General News of Monday, 27 February 2017
Joy News has uncovered questionable payments at the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC), the utilities regulator.
The findings include the transfer of close to half a million cedis into the personal account of the Executive Secretary of PURC, Samuel Sarpong.
In the first of a series of reports of an audit of financial records at the Commission, Joy News’ Kwetey Nettey, reports the expenses included payments described as ‘protocol cash’ for the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
The amount in question GHC 435, 087 was part of GHC 1, 225, 000 paid by five major utility companies to the PURC for the 2013 tariff review hearings nationwide.
The funds were supposed to be lodged in the account of the PURC, however, documents sighted by Joy News indicate that GHC271, 500 was paid into the personal accounts of the Executive Secretary of PURC, Samuel Sarpong. Details of the deposit voucher reveal the money was paid on February 16, 2013 at the Gulf House Branch of ADB.
Former Head of Finance at PURC, Isaac Assan, who made the payments into the account, said he did this on the instructions on the Executive Secretary. A second payment of GHC163, 587 was also made into Mr. Sarpong’s Gulf House account on June 7, 2013. Mr. Assan tells Kwetey Nettey that although it is not the norm, his boss thought it was convenient.
In 2015, GHC1.7 million cedis was paid by the utility companies to support major tariff review hearing nationwide. A senior staff at ECG tells Joy News some of the monies were paid in cash to the PURC for the public hearings.
The records sighted by Joy News also include other questionable payments. An internal memo dated June 5, 2013 intercepted by Joy News reveals the PURC approved GHc164 thousand to cover expenses of stakeholder consultation on tariff review with chiefs in Kumasi.
Key expenses for that programme were over 86,000 for per diem and allowances, 32 thousand for hotel accommodation, and 20,000 as protocol for Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
Former Head of Finance at PURC, Isaac Assan concurs some of these practices breach the financial regulation act. Documents in possession of Joy News also indicate some of the monies paid by the utilities to support tariff review hearings cannot be traced to the commission’s account.
Joy News sought to speak to officials at the PURC but they declined comment, but Head of PR and External Affairs of the Commission, Nana Yaa Jantuah says, her God would speak for her.