Ghost names: Over GH¢90m unaccounted for at Accountant-General’s Dept.

The Controller and Accountant General’s Department has had its system producing doubtful data which is creating serious concerns among Civil and Public Servants as well as the general public.

Investigations conducted by The New Crusading GUIDE has revealed that between 2009 and 2010, huge sums of monies  were recorded as salary advances paid to some civil and public servants which were captured  by the computers of CAGD but never got into the bank accounts of these identified people.

For instance, the pay role system captured Nancy Adu, a staff of the Ministry of Education, headquarters with ID number 00149581 as having received a salary advance of GH¢1,328893.54 in January 2010. (Almost USD 1 million)

The Salary Advance Recovery Report 2010 also captured Samuel Badger, a staff of the Ministry of Finance as having benefited from a figure of GH¢9,132,144.00 (almost US$9 million) and was not reimbursing it. For instance the monthly deduction on the recovery report indicates (.00), meaning nothing was deducted from this huge amount. In other words, the money is believed to have been given away for free.

Moreover, when these huge figures are spread over twelve months as required by the civil servants regulations, CAGD would not be able to recover the figures.

When the two persons mentioned above were contacted face to face on separate instances, they denied ever receiving these huge figures captured by their pay vouchers. According to the two people in 2009, they applied for salary advances that were not more than GH¢1,000.00 and have since paid back.

When contacted at the Ministry of Education, Nancy almost collapsed when she saw the figure on the PV. “This is scary because I never received this money that you are showing to me. When it first appeared on my P.V I rushed to the Controller’s office to inform them about it and they told me it was a mistake and that it will be corrected. And I don’t know this is reappearing”.

On his part Samuel Badger said “I wrote to the Accountant General’s Department to inform them. They replied assuring me that it was a mistake and that it will be rectified, I have not received any money apart from what I applied for”.

Some other people like John Christian with ID number 00080049 and Kojo Alidu also ID number 00080446 of the Ministry of Finance were captured by the same report as receiving salary advances of between GH¢848,878 and GH¢ 540,244.

Others include Faustina Daniels, Joseph Esseh and John Akrofi, all staff of the Ministry of Education,  each respectively captured as receiving GH¢481,563, GH¢566, 948, 41 and GH¢504,143.68 as their salary advances. However they have all denied ever receiving anything beyond what they applied for which is two months of their basic salaries which is normally spread over twelve months during reimbursement.

In the presence of Mr. Cephas Dornyo, the Public Relations Officer, the Accountant Genera,l Mr. Rephael Kwasi Tuffour, dismissed  as false allegations that monies were being diverted and figures inflated. He confirmed that the P.V’s are really original documents of the Controller and Accountant General’s office.

“I don’t think there is a major problem with this document. It was an error committed by the system”.  Mr. Tufour noted that when he received the information, he assembled all the chief directors and their financial heads to discuss the issue and it came out that it was an error committed by the payroll system. “I assure you no money has been diverted or stolen by any cartel from our system. Such errors sometimes occur, For instance our system sometimes print date of birth of some government workers as 1911,1912, meanwhile no staff of government now is as old as 100 years.

“I am not saying that people cannot take advantage of the system error to undertake their dubious advantages. There could be hackers and fraudulent people who will attempt to break into our system. But let me assure you that we are vigilant here and any attempts will be foiled and culprits will be apprehended and prosecuted”.

Mr. Tufour revealed that the process that led to the intermittent commission of error began in 1999 when the software used for payroll development crushed. This was at a time that the 20th century was getting to an end and a new millennium was emerging and there was a need to be Y2K compliant.

“The entire system crushed and in an attempt to salvage other wrong data was retrieved as well, our system is not 100% reliable but we are trying and doing our best”. He submitted.

Over here we are much concerned about how salaries will get to the bank accounts of the right people. This is based on the fact that delays in salary payment breads agitations among public servants which makes government unpopular.

“So far nobody has complained he/she was due a salary advance and has not been paid” of by CAGD.

