General News of Wednesday, 26 July 2017
The Director of Finance at the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Joseph Kwaku Asamoah, has threatened to sue the chair of the commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei, if she does not recall him from his forced leave.
Dr Asamoah is one of the three top officials under investigation by the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) in connection with the alleged misappropriation of GHS480,000 being eight months of workers’ endowment contributions.
The money was allegedly withdrawn from the Endowment Fund of the EC between 2012 and 2013 by the three officials during the tenure of retired EC Chair Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan.
The two other officials involved are the commission’s Deputy Chairperson F&A, Georgina Opoku Amankwaa, and Chief Accountant Kwaku Owusu Agyei-Larbi.
They were expected to have reimbursed the Fund before Dr Afari Gyan’s exit from office but did not do so until Mrs Osei took office upon her predecessor’s retirement.
Acting Executive Director of EOCO, ACP K. K Amoah (Rtd), in a letter written to the EC Chair dated 4 July, 2017, said: “This office would be grateful if you could direct the officers listed above to proceed on leave while investigations proceed.”
In response to EOCO’s request, Mrs Osei, who resumed worked on Wednesday 5 July, 2017, wrote to the three officers saying: “As you are aware, the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) is investigating the loss of about GHS480,000 from the staff Endowment Fund. Pursuant to this investigation, EOCO has requested that I direct you to proceed on leave while the investigation proceeds. This is to ensure the integrity of the investigation. During the period of your leave, please be advised that you are not to undertake any business on behalf of the commission or access any information from the commission until the investigations are concluded. By this letter, may I ask you to proceed on leave immediately.”
However, a separate letter sighted by ClassFMonline.com from the Director of Finance read:
“I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 5 July directing me to proceed on leave pending the EOCO investigation into an alleged loss of about GHS480,000 from the staff Endowment Fund. As you are aware, I wish to state on record again that I was neither at post as Director of Finance nor was I in any position to influence management’s decision regarding financial administration of the Endowment Fund during the period of the alleged loss. I am, therefore, in no position to influence the integrity of the investigation as stated in your letter while at post since I have no involvement in the alleged loss. Madam, assuming without admitting that officers who inherit problems they have no knowledge of from their predecessor are made to proceed on leave, then on the principle of fairness, all management staff in the same position must equally proceed on leave. I wish to courteously submit that subsequent to my assumption of duty as Director of Finance, there has not been any incident of the same or similar nature.”
In response to Dr Asamoah’s letter, the EC Chair warned him via another letter to comply with the directive to proceed on leave in order to avoid sanctions.
In that letter dated 7 July 2017 addressed to Dr Asamoah signed by the EC Chair, Mrs Osei asked Dr Asamoah to “kindly note that the letter directing you to proceed on leave was as a result of the directive received from the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) dated July 4, 2017”.
She said in complying with the directive, “I was mindful of the provisions of the EOCO Act, 2010 (Act 804)” which state:
1. The office may conduct investigations in conjunction with security agencies and other persons
2. An officer of a public agency shall cooperate with officers of the office in the performance of functions under this Act
3. A public officer who refuses or fails without reasonable cause to cooperate with an authorised officer of the office commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 50 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than three months or both.”
She, therefore, admonished Dr Asamoah to be guided accordingly.
Dr Asamoah has, however, written to Mrs Osei through his lawyers asking to be recalled immediately or he sues.
A letter written on his behalf by his counsel, Akoto Ampaw of Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co law firm, dated July 13, 2017 said: “We are accordingly instructed to demand, which we hereby do, that you recall our client from the imposed leave to enable him continue his normal work as Director of Finance of the Commission. Should you fail to do so, we would be compelled to initiate legal proceedings against you to protect our client against any form of victimization and injustice.”
“First, our instructions are that you received a letter, dated 27th June 2017, from EOCO’s acting Deputy Executive, Operations, one Nana Antwi, requesting your good self to release our client to report at EOCO’s head office on 28th June 2017, to assist in providing information and relevant documents related to the subject of investigations. Our further instructions are that our client made himself available as requested for and provided all relevant information on the subject of investigations. Our client demonstrated at the interview/interrogation that he had absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter of the investigations as he was not at post at the time funds from the Staff Endowment Fund were misapplied. It is therefore shocking that the EOCO’s should subsequently request you to direct the same person who had nothing to do with the withdrawals under investigation to proceed on leave. This is no doubt procedural though significant. At the heart of our letter of protest is the fact that all the facts in this matter demonstrate without an iota of doubt that our client was not at post and had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of investigations when the loss/misapplication of GH?480,000.00 of the EC Staff Endowment Fund occurred,” the letter stated.
Records from the EC’s internal audit on the Staff Endowment Fund indicate that withdrawals were made between March 14, 2017 and October 14, 2017, whereas Dr. Joseph Asamoah took office as Director of Finance of the Commission on October 2, 2017. “The Controller and Accountant General’s office then wrote to the Director, Banking Department, Bank of Ghana on 7th October, 2014, with specimen signature of Dr. Asamoah notifying the Bank that Dr. Asamoah had been authorized to operate seven of the EC’s accounts with the Bank of Ghana.
“Significantly, the first EC cheque our client signed on the DEP Main Account which houses deductions from the Controller and Accountant-General for onward transmission to the staff Endowment Fund Account was on 21st November 2014 namely cheque number 082072 supported by PV No. 741 in the sum of GH?60,692.47. What is more, there has not been any further failure to pay into the Endowment Fund since our client started writing cheques as Director Finance of the Commission.”
“Further and crucially, the letter of the immediate past Director of Finance, Samuel York Aidoo, dated 18th February, 2016, admits without any equivocation, that there was a matter known to all authorities involved in financial administration at the Commission at the material time when the Commission was embroiled in severe financial crisis, threatening to bring all activities at the Commission to a halt. This was apparently as a result of the failure of the Finance Ministry to release Funds for the operations of the Commission.”
“In the circumstances and based on the incontestable facts of the matter, to write to our client directing him to proceed on leave in order to “ensure the integrity of investigations, in with respect, without any foundation whatsoever, is unfair and does great injustice to him.
“It would appear that the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from the contents of your letter is that our client is being a helpless victim of other struggles, which have nothing to do with him. This is most unfair.
“Our client, Dr. Joseph Kwaku Asamoah, has absolutely nothing to do with this matter and should not be made a scapegoat of any board room struggles engulfing the Commission,” noted Mr. Ampaw in his 4-page letter to Charlotte Osei,” Dr Asamoah’s lawyers said.
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