After using dubious means to loot the state coffers of billions of cedis, the end has finally come for some officials at the National Lottery Authority (NLA) and their collaborators outside the borders of the Breman House, as the presidency has begun full scale investigations into how fake coupons were used to steal money meant for the development of the country.
An official source at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning told The Chronicle in a telephone interview last week that though the allegation of inputting fake winning numbers, and later withdrawing their face value as winning tickets from the various banks have come to their attention, the presidency has taken over investigations into the case, and that they are only waiting for the outcome of the probe and direction.
On Monday, April 15th, this year, The Chronicle carried a story about how one of the agents of economic saboteurs at the NLA was arrested at the National Investment Bank (NIB) branch in Kumasi, after attempting to cash a fake coupon with the face value of GH¢35,000 as a winning ticket, from the draw of the national lotto numbers. But for the vigilance of the cashier on duty, the amount would have been paid.
The NIB Public Affairs Unit, which spoke to The Chronicle at that time, alleged that the cashier behind the counter became suspicious of what was being presented as a winning ticket, and, therefore, sought further clarification.
Checks conducted on the NLA system later revealed that the so-called winning ticket was fake, leading to the arrest of the presenter, who was later handed over to the Central Police in Kumasi.
Interestingly, the NIB, which first arrested the suspect over the alleged crime, has refused to disclose his identity. The bank rather directed The Chronicle to contact the police for the details.
A follow up interview with Mr. Yusif Tanko of the Police Public Affairs Unit in Kumasi, also revealed that no official complaint had been lodged at the Central Police Station, as alleged by the NIB. This development has raised suspicion as to whether attempts were being made to cover up for the culprits of the crime.
But, the source at the Finance Ministry insists that the issue had come to their notice, but they had not gone into it, because the presidency had decided to take over the investigation. Further probes by The Chronicle revealed that heads are likely to roll at the NLA after the full scale investigation had been completed by Government House.
Earlier, Metro TV’s Samuel Agyeman, who had also done extensive coverage on the fraud, revealed that revenue that should have accrued to the state from the NLA had tumbled in recent times, raising suspicion that dubious means were being used to siphon state money.
Meanwhile, the following is how The Chronicle reported the story earlier.
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), and 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 general 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 later 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 handed 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 originally provided by SIMNET.
The vending machines, which they called TPAs, enable lotto receivers to electronically sell the tickets to the general public, with all the numbers being recorded at the data base in Accra.