Former Minister for Information Mr Stephen Asamoah Boateng has responded to some issues raised in the 2008 audit report on the Ministry of Information which suggests that some 15 billion cedis of the Tema Oil Refinery debt recovery fund was misspent under the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration under a project called the communications strategy which formed certain groups to defend the government through the media, especially on radio.
Sections of the said 2008 audit report on the Ministry of Information as reported by the Enquirer newspaper stated 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.”
Commending the Chief Director of the Ministry for accepting to grant him an extension of time from January 29, 2010 until February 10, 2010 to submit his responses, Mr Asamoah Boateng argued on the other hand that “admittedly, the time is still too short to enable me consult with officials that worked with me; retrieve and cross-check relevant documentation; and write back in response since I am no more in an official capacity to do so speedily”.
In the face of this challenge, the former Minister willingly responded to queries raised in the report, however expressing worries about the fact that his input was being sought after the audit report has been completed.
FAO: Ag. Chief Director
Ministry of Information
P O Box 41
AUDIT REPORT ON THE FINANCIAL ACTIVITIES OF THE MINISTRY OF
INFORMATIO FOR THE PERIOD III JANUARY 2007 TO 3Ill DECEMBER 2008
On 271h January 2010, I received your letter dated 261h January, 2010. with reference number MBI9/186/03, including some attachments seeking my responses to various issues of an audit report for the period of I" January 2007 to 31" December 2008. I wish to acknowledge receipt.
I wish to thank you for the opportunity to respond to the issues raised. I also thank you for accepting to give me extension of time from 291h January, 20•10 until 3rd February, 20 I0 to submit my responses. Admittedly, the time is still too short ,to enable me consult with the, officials that worked with me; retrieve and cross-check relevant documentation; and write back in response since I am no more in an official capacity to do so speedily. Nevertheless, I will dutifully assist in this exercise.
Kindly permit me, Sir, to express my concerns on some issues relating to this "Audit Report". Firstly, a closer look of your letter and the footnote on the attached selected pages of the "Audit Report" clearly indicate that my input or version is being sought after such an Audit report has been completed. There is nothing to indicate that we are dealing with a "Draft" Audit report.
Secondly, the process and procedure adopted by the audit team to ensure that my version is captured in such a report have not been fairly followed. I was invited to meet an audit team at the Conference room of the Audit Services on Thursday, IO'" September, 2009 in what could be said to be an "entrance conference". Since this meeting was also to be attended by my colleague, Mrs. Oboshie Sai-Coffie, who
arrived later, I recollect that we spent the greater part of the meeting talking about generalities of my role at the Ministry. There were some few questions pertaining to the engagement of the "services of the certain individuals and teams to carry out media-related services for Government under the Communication Strategy" Programme.
It is my belief that the audit team took minutes at the said meeting. Sir, since the said meeting, I have not been provided with a verbal or written observation of the outcome to enable me cross-check that my responses were captured accurately. Sir, you would appreciate that the "Spoken" English language could be misrepresented (no mischief is imputed) when put in writing. Therefore, I expected to have
the opportunity to comment on the outcome of this one, and only contact that I have had with the audit team, In fact, there are certain statements attributed to me in the said, report that I know nothing about.
With such a scenario, I can only pray and hope that this audit exercise is not a manipulation by someone to achieve a political aim. I hope and pray that my version will have a place in the minds of the Authorities who are yet to see your "formal response" as stated in your letter. Sir, I respond as follows:
I served my stewardship at the Ministry of Information and National Orientation from late May,
2008 to 7th January, 2009.
AWARD OF CO TRACT FOR RE OVATIO AT THE MI ISTRY - GH¢86,916
This matter is a subject of Court proceedings and will plead I am permitted not to comment.
AWARD OF PRINTING CONTRACTS TO FOUR COMPANIES
This award went through tender process with invitation put in the newspaper, through evaluation to tender committee meeting approval. The audit report raised an issue about "the Ministry's own Printing Unit. .. not invited to participate in the process". The simple explanation is that the equipment at the Ministry's printing unit was not functioning at the time.
I take note of your analysis and subsequent opinion about the printing industry and the unit price differentiation as indicated on pages 30, 31 and 32 (points 123, 129, 130, 131 and 132). Whilst I do not hold brief for the companies concerned and former Officers, I can state that the printing industry was not behaving within the normal economic paradigm, but rather "enjoying a business boom" because
of the hectic electioneering season. Therefore, the assertion that "both should rather have reduced their unit prices" and concluding that there was a loss to the Ministry of GH¢75,000, cannot be attributable to a deliberate manipulation by myself. The former officers and the companies' managers may be able to provide further explanations,
ENGAGEMENT OF PEOPLE WITHOUT JOB DESCRIPTION
I can categorically state that the five persons mentioned on page 16 were duly engaged with job descriptions. They were all designated as 'Assistant Government Spokespersons' with letters duly issued by the Office of the President (see attachment A), They had identifiable offices at the Ministry and were regularly heard and seen on radio and television stations disseminating and articulating government policies. In addition to the roles specified 'in their appointment letters, they were assigned other responsibilities that were not covered by their official appointment letters. Therefore, whenever other assignments are given to them, such as training of staff, provisions were made for allowances, fuel, accommodation (outside Accra) and other expenses incurred (see attachment B). If you check through minutes of Management meetings, one will see that they were regular attendees and, also management discussed. and agreed, collectively, to assign other responsibilities to them.
