A former staff of the ministry of health (MoH) who has been accused of defrauding the State has described the allegation as a “grand scheme” spearheaded by the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu constituency who is also the deputy Minister of Education in-charge of Tertiary, Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, to discredit him before his constituents who have confidence in him to assume the parliamentary responsibility for the next four years and beyond, Today can report.
A former Director of Internal Audit of MoH, Mr. Christopher Kofi Elebru, who is contesting Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa in the up-coming parliamentary primaries of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in North Tongu constituency of the Volta region, together with the Director of Administration of MoH, Mr. Robert Azumah, and Head of Estate, Mr. Michael Kyere-Yeboah, were accused of defrauding the State to the tune of GH¢646,000.
In a Ghanaian Times publication on Friday, August 28, 2015 it was reported that the three officials and Mr. Ben Atsu Elebru, a businessman, had been arrested by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) over the alleged offence.
According to the said publication, the officials forged documents and engaged in corrupt procurement processes thereby willfully causing financial loss to the State, and are facing prosecution at the High Court (Financial Division).
“The charge sheet from the Attorney-General’s (A-G’s) Department intercepted by Ghanaian Times indicated that the syndicate perpetuated the crime from 2008 until they were busted through investigations conducted by EOCO,” the publication stated.
The said publication also indicated that an internal memo dated July 9, 2008 the director of administration submitted to the then Minister of Health, the late Major Courage Quashigah, captured a proposal for a planned periodic maintenance work on 52 training institutions under the ministry, when the contracts were not advertised but were awarded to Anvalex, Dansy, Mantosa, Betyros and P-Takon Enterprises in accordance with the approved proposal.
The paper went on to report that an advance mobilisation fees of 50 per cent of the annual charge for the first year in 2008 was to be paid to the entities and alleged that the 50 per cent of the contract sum totaling GH¢647,000 was paid by Mr. Michael Kyere-Yeboah, the Head of Estate at the MoH via the ministry’s payment voucher as an advanced mobilisation fee for the 52 maintenance contract awarded.
“Investigations revealed that although these payments were made, maintenance works were not carried out in some of the institutions and in some cases, a few of the training institutions were non-existent,” the prosecutors said.
However, at a press conference in Accra over the weekend, Mr. Elebru described the said publication in the Ghanaian Times as frivolous and lacked credence.
Giving the chronology of events, he revealed that in 2008, the late Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah, engaged the services of some contractors to do periodic maintenance work on 52 training institutions under the health ministry.
He said the minister subsequently signed both the contract and agreements with contractors and job orders given to that effect.
He indicated that various amounts were charged by different contractors per the job the former director of Internal Auditor was to do on a quarterly basis; hence the first contract was signed on September 1, 2008, he added.
He said an advance mobilisation fees of 50 per cent of the annual charge for the first year in 2008 was paid to the entities for the 52 maintenance contract works awarded after each contractor provided bank guarantee.
Mr. Elebru maintained that the claims by the government officials as per the publication that he played major roles in the whole procurement process were false.
According to him, the only role he played was the piece of advice he gave to the chief director who gave him (Elebru) the contractual agreement by hand and asked him to study it and advise.
“So what I did was, I also read the contractual agreement, and saw it was good, and advised him verbally,” he said.
Mr. Elebru averred that during the early part of 2009, after the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) took over political power from the New Patriotic Party (NPP), an article appeared in the pro-NDC newspaper, Daily Democrat, citing them for fraud.
He pointed out that the Daily Democrat newspaper publication at the time sought to create the impression that he [Christopher Kofi Elebru] together with other officials connived with some contractors to award contracts for which no work was done.
“On 18th June, 2009 National Security wrote to EOCO to investigate the alleged crime,” he recounted, and said since then investigations have been ongoing and several invitations have been extended to him, all of which he duly honoured.
Mr. Elebru disclosed that he has since not known peace as EOCO failed to prosecute him but continues to harass him with invitations and interrogations which he believed would not help the cause of justice in the case.
On these grounds, Mr. Elebru challenged EOCO to process the matter for court in the interest of the State, if indeed they have found him to be culpable of the alleged offence.
“You see, during my first encounter with EOCO, they told me what I did when I advised the chief director on the agreement was conflict of interest. When I asked why, they told me because the one who got the contract was my brother,” he narrated.
Mr. Elebru, who is currently contesting Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa in the North Tongu Constituency, stated emphatically that the “turn of events of the continuous harassment and intimidation meted out to him by EOCO during any electioneering period gave him reason to believe that Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa was behind the whole orchestration.”
According to him, although he lost to Okudzeto-Ablakwa in the parliamentary primaries in 2012, he is back in full swing to win this time round.
This, he asserted, had sent shivers down the spine of Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa who now sees him as a “difficult nut to crack in the up-coming parliamentary primaries of the ruling NDC.”
“…that is why Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa is executing his long matured election game plan. His popularity has grown to less than 20% in all the various traditional areas in the North Tongu constituency and this is a headache for Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa,” Mr. Elebru noted.
“Ablakwa is hot. He is puling all these strings to scuttle my moves, but this time he won’t have it easy. I was reliably informed that Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa swore to make sure the State jails me before the parliamentary primaries. This is one of Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa’s plans,” he said.
Mr. Elebru said all along, EOCO charged them for over four times but failed to process them for court.
He, therefore, called on EOCO and all agencies that matter to do the people of Ghana good to stop the witch-hunting and process them for court for justice to prevail.
“I believe in our justice system and think the best place where criminal matters such as this can be buried is at the courts. My daily prayer is to see this matter taken to court,” he called on EOCO.
He, therefore, urged his constituents and delegates to ignore the publications that he has been arrested for fraud, asking them to pray that the matter goes to court for justice.
“I can assure them that I am ready for Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa this time around because Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa succeeded in using EOCO in the 2012 General Elections to intimidate me; I am not disturbed at all and my people should also not be disturbed. All I have to say is that I do not appreciate what EOCO is doing. EOCO must ensure that justice is done in the interest of all,” Mr. Elebru charged.
Responding to the allegations on Saturday, August 30, 2015 Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa denied having any hand in the said publication in Ghanaian Times.
According to the North Tongu legislator, EOCO as a State institution was handling the said fraudulent activity as an independent agency.
“I don’t control EOCO so how can I manipulate the investigations,” he asked, calling on all the media houses to check their facts from EOCO and the Attorney-General’s Department to get a clearer picture of the whole development.
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