Counsel for 25 out of the 35 officials of the National Service Scheme who appeared before an Accra Fast Track High Court (Tax and Financial) Division for stealing had prayed the court for their clients to consider the possibility of refunding the money.
They argued that their clients would want to explore the possibilities of paying back the money, so that the Attorney-General would withdraw the charges against them.
They said they were hopeful that settlement would be attempted so that if that option failed then the prosecution would begin the trial.
The prosecution led by Chief State Attorney, Penelope-Ann Mamattah stated that looking at the number of accused persons involved, they would oblige the defence counsel the opportunity to attempt to refund the monies.
She, therefore, prayed the court for a month’s adjournment, to allow the accused persons to explore the possibility of settlement.
The court presided over by Mrs Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, ordered the defence counsel to go and confer with their clients and come back to court with the best offer for re-payment within a few days, for the court to decide whether to accept the offer or not.
She, therefore, adjourned the case to July 3.
The former Executive Director of the National Service Scheme (NSS), Alhaji Alhassan Mohammed Imoro, and 34 others have been put before the Court for conspiracy to commit crime, giving bribe to influence a public officer, and stealing.
They have all pleaded not guilty to the charge of stealing more than GH¢107.8 million belonging to the government of Ghana through the payment of ghost or non-existing service personnel.
They have been granted bail in the sum of various amounts, ranging from GH¢30,000 to GH¢5 million by the court.
The facts of the case as have been presented to the court by a Chief State Attorney, Mrs Penelope-Ann Mamattah, are that in July last year, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) began a nation-wide investigation into the operations of the NSS, with regard to the payment of monthly allowances to service persons.
She said this was after a report received by the BNI indicated malfeasance in the postings and payment of allowances to service personnel.
The Chief State Attorney said Investigations alleged that between September 2013 and August 2014, the pay roll of the NSS was bloated with 31,516 names for both the National Service postings and the National Voluntary Service recruitment.
She told the court that during that service year, National Service Persons were paid GH¢243.00 per month as allowance from September to December 2013, and GH¢350 per month from January to August 2014.
The Chief State Attorney said an elaborate ploy was hatched by Alhaji Alhassan, the NSS Executive Director, supported by senior officers of the scheme at the National Secretariat.
The ploy also included all the Regional Directors of the scheme, and implemented by the District Directors involved in the generation of “ghost” names at the Head Office of the Scheme.
Mrs Mamattah said these ghost names were added to the genuine ones on the nominal rolls, based on which payment vouchers were prepared. The payment vouchers were prepared by the Chief Accountant, Nelson Ayeltiga and passed on to the Internal Audit.
“The internal Auditor, Gloria Aku Mensah, whose duty it was to audit and vet all the accounts and payment vouchers, did not audit the accounts and the payment vouchers, and yet passed them on. Ayeltiga and Mensah received regular payments from some Regional Directors.
She indicated that the “ghost” names, which were detected in all the districts in the country, were mostly posted to the rural areas, and in some cases to non-existing institutions and departments.
The names of personnel posted to self-accounting public and private institutions were converted to and retained on the Government pay roll without effecting the required amendment with the consultant to the scheme.
She told the court that the Executive Director had dealings with his Regional Directors, and they with the district counterparts, who directly worked under them.
The Executive Director, she said, never dealt directly with the District Directors.
“The “ghost” names were sent by the Executive Director to the Regional Directors with firm instructions as to how much he was to receive every month.
“The number of names the Executive Director gave to each regional director depended on the trust and loyalty he had developed with each Regional Director”.
Chief State Attorney, Mrs Mamattah said on receipt of the “ghost “names and the instructions thereof, the Regional Director in turn passed the “names” to his district Directors with his set of instructions as to how much the District Director was to retain every month and how much was to be sent to him.
The amount of money the Regional Directors sent to the Executive Director depended on the number of names he got from him and the accompanying instruction.
The “ghost” names the Executive Director sent to the Regional Directors were not given to them at a go.
The Executive Director started giving out the names from September 2013 shortly after the postings.
The names then started increasing from October through to January 2014 when the postings stabilized and no more names were given.
She told the court that, in addition, all the Senior Officials at the National Service Secretariat, who were implicated in the fraud also had their own separate deals with the Regional Directors, independent of one another, and have confessed to having each received regularly every month, several thousands of Ghana Cedis from the Regional Directors.
The Regional Directors have also admitted having made regular payments to them.
She said at the end of the Service year in August 2014, the amounts that the Regional and District Directors shared also included Travel and Transport allowances meant for the Service Persons to travel back to their various destinations.
She said all the Regional Directors were involved, and had admitted to that, promising to refund their share of the proceeds.
The Chief State Attorney said, at the National Service Secretariat, with the exception of the Executive Director, Alhaji Imoro, who has repeatedly denied any involvement, all the others cited in the fraud have confessed to their involvement.
“All the Regional and District Directors, as well as the senior officials at the National Service Secretariat, have all made part payments of their liabilities.
“The Executive Director has, however, not made any payment at all, though he has been furnished with his liability”.
During this period, the State lost an amount to the tune of GH¢107,897,018.36, the Chief State attorney added.