Billions Stolen At National Lottery

One of the reasons why the National Lottery Authority (NLA) terminated the contract between it and SIMNET, a company owned by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), which was providing technical services for the operations of the NLA, was that the former had allegedly engaged in fraud, which was affecting revenue generation for the state.

SIMNET had provided a satellite link between the NLA head office and telecommunication giants MTN and Vodafone, in addition to vending machines (TPMs) that were hooked up to the link.

This enabled lotto receivers to electronically sell the tickets to the public, with all the numbers being recorded at the data base in Accra.

But, a year after the NLA leveled this fraud allegation against SIMNET, that its invoices were a fraudulent misrepresentation of the actual sums generated on the vending machines deployed countrywide for the online lottery, some of its own staff members have also been found to be engaged in fraudulent activities, which is crippling revenue generation for the state.

Available information indicates that some top officials at the Information Technology (IT) department, in connivance with some top management staff, input fake winning numbers, and latter connive with the agents to withdraw the face value of these fake numbers from the various banks in the country.

On Monday, March 25, 2013, one of the agents working for the top NLA officials was arrested at the Kumasi branch of the National Investment Bank (NIB), when he attempted to cash a whopping sum of GH¢35,000 from a ‘winning’ ticket.

The Chronicle gathered that the GH¢35,000 the fraudster had wanted to cash was rather on the low side, and that through fraudulent means, these nation wreckers cash between GH¢10,000 and GH¢500,000, using fake winning tickets almost every week.

An official source contacted at the NIB confirmed the story, but refused to name the suspect involved, saying the police were conducting investigations into the case.

According to him, though the serial number of the ticket presented by the suspect was in the system, the cashier refused to pay until it was verified from the correct source.

It was during the investigation that the serial number, which initially appeared valid in the system, turned out to be fake, leading to the arrest of the suspect, and his being hand over to the police.

Asked if this was the first time such fraud had been detected in the bank, the source responded in the positive.

According to him, though the fraud might be going on in the other banks, it was impossible for such a crime to be committed at the NIB, because they had trained staff who knew the in and out of the lotto business, and were, therefore, conversant with all the tricks of the criminals.

Efforts to speak to the Finance Minister were not successful, but this reporter was told that the ministry had not taken kindly to the report, since the NLA contributes substantially to the revenue of the state, however, over the last couple of years, its contributions had taken a downward trend.

Some lotto writers who spoke to The Chronicle attributed the current development to the new vending machines introduced by the NLA to replace those that were originally provided by SIMNET.

The vending machines, which they called TPAs, enable lotto receivers to electronically sell the tickets to the public, with all the numbers being recorded at the data base in Accra.

Meanwhile, President John Mahama has reportedly ordered full scale investigations into the massive siphoning of state cash at the NLA to bring all the perpetrators involved to book.

The President is said to have ordered the Information Minister to fish for the right information, and furnish him with it. This would then pave way for a full scale investigation into the case.