The infamous GYEEDA scandal trial took a new twist yesterday when the prosecution came to court to withdraw the earlier charges preferred against two accused persons in the case.
Incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) for Chiana-Paga, Abuga Pele and Philip Akpeena Assibit, Chief Executive Officer of Goodwill International Group (GIG), are currently on trial at the Financial Court in Accra for their various roles which the Attorney General’s Department says had caused huge financial loss to the state.
Until last year, Abuga Pele was the National Coordinator of National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), now the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency, popularly called GYEEDA. He is accused of wilfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢3,330,568.53.
In the new charges preferred by the AG, the NDC MP for Chiana-Paga will face six counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state under section 179A (3) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), two counts of abetment under sections 20(1) and 131(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and one count of intentionally misapplying public property, contrary to section 1(2) of the Public Property Protection Act, 1977 (SMCD 140).
Mr. Assibit, who is the first accused person on the other hand, is facing six counts of defrauding by false pretences contrary to section 131(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and five counts of dishonestly causing loss to public property contrary to section 2(1) of the Public Property Protection Act, 1977 (SMCD 140).
In the first accused person’s case, the prosecution says he defrauded the state of an amount equivalent to $1,948,626.68.
The case commenced in earnest when the prosecution, led by Principal State Attorney Evelyn Keelson, told the packed court presided over by Justice Afia Asare-Botwe that they were withdrawing the charges read in court on January 24, to prefer fresh charges against the accused persons.
The judge obliged and the charges were withdrawn and new ones preferred against the accused, but the prosecutor said ‘the facts of the case remain the same.’
The accused persons then took turns to plead not guilty to the 19 charges preferred against them.
The presiding judge, after the facts had been read, said the accused persons should be in their formal bail bond, but later, when the case was adjourned, the judge asked Mr. Assibit to remain seated in the courtroom until the court closed while Abuga Pele left.
DAILY GUIDE‘s enquiries indicated that there were problems with Mr. Assibit’s bail bond that had compelled the judge to ask him to sort it out but as at press time, it was not clear whether he was asked to go home.
Immediately the charges were read, the prosecution brought in Nuru Hamidan, the Municipal Chief Executive of Asokore Mampong Municipal Assembly in the Ashanti Region as their first Prosecution Witness (PW1).
He said he was a Deputy National Coordinator in- charge of Operations and later Administration of the NYEP (which was changed to GYEEDA from 2009 to July 2013).
He said he reported directly to the National Coordinator (Abuga Pele) whom he called ‘my boss’ and said there were 10 regional coordinators and 197 district coordinators, all of whom reported to the National Coordinator.
He told the court that his first contact with Assibit was at a meeting called by GYEEDA management at the office of Abuga Pele saying, ‘They were introduced to us as coming from Goodwill International Group and Management Productivity Development Institute (MPDI).
‘They informed us that they can help us to expand the youth employment modules and be able to create about one million jobs in ICT, Agric and Housing.
‘Our mandate is to create jobs and if we have a group of people that can help us create the jobs, it was more or less good news to the establishment,’ the witness told the court.
He then explained the NYEP (GYEEDA) concept to the court and said that when it was introduced there was what he called traditional modules but in 2009, the government introduced what he again called Public Private Partnership and that enabled private service providers to send proposals for consideration under the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
He said the public private partnership was to place emphasis on entrepreneurship modules to help in the training of the youth saying ‘management contracted service providers who trained people to have their own skills and also have a component set up.
‘We received proposals from service providers almost on a daily basis and the proposals are addressed to the Ministry of Youth and Sports,’ he said, adding that they considered several factors before awarding contracts.
The witness told the court that the NYEP had what he called ‘exit programmes’ for its modules stressing that ‘before a service provider is engaged all these issues are considered.’
He said during his time at NYEP, he came across the Youth Enterprise Development Project when Assibit and his team were introduced to the management.
He said when it came to funding the project, ‘Goodwill International Group and MPDI said they would help us to secure funding and introduced West Capital, popularly called West Cap, who said they would assist us with funding.’
‘An MoU was signed between us (NYEP), West Cap and Goodwill International Group,’ he said adding, ‘In fact, I signed as a witness to that MoU.’
He added that as a result, he, together with Abuga Pele and others, called on the then Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, to introduce the idea to the presidency and the Vice President said the World Bank had a similar programme and therefore asked them to contact the world’s financial giant.
The witness said from then on he was not involved in the project but he later heard in one of their meetings that the World Bank was happy and ready to fund the project.
The prosecutor then pulled out a document which was the MoU purportedly signed on July 27, 2010 – and which she asked the witness to identify – but did not tender in evidence, and the court accepted it as an identified item.
When the prosecution wanted to find out from the witness whether there was any training programme in respect of the project, Thaddeus Sory, counsel for Abuga Pele, vehemently objected and cited section 70 of the Evidence Decree on the grounds that it was a ‘leading question’.
After a back-and-forth argument, the judge overruled the objection saying, ‘I don’t see the source of the contention.’
The witness then recalled that there were a lot of training programmes and at a point NYEP employed HND and Degree holders to be compiling data for them for the World Bank.
‘I am aware they were recruited and trained and GYEEDA paid for it in February 2011,’ he said.
Raymond Bagnabu and Joseh Kpeim are representing Assibit while Thaddeus Sory, Carl Adongo and Kwaku Nsiah-Asare are the defence team for Abuga Pele.
Facts of the Case
Mrs. Keelson narrated that in 2009, Abuga Pele was appointed the National Co-ordinator of NYEP, a social intervention programme, to provide job opportunities to unemployed youth.
He was subsequently said to have been introduced to Philip Akpeena Assibit somewhere in 2010, as someone who could help the NYEP meet some of its objectives.
Soon after the meeting, Abuga Pele was said to have, on behalf of the NYEP, entered into an MoU with GIG, represented by Philip Assibit.
Mrs. Keelson stated that contrary to the normal practice, the MoU was signed on behalf of the NYEP by Abuga Pele without any recourse to the then sector Minister, Akua Sena Dansua or the Attorney-General.
Under the MoU, the NYEP was described as the ‘Host’ and GIG as a ‘Strategic Partner’.
The parties, she said, agreed to ‘combine their labour, properties and skills for the purpose of engaging in resource mobilization, investor sourcing, management consulting, capacity building, career development and training services among others.’
GIG was responsible for resource mobilization and undertook to provide preliminary funds for the development of the programme.
The parties, according to the prosecutor, agreed to share profits equally.
The prosecutor however noted that there was nothing on record in terms of business proposals or documents forming the basis of engaging GIG as a Strategic Partner.
Between May 2011 and May 2012, Assibit was said to have made a number of payment claims for consultancy services allegedly rendered to the NYEP.
These representations were noted to have been supported by Mr. Pele, who used them as the basis for justifying, recommending and approving a total amount of GH¢3,330,568.53, the equivalent of $1,948,626.68, to Assibit.
Abuga Pele was alleged to have claimed that Assibit’s work had directly resulted in a $65million World Bank facility for the NYEP.
The prosecutor however disclosed that all these representations were false and that GIG was never appointed a consultant to NYEP, while Assibit did not provide any exit plan and strategy for NYEP modules.
Apart from that, he was also said not to have conducted any financial engineering for the approval of a World Bank facility of $65million since there had not been any approval by the World Bank for the facility.
In August 2012, Assibit was said to have been paid an additional GH¢835,000 under the guise of what was referred to as tracer studies for the World Bank, which he did not deserve.
Sitting continues today.
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By William Yaw Owusu
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