000, failing which sanctions prescribed by Section 92 (1) of Act 663 of 2003 and Section 5 (1 and 3) of the Public Procurement Amendment Act, 2016 (Act 914) would be invoked against the former ES, Ms Gifty Klenam, and the Director of Finance, who approved the payments.
The report further stated that in September 2017 and February 2018, the former ES awarded two separate contracts for consultancy services totalling $123,000 (GH¢542,640) to Mr Kwesi Korbor of Kaneshie-Accra and BLC Investment Consult, Accra but could not provide documentary approval of the PPA’s Entity Tender Committee (ETC) for the procurement activities.
It noted that the PPA had a functioning ETC, but the contracts were not referred to it for approval, although the individual contract values were above the ES’s approving threshold.
“We requested the former ES, Ms Gifty Klenam, to provide approval of the authority’s ETC on the contracts valued at $123,000 for our review and further action.
“At its meeting held on February 1, 2018, the council unilaterally approved and paid members’ remuneration and allowances totalling GH¢180,886 for the period November 2017 to May 2018 but could also not provide documentary approval by the Minister of Finance,” the A-G’s special report stated.
“We requested the Council to provide the authority for the payment of the remuneration and allowances to its members. We further requested that payment of allowances be discontinued until the needed approvals and authorisations are obtained failing which Article 187 (7) (b) of the 1992 Constitution on disallowance and surcharged will be invoked,” it added.
The report noted that clothing allowance amounting to GH¢38,187.50 was undeservedly paid to Ms Klenam and two former deputy executive secretaries for the period June 2018 to December 2018, even though the President had relieved them of their duties on June 7, 2018.
It said the attention of Ms Klenam was drawn to the undeserved payment, following which she refunded her portion of GH¢14,625. The balance of GH¢23,562.50 received by Messrs Twum and Sayibu, the former Deputy Executive secretaries, was yet to be recovered from them.
It said the A-G requested Messrs Twum and Sayibu to refund the unearned clothing allowances paid to them, totalling GH¢23,562.50, failing which surcharge procedures would be instituted.
The report also said a review of GEPA’s payroll records on July 11, 2017, revealed that an amount totalling GH¢54,340 was wrongly paid to Mr Twum in respect of soft furnishing.
That, according to the A-G, was after Mr Twum had already been paid rent allowance advance of $60,000 on May 27, 2017, for the period July 2017 to June 2018, in lieu of a fully furnished accommodation.
It recommended that Mr Twum refund the GH¢54,340 which was inappropriately paid to him or be surcharged in accordance with applicable statutory provisions.
The A-G also found that between July 2017 and July 2018, unearned salaries totalling GH¢23,597.42 were paid to Ms Jacqueline Aboney, a member of staff of GEPA who was granted accumulated annual leave, effective November 15, 2016 and was to resume duty on June 26, 2017, but failed to report at the expiration of the leave period.
Consequently, the A-G requested Ms Aboney to refund the unearned salary payment of GH¢23,597.42 to government chest, with evidence for audit verification, within 30 days from the date of the report or be surcharged in accordance with statutory provisions.
In his response, Mr Sayibu said the allegations accusing him of appropriating an official laptop to himself on the termination of his appointment and paying himself clothing allowance were unfounded.
He wondered why those revelations were singled out for publication, while his responses to audit queries on the matters were shelved.
On the laptop, he said when his appointment was terminated, he was given the option to return the laptop, replace it or pay and keep it.
“I opted for the option of keeping the same and paying for the cost from my terminal benefit in an official written communication. Accepting the option to pay for the laptop was not done in secrecy. It was done through an official written communication to Ms Afua Asabea Asare, the new CEO, months before the official auditing, the evidence of which is available,” he said in a statement issued in Accra on Wednesday.
“The auditors were duly informed of this arrangement in a written response I gave to them, a copy of which is available and which they made reference to. I, therefore, see the decision to publish only that portion of the report and omit my response as a deliberate attempt to paint me black in the eyes of the public,” he added.
On the allegation that he paid himself GH¢10,400 as clothing allowance, he said for the 13 months that he worked at GEPA, he was never a signatory to any corporate account, neither had he any mandate to pay even a pesewa, either to himself or anybody.
He emphasised that he never paid himself a clothing allowance or received such amount from anyone.
“The allegation of the payment of an alleged GH¢10,400 for clothing allowance was brought to my attention during an audit observation. I made my salary account available to the auditors to prove that I never received any clothing allowance,” Mr Sayibu said.
He questioned why the allegation of receipt of clothing allowance was published minus his response, describing the development as a mystery.
“I have formally written to the Auditor-General on this and entreat that such outrageous allegations be ignored,” he said.