|Audio Attachment:Listen to Editor-in-Chief of the Enquirer newspaper,Raymond Archer|
If you heard certain editors, aggressively defending the NPP government on the various airwaves in 2008 and you are wondering how come that in spite of the huge TOR Debt Recovery Levy imposed on Ghanaians the NPP still left behind a mountainous debt at the refinery, the answer can be found in the 2008 audit report of the Ministry of Information by the Auditor-General.
The audit pointed out that Section 6 (1) of the Debt Recovery (Tema Oil Refinery) Fund Act, 2003 states that “The monies assigned to the Fund shall only be disbursed for the purpose of payment of debt incurred by the Tema Oil refinery Company and any interest accruing on those basis.”
Rather than spend the money for the purposes for which the fund was set up, however, 15billion cedis of the debt recovery fund was squandered in prosecuting New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s 2008 electoral agenda, through various groups, comprising of party apparatchiks, serial callers, and journalists who had turned guard dogs.
The audit report reveals that contrary to the provisions of the law on the fund GH¢1,500,000.00 (¢15Billion) was released to the Ministry of Information “by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) on the instructions of Mr. Kwabena Adjei-Mensah, who was then Director of Budget at MOFEP.”
The former Controller and Accountant-General (CAG), Mr. Christian Sottie, by a warrant No. 28015 dated July 7, 2008 and Bank Transfer Advice of July 8, 2008 mandated the Bank of Ghana to effect the transfer into the account of the Ministry of Information.
The 2007/2008 audit report on the Ministry of Information reveals that rather than use the levies to offset the refinery’s debt, the Kufuor-led government used the money to pay off Editors and a string of radio callers, to rapidly defend the government in everything, on radio.
Even though at the time President John Kufuor came to office in January 2001, the refinery’s debt stood at less than 2.5trillion cedis, he exited in January 2009, leaving behind a debt of over three times that amount.
Ex-President Kufuor’s Cabinet and the Ministry of Finance withdrew and diverted billions of Cedis from the TOR Debt Recovery Fund and squandered it on NPP propaganda towards the 2008 elections, under the guise of a ‘Government communication Strategy Programme.’
The beneficiary groups of these funds, operated under different umbrellas and were described variously as Media Executives, Editors Forum, PRIM, BLOW, GRID, Rapid Response, and First Responders, the report reveals.
Moreover, besides the 15 billion cedis of the TOR Debt Recovery Fund, spent on the groups, other sources, such as, HIPC, Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) and Divestiture Implementation committee (DIC) accounts, each coughed up ¢15 billion cedis to the Minister of Information, to prosecute the agenda of the party in its bid to retain power.
The report reveals that in addition to the questionable nature of the purposes for which these monies were to be spent, the transfers from the accounts were fraught with irregularities, as they did not follow laid down procedure, nor were they budgeted for. Disbursements from all these accounts required Parliamentary approval through budgets.
The release of the GH¢1,500,000.00 (¢15Billion) from the DIC account in August 2008, was under the instruction of Former Deputy Minister of Finance, Prof. G. Gyan-Baffour, while his other counterpart, Dr. A. Akoto Osei, by a letter dated October 20, 2008 directed the release from the MDRI account.
The report recommended that the two, together with the former Director of Budget, Mr. Kwabena Adjei Mensah, “should be held responsible and appropriately sanctioned.”
According to the audit findings, “yet another component of the Strategy was the engagement of a group of persons to monitor both the electronic and print media looking for information considered unfavourable to the then Government.”
“Additionally, two other teams, namely: the ‘First Responders’ and ‘Rapid Response.’ Whose terms of engagement were not available, were tasked to react to any negative media reportage,” stated the report.
The auditor-general submitted that from discussions with Mr. Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, the former Information Minister pointed out that “allowances were paid to certain individuals to also defend Government programmes during radio discussions.”
Apart from the groups above, there were two other groups, the ‘Editors Forum’ and ‘Media Executives,’ whose membership or terms of engagement nobody at the ministry appeared to know about.
According to the report, officials interviewed at the ministry during the audit disclosed the “these groups operated under the cover of darkness during which time meetings were held with the Minister (Asamoah-Boateng), his deputy Hon. Frank Agyekum and other functionaries.”
“Hon. Stephen Asamoah-Boateng promised to provide us the terms of engagement of the team members,” the report stated, adding that “However, as at the time of writing our report he could not provide the needed information.”
The audit found that six persons, namely: Kwaku Kwarteng, Kofi Amponsah-Bediako, Catherine Afeku, Nii Bi Ayibonte, and Abeeku Dickson, whose terms of engagement, job schedules were not documented, were also paid allowances for four months, totaling GH¢16,000.00 (¢160million), which was spent on their travels to the regions was also not accounted for, the report reveals.
According to the Auditor-General, even though Mr. Asamoah-Boateng, again promised to furnish the audit team with the terms of engagement of the six, some of whom were described as ‘Spokespersons,’ he failed to do so.
The report recommended for the former minister to provide detailed documentation to justify the total of GH¢1,600.00 incurred on the six.
Besides the amounts spent on the propagandists of the NPP and government, hundreds of billions of cedis were also spent on documentaries and posters under a ‘Ghana, Then and Now’ project.
The audit period spanned the tenure of Mr. Asamoah-Boateng and Ms. Oboshie Sai Coffie as successive Ministers at the Ministry of Information.
Source: The Enquirer/Ghana
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