The Accountant General, however  said the figures that are captured  on the Payment Vouchers are calculated in old Ghana cedis and not in the redenominated new Ghana cedis. He indicated thatt the system failed to capture the new Ghana cedi symbol.

One of his deputies also noted that in 2007 when the Bank of Ghana initiated the redenomination exercise the payment system could not fully capture the new cedi symbol, hence the usual problems”.

The Executive Secretary of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Bishop Akologo was very upset when he saw the huge figures on the payroll given out as salary advances. In his reaction, he indicated “some people are using staff of Ministries to enrich themselves. This has been going on for some time. They have graduated from chopping pensioners’ money to using the computer to steal; they find a way to cheat the state”.

“There is weakness in the financial system, once the money is released from the Ministry of Finance nobody sees what goes on again. The technocrats kill the state more than the politicians; the Controller system must be decentralized to ensure transparency in government transaction and this will enable people have access to their personal documents”. He added.

Mr. Akologo maintained “We need to adopt the Singapore method to fight corruption in Ghana since that is the only way which we can seriously fight the menace”.

In Singapore when you engage in a corrupt act and you are caught there are only two options for you, thus you either commit suicide to free yourself or your entire family goes to jail to serve as a deterrent to others.

Reacting to the issue after scrutinizing the P.Vs in question, the Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, a subsidiary of Transparency International, Vitus Azeem could not understand why the original P.Vs showed that the money has been paid while the applicants claim they did not received them.

In his opinion Mr. Azeem said the Accountant General must prove with documents that the money in question did not get into the accounts of the people or some other persons.

“These things have been happening in the ghost names system. It’s a serious matter if these monies have been paid. In some countries some of these things do happened where the monies are used to fund political parties. And I want government to delve into this as it always claims.

How can a sensitive institution like CAGD commit such grave mistakes, and who should know if it is indeed a mistake because nobody knows what goes on at the computer rooms there. The fact that these documents were leaked by an internal source means that the person could smell a rat and was expressing unhappiness about how things are being done there and you don’t want us to believe him”, Mr. Azeem asked.

Then it is possible that people are enriching themselves with the so-called mistakes being made by the system. Government should look at this issue with an eagle eye, he stressed.

Interestingly the figures were captured in the 2010 reports, (so why was it in old cedis? the reporters asked).  “The figures come in old cedis sometimes and we are working to rectify the situation. But I don’t think there is any major problem”. The Accountant General noted.

However, despite all these assurances, in 2010 the CAGD failed to notice when their officer managed to insert two ghost names onto the payroll of the National Board for Professional and Technical Examinations (NABTEX). Had it not been the position of the then Chief Executive Officer, George Antwi Boasiako currently retired, Geofrey Labada would have succeeded in adding two ghost names to the original payroll of 33 staff and increased it to 35.

In his own statement to the Nima Police in Accra, after the former NABTEX CEO caused his arrest together with two other people, Geofrey Labada is reported to have said:  “In July 2010, I worked on NABTEX payroll when the original data was submitted to CAGD. After the first test run the pay voucher was given to the agency for correction. During the process of migration I asked the accountant whether it could be possible to employ somebody but he said it cannot be possible. When I was working on the corrections I added two names which were detected by the internal auditor. When this happened I asked the two extra employees to bring the money, and pay to the government chest but this delayed.

On the 19th of October, I was arrested by the Nima Police on this issue and the money was retrieved by the police”.

In the Payroll Audit report with reference no: CAGD/ NABTEX/12/2010 a team of investigators in their findings recommended that the salaries of Glory Nyansembi and Baba Mohammed with staff IDS 761172 and 756459 which were actually the ghost names should be stopped immediately and their names deleted from the payroll of NABTEX.

Interestingly, the auditing team failed to recommend the prosecution of these three persons who almost succeeded in duping government in the  sum of GH¢19,000 in just three months. In spite of its vigilance, the system of CAGD could not detect the ghost names but it took the effort of the former NABTEX CEO to arrest them.

This report was made possible with a grant from PAIR.

By Adu Koranteng

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