NHIA: Accountant flees after embezzling GH¢67,493


There was drama at an audit verification of the Cape Coast Municipal Health Insurance Scheme last Tuesday when, midway through the

exercise, the accountant of the scheme sneaked out of the room where the exercise was going on and took to his heels.

The fleeing accountant, Osei Tutu Bempah, left behind some documents covering the operations of the scheme.

When the audit team from the headquarters of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) went through them and other records, it was discovered that GH¢67,493.55 of the scheme’s money had been embezzled by the accountant, with a substantial part of that amount believed to have been transferred into his account at the Cape Coast branch of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB).

According to Dr Gustav G. L. Cruickshank, the Chief Internal Auditor of the NHIA, that development heightened the suspicion of the team and the Scheme Manager, Mr Reindorf Osei, was brought into the matter.

Mr Osei is reported to have admitted, upon questioning, that the accountant forged his (manager’s) signature to facilitate the withdrawal of the money from the scheme’s account.

He, however, could not offer satisfactory answers to most of the questions, including why he had signed a dubious reconciliation statement prepared by the accountant, and was asked by the team to summit to it detailed accounts of the scheme to the team the next day (Wednesday).

However, according to the investigation team, not only did Mr Osei fail to show up at the scheduled time but also both he and the accountant had since not reported for duty and were actually believed to be in hiding, as all attempts to trace them had proved futile.

Information made available to the team further indicated that Mr Osei had secured a visa for France and was set to leave for that country, while Mr Bempah had made advanced arrangements to secure a US visa, with his interview scheduled for Monday, February 15, 2010.

Other documents left behind by Mr Bempah indicated that he had already paid a nonrefundable processing fee of $600 to Rans Logistics, a visa contracting company, for the US visa and had committed to paying $7,000 to the company upon the receipt of the visa.

According to Dr Cruickshank, it was realised during the exercise that one of the scheme’s cheques that the accountant could not account for (cheque withdrawal No. 551), with an amount of GH¢5,988.65, was paid into Bempah’s bank account at the Cape Coast branch of the GCB on November 17, 2009. The money was actually paid in by Bempah himself into his account number 3011120019731.

“One of the clever ways adopted by such accountants in stealing the money of the NHIA is to deliberately refuse to enter the money into the cash book, as required by the rules of the NHIA. This is designed to obviously facilitate their dubious transactions and also make it difficult for audit teams which do not scrutinize accounts properly to detect the fraud,” Dr Cruickshank said.

He explained that the fraud was uncovered when the audit team carried out a reconciliation between the bank statement and the cash book of the scheme.

Documents available on the transactions indicate that the GH¢67,493.55 allegedly embezzled by the accountant is only for a six-month period; that is, from June to December last year. The amount, most of which is in cashed cheques belonging to the scheme, ranges from GH¢1,111.40 embezzled in September, to GH¢9,987.50, taken in November last year, with both being cheques of the scheme the accountant withdrew.

While the largest number of withdrawals of money belonging to the scheme by the accountant was in December last year, the highest total monthly amount, representing GH¢25,634, was actually withdrawn in three installments within a space of one week in November last year.

Under the rules of the authority, the only authorised signatories to the scheme’s accounts are the scheme manager, the scheme accountant and the caretaker of the scheme.

Asked what the NHIA would do in the face of that development, Dr Cruickshank said an audit team would soon move to the region to do a more comprehensive audit of the various schemes to help determine their true financial state.

In recent times, the authorities at the NHIA have openly bemoaned the massive corruption and siphoning of funds by some unscrupulous managers and scheme accountants which is posing serious financial problems for the effective functioning of the schemes.

According to the authorities, these nefarious activities had also, contributed largely to the delays in payment of claims to service providers of the various schemes across the country, as some of the claims were also tainted with corruption and often inflated by individuals who were out to steal from the scheme.