Page 16 (point 57) appears. to cast doubt on the involvement of the Government Spokespersons with training Of ISD staff. The report appears to be confusing my tenure and the Spokespersons that worked with me by mentioning some other persons, for example, Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta, Edward Boateng, etc. who were previously engaged before my time at the Ministry. I can categorically state that those that worked with me, Catherine Afeku, Kwame Kwarteng, Nii Ayi-Bonte, Kofi Amponsah- Bediako and Abeeku Dickson, all had letters of appointment from the Office of the President. They were fully engaged in the activities of the Ministry and undertook continuous training for a six (6) month period on the government's reduction of taxes on imported rice, vegetable oil, wheat, yellow
corn and petroleum products from May 2008. It will be recalled that in May 2008 H.E. the President, had announced these measures to cushion Ghanaians from the World Food crisis. My Secretariat, including myself joined the team in seven (7) of the regions (see attachment C, including the itinerary and copy of payment voucher numbered 0752294 duly approved).
On point 58 on page 16, I categorically state that I did not authorise payment of any allowance to Ms. Serwah Asiedu.
Page 17 (point 60) mentions some "Allowances to Management and Staff" of GH¢85,900. They were paid as a result of a policy initiative approved at Management meetings to reward and motivate hardworking managers and staff through incentive packages. This initiative was communicated to all our staff across the country. A committee was set up, headed by the 'Director of [SO with known
selection criteria. The climax of these awards was when the Municipal Information Officer of Bawku was adjudged as the Best Information Officer at a ceremony held in Accra on Tuesday, 21 SI October, 2008 (see attachment D), I can categorically state that none of these monies were handed to me personally.
BULK PAYMENT OF CASH AT MINISTER'S OFFICE
As the Minister, I only approved written requests and did ,not get involved in handling cash or signing cheques. I was not the Spending Officer. No "bulk cash was delivered" to me. I have checked with the Spokespersons who confirm that monies advanced for official work were accounted for at the Accounts office and that the receipts they submitted were sent to the Account office. They only
brought their reports on the trips to my Secretariat. The Accounts office should have records of the receipts covering the amount in question.
FORMATION OF UNIDENTIFIED WORKING GROUPS
The formation of the working groups pre-dated my appointment at the Ministry (see attachment E). As previously stated, I was implementing the Government's Communication Strategy Programme that had been accepted at Cabinet meeting sometime in 2006. In fact, a search at the Cabinet's Secretariat will confirm details of the programme, including the formation of the various groups.
On assumption of office at the Ministry, I only reactivated the Public Relations and Information Management (PRIM), and the Monitoring groups that were not functioning satisfactorily. These groups did not operate clandestinely as the audit report suggests. Their operations were discussed at Management meetings (see 'attachment F). I ensured that my Secretariat provided these two groups with terms of their engagement (attachment G).
I am informed that the total payments of GH¢425,938 made to them over the period Were properly signed for by the individual recipients. The Accounts office should be able to locate these signed documents in their record files. Since I am not in any capacity to access the Ministry's files at this moment, I am afraid I am unable to identify these individuals. As payments to these teams were made
to deliver on a Cabinet approved programme, I do not think the description of" reckless and a wasteful use of state resources" is appropriate. In any case, I was not a Spending Officer. I did not handle payments, as Payment Vouchers will show. As to their' work attendance and performance, I hereby attach copies for your attention.
Finally Sir,'! would like to inform you that almost all the queries raised in the audit report formed part of my handing over notes which was passed onto the Government's Transition Team. I notice in the audit report that there are instances where documents could not be found. This, to me, is surprising. There may be some lapses in the civil service of maintaining proper and adequate documentation,
but I believe that the Accounts Office at the Ministry and the Cabinet Secretariat should hold the records for the audit team to check, Also I trust that our minute-taker, Ms. Comfort Kyeremeh, win make minutes of our Management meetings available to you. This will show that queries raised by the audit team were openly subjected to Management discussions and decisions made thereof, before
they were implemented.
Hon. S. Asamoah-Boateng
P. O. Box CT 744
3rd February 2010
Source: The New Crusading Guide/Ghana
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