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General News
Corruption Galore 10/31/2007
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Wednesday expressed disgust at the ridiculously low prices at which four vehicles were auctioned to some officials of the Central Regional Co-ordinating Council.

It also expressed misgivings at the manner in which the vehicles were valued and auctioned describing it as ridden with conflict of interests.

According to the Committee, the valuation of a relatively new Toyota Land Cruiser with registration number GR 607 E at GH¢600 (¢6 million) and its sale for GH¢2,400 (¢24 million) when the said vehicle was refurbished at the total cost of GH¢5,890 (¢58 .9 million) of tax payers money was totally unjustifiable.

The committee described the transaction as laden with conflict of interest because the Regional Minister at the time, Mr Isaac Edumazde and the Regional Coordinating Director, Mr Michael Essandor, had insider information about the auction of the vehicles especially when Mr Essandor signed the letter to the Chief of Staff in the office of the President requesting permission for the auction of the vehicles.

The Chief of Staff and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, disagreed with the committee on the conflict of interest raised and the price at which the vehicles was auctioned.

He explained that since the vehicles were auctioned, the Regional Minister and the RCD were not barred from buying them.

Moreover, he said, the State Transport Company (STC), which was the state valuer, had valued the Toyota Landcruiser at ¢6 million and once it was auctioned not less than the reserved price, there was nothing untoward.

However, the minister''s interventions did not convince the committee which asked him to strengthen the policy on the auction and allocation of vehicles in order to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future.

The auction of the four vehicles at a total cost of ¢82.59 million was the only query raised against the Office of Government Machinery, headed by Mr Mpiani, in the Auditor-General''s Report for 2004, having come out clean on audit indictment in the 2005 report.

Nevertheless, the issue, which took quite a length of time to dismiss was one query that attracted intense debate amongst members of the committee and between the committee and the defendants of the query.

According to Mr Mpiani, after the STC had finished with its valuation, his office also conducted their independent valuation of the vehicle and the higher price of the two valuations was accepted for the auction.

He briefed the committee about a policy by which retiring officers were granted the benefit of buying saloon cars about two or more years old, adding that in exceptional instances, 4X4 vehicles were also given out to such officers.

Mr Mpiani said the essence of the policy was to motivate civil and public servants, most of whom worked under challenging environments.

The committee appreciated the essence of the policy but indicated the need to strengthen it in order to prevent a situation where heads of institutions would deliberately use state funds to repair vehicles and later present them for auction to themselves.

Next to appear before the committee were officials of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports (MOESS) led by its deputy ministers, Mr Osei Bonsu Amoah and Madam Angelina Baiden Amissah.

They responded to various queries raised in the Auditor-General''s Report for 2004 and 2005 which largely centred on salaries paid to teachers who had vacated their posts, unacquitted payments, outstanding salary advances, short supply of items and over-payment to contractors, all running into billions of cedis.

Responding, the officials said some of the monies had been recovered while efforts were being made to recover the balance.

They also briefed the committee about measures taken to address the lapses in the system in order to prevent the future recurrence of such incidents.

The committee was not enthused about some of the responses given by the officials to the audit queries and at one instance, it expressed its dissatisfaction by surcharging the Director of Finance of the MOESS, Mr Kofi Nti in respect of a double payment of hotel bills of GH¢450 (¢4.5 million) to Silicon Hotel in Kumasi in June 2004.

Daily Graphic

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