The much-touted trial of the former National Coordinator of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), currently known as Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) and Philip Akpeena Assibit, could not proceed once again at the Accra Financial Court because one of the defence lawyers was indisposed.
As a result, the trial judge, Justice Afia Asare-Botwe, had to adjourn proceedings to Thursday, June 5 for the third prosecution witness (PW3) to be led in evidence.
The case was slated for this week after the prosecution indicated they were not ready with the next witness when Gladys Ghartey, current Head of United Nations Systems at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning concluded her cross-examination.
On May 5, the court was forced to adjourn proceedings because the machine used to record the proceedings broke down.
Yesterday, when the case was called, Thaddeus Sory, a defence lawyer, told the court that he had information that his colleague Raymond Bagnabu could not make it in court due to ill health.
The judge then suggested today since the case had already been booked but the prosecution noted that they would not be able to make it.
‘We are not sure we will be able to make it tomorrow. The witness was in court today but is not in a good condition to avail himself,’ Evelyn Keelson, a Principal State Attorney told the court.
Incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) for Chiana-Paga, Abuga Pele and Philip Akpeena Assibit, Chief Executive Officer of Goodwill International Group (GIG), are standing trial for the various roles they played, which the Attorney General’s Department said, had cost huge financial loss to the state.
Mr Pele is accused of willfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢3,330,568.53 while Assibit is being tried for defrauding the state of an amount equivalent to $1,948,626.68.
The two have pleaded not guilty and are currently on bail.
The NDC MP is facing six counts of willfully 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 and 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.
According to the prosecution, 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, signed a MoU with GIG represented by Philip Assibit.
The prosecution said 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 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,’ according to the prosecution.
GIG was responsible for resource mobilization and plegded to provide preliminary funds for the development of the programme.
The parties, according to the prosecution, agreed to share profits equally.
The prosecution, however, noted that there was nothing on record in terms of business proposals or documents.
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.
The 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 prosecution, 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 allegedly did not conduct 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 tracer studies for the World Bank which he did not deserve, the prosecution said.
By William Yaw Owusu & Rita Oduro
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