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Court directs prosecution to produce original MASLOC documents in trial

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The Accra High Court has ordered the prosecution in the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), trial to produce the originals of the memos and supplementary documents in evidence by January 27.

The Court presided over by Justice Mrs Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe said the materials would be inspected by the defence and then tendered in evidence by the Prosecution witness.

It was after Mr Francis Bandoh, a finance officer at MASLOC and a prosecution witness in the case had given his evidence-in-chief and produced photocopies of those documents but the counsel for Mrs Sedinam Christine Tamakloe Attionu, the former MASLOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Mr Daniel Axim, a former Head of Operations had objected to the photocopies.

Defence counsel challenged that the documents were altered and that parts of the copies were not clear and so called for the originals.

Led by Ms Winifred Sarpong, Principal State Attorney Mr Bandoh was asked whether he would be able to identify the receipt which was shown to him by the Deputy CEO signed by former the CEO acknowledging receipt of the GH¢500,000.00 and he said yes.

Asked who is to acknowledge receipts when debts were made at MASLOC, he said it was the accounts office.

He told the Court that there was a sensitization project and Mr Axim was the key architect but the former CEO was engaged in most of it.

Asked whether the Accounts Office, where he works played a role in the sensitization project, he answered in the affirmative, saying that any project that involved spending was monitored by the Unit including the sensitization project.

Mr Bandoh said any cash exceeding GH¢500.00, meant that a cheque had to be issued and anyone in charge of the project would send a memo to either the CEO or Head of Finance before payment, the CEO had to approve, then a cheque would be written on a cheque payment voucher.

He said the cheque payment voucher would have portions for the one who prepared it, the one who authorize it, the one who approves it and then the recipient before finance would pay.

He said he could not put a finger on how many memos were sent by Mr Axim but he made available photocopies of some documents he had brought to court.

Sedinam the former CEO MASLOC has been charged for misappropriating State funds together with Mr Daniel Axim, also former Operations Manager of MASLOC.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy, stealing, money laundering and willfully causing financial loss to the state and has been granted bail in the sum of GH¢5 million with two sureties, whilst Axim has also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and stealing has been admitted to a bail in the sum of GH¢1 million with one surety.

The Court had earlier heard that, Sedinam was CEO of MASLOC from November 2013 to the January 2017 whilst Axim was the then Operations Manager.

In 2017, EOCO conducted investigations into certain fraudulent disbursement of MASLOC funds involving the two accused persons.

The audit revealed that, in June 2014, MASLOC invested GH? 150,000.00 in Obaatanpa Micro-Finance Company Limited, a licensed Tier II Micro-Finance Company located at Ejura in the Ashanti Region.

Sedinam also offered Obaatanpa a further investment of GH? 500,000.00 and as a result, a MASLOC issued an Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) cheque dated July 24, 2014, in the sum, of GH¢500,000.00 to be drawn in favor of Obaatanpa.

The Prosecution said after Obaatanpa was issued the cheque, Sedinam informed the Board Chairman of Obaatanpa that the money would attract a 24 per cent interest so the company decided to return the money because of the high interest rate and issued a cheque to that effect.

When the cheque was presented, Sedinam declined it and asked for cash rather, upon which her request was honoured on August, 24, 2014. Sedinam then wrote a letter to acknowledge receipt of the money.

In 2015, per letters some of which were under the hand of Sedinam, MASLOC made demands on Obaatanpa for the interest on the principal amount of GH¢500,000.00, of which in response Obaatanpa reminded MASLOC of the refunded money and particularly drew the attention of Sedinam to the unjustified demand.

The Prosecution said in 2017, when a new CEO took office, a demand notice was again sent to Obaatanpa for the payment of the accrued interest of which Obaatanpa again informed MASLOC of the payment but investigations revealed that MASLOC had no record of the amount repayment in cash to Sedinam.

The Prosecution said further investigations disclosed that in April 2016, Sedinam obtained the approval of the MASLOC Board to utilize GH¢1,706,000.00 of MASLOC funds for a nation-wide sensitization and monitoring programme for 85,300 beneficiaries of MASLOC loans, where each of the beneficiary was to receive GH¢20.00 to cover transportation and refreshment.

The Court heard that between April and December 2016, Sedinam used her office to withdraw GH¢1,816,000.00 in three tranches, though the Board had approved of only GH¢1,706,000.00.

The prosecution said other investigations revealed that out of the GH¢1,816,000.00 only GH¢1,300.00 was spent on refreshment for some beneficiaries in the Volta, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo Regions and also no such Programme took place in the other regions.

The Prosecution said investigations also revealed that in 2013 following a fire disaster at the Kantamanto market, the then President John Dramani Mahama directed MASLOC to provide assistance of GH¢1,465.035.00 to victims, of which the money was to be disbursed through Dwadifo Adanfo Savings and Loans Company Limited but Sedinam allegedly appropriated GH¢579,800.00 out of the total amount.

The Prosecution said in August 2016, Sedinam on behalf of MASLOC wrote to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) for approval to procure vehicles from Mac Autos and Spare Parts Limited for the Ghana Private Roads Transport Union using sole-sourcing under the PPA Act.

The Prosecution said in October 2016, the PPA wrote to MASLOC requesting it to furnish it with financial arrangements approved by the Ministry of Finance of which on December 5, same year, the then Minister for Finance wrote to the PPA to confirm financial arrangements which were being put in place for the purchase of vehicles.

The Prosecution said however, without approval from PPA, Sedinam signed a contract with Mac Autos on December 6, to supply MASLOC with 350 vehicles including 150 Chevy Aveo saloon cars, 100 Chevy Sparklite and a 33-seater Isuzu bus.

Prosecution said MASLOC applied for a tax waiver on all the vehicles, saying, the unit price offered for the Chevy Aveo was GH¢74,495.00 but investigations revealed that the actual price was GH¢47,346.93, whilst she gave that of the Chevy Sparklite as GH¢65,095.00 whilst the actual price was GH¢35,918.37 and Isuzu 33-seater bus as GH¢445,560.00 but the actual price was GH¢293,877.55.

The Prosecution said earlier, in November 2016, MASLOC procured 200 pieces of Samsung B310 mobile dual SIM phones at GH¢93,412.00 under a project called PINCO Project Market Survey, whilst the actual price was GH¢24,400.00.

The prosecution said investigations further revealed that in January 2017, Sedinam without the requisite approval and authorization caused to be paid to herself and her deputy, one Mustapha Abubakar Batalima the sums of GH¢135,592.33 and GH¢82,218.76, respectively as ex-gratia.

According to Prosecution again in that same month, Sedinam caused to be paid to herself and her Deputy GH¢28,445.94 and GH¢27,486.62, respectively.

Source: GNA

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