With a history of causing financial loss to the State, would AB Adjei finally face prosecution?

Adjenim Boateng Adjei

…Now that he has been sacked

Last night October 30, 2020, the President of Ghana sacked the suspended Chief Executive Officer of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), Mr. Adjenim Boateng Adjei with immediate effect following the conclusion of investigations, and release of a report by the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) which looked into the matter following a report by investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni which showed that Adjei has been involved in conflict of interest and abuse of office.

While this is not the first time Adjei has been caught in a misconduct as a public officer, this time he has been sacked, but questions remain as to whether he would face prosecution. Or like the cat, he has nine lives?

Adjei was involved in a procurement infraction when he worked with the Ghana Water Company in the early 2000 and a Committee found him to have breached the law and recommended his prosecution, but he was not prosecuted.

The documentary by freelance journalist, Mannaseh Azure Awuni broadcast on August 21, 2019 showed the CEO, in probable conflict of interest situations. His own company, Talent Discovery Limited (TDL) was bidding and winning multiple contracts from the PPA that he headed.

He was promptly suspended on August 22, and the matter referred to the CHRAJ and Special Prosecutor. The CHRAJ was to investigate conflict of interest and abuse of office, and the Special Prosecutor was expected to look into allegations related to potential corruption. It is not yet known if the Special Prosecutor has completed its investigation and issued a report.

The CHRAJ’s report came to public attention on October 30, 2020, a day after Azure gave a public lecture in honour of Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, a former Minister of Finance in which he mentioned among other investigations that he had done, that of the former PPA CEO.

In the introduction to the 188 report, CHRAJ made reference to relevant articles of the 1992 Constitution:

Article 284: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.”

Article 287 also provides: An allegation that a public officer has contravened or has not complied with a provision of this Chapter [Chapter 24] shall be made to the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and, in the case of the Commissioner of Human Rights and Administrative Justice, to the Chief Justice who shall, unless the person concerned makes a written admission of the contravention or non-compliance, cause the matter to be investigated.(2) The Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice or the Chief Justice as the case may be, may take such action as he considers appropriate in respect of the results of the investigation or the admission.

Even though Adjei put up a spirited denial of all the allegations against him, calling them spurious, the CHRAJ found Adjei culpable of conflict of interest and abuse of office. While the CHRAJ is mandated to investigate allegations of corruption, it indicated that it didn’t, because the allegations of corruption have been referred to the Special Prosecutor.

The CHRAJ found that Adjei has three bank accounts at Stanbic Bank, Airport City Branch, which he opened the month after his appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of the PPA in March2017.

The report indicated that in respect of his USD account, Adjei, referred to as Respondent, opened it on April 3, 2017, within a month after his appointment with an opening balance of $5, 000. Four months after opening the account, significant cash amounts had been deposited into that account, including the following: Cash Deposits: From August 1, 2017 to September 8, 2017, cash amounts totalling over $125, 000 was deposited into the Respondent’s account. The Respondent withdrew $30,000 and $10,000 cash from his account in a day. On that same day (September 8, 2017), cash amount of $15,000 was deposited into the account. The respondent again made a cash withdrawal of $40,000 on September 27, 2017 and about a week later, he made a cash deposit of $50,000. Earlier, a cash deposit of $40,000 was made. On February 15, 2018, a cash deposit of $50,000 and another $100,000 on March 21, 2018 were made. Five days after that, a cheque payment of $100,000 was made into the account.

As of September 28, 2019, Respondent had $516,225.00 to his credit and his debits stood at $504,607.87.

According to the report, regarding his Cedi account at the same bank, it was opened on January 21, 2017 (before his appointment) with an amount of GH¢30,000. Subsequently, various cash amounts have been deposited regularly into the account, since the Respondent was appointed CEO of PPA.

The report further notes that as of August 29, 2019 respondent’s Cedi account had over GH¢3.83 million credit with an an amount of GH¢3.81 million debit. The Respondent’s EURO Account is the third account at Stanbic Bank, -Airport City Branch. As of August 29, 2019, his balance on the Euro Account stood at €54,500.00 (credit) and €37,333.00 (debit). The Respondent confirmed that he hand-delivers the cash to some individuals, whom he described as his relations officers at the Bank, to pay the monies into his account.

The CHRAJ in its findings, concluded among other things that Talent Discovery Limited (TDL) the company in the middle of the journalist’s investigation, was incorporated on June 19, 2017, three months after the Respondent was appointed CEO of PPA in March 2017, by the Respondent and his brother-in-law Francis Kwaku Arhin, the Respondent being the majority shareholder.

The Respondent is both a director and shareholder of TDL and Francis Arhin, the Respondent’s brother-in-law, is a director, shareholder and CEO of TDL. In effect, the Respondent has personal interest in TDL (financial and relational).

Although the Respondent claimed that he had resigned as director of TDL by reason of letter dated September 5, 2017 addressed to the CEO and Company Secretary of TDL, all the relevant official records of the company showed that he remained a director of TDL at all material times, and that his purported resignation letter had no probative value whatsoever.

The evidence, CHRAJ reiterated supports the allegation that TDL participated in a number of restricted tenders, which applications came before the Respondent in his capacity as CEO of PPA and member of the Board of PPA for approval.

The CHRAJ established that TDL was awarded 10 contracts through restricted tender between June 2017 and August 22, 2019. However, the evidence did not support the allegation of award of contracts through sole sourcing.

The Respondent participated in the decision-making process on restricted tender applications that had TDL shortlisted without disclosing his private capacity (financial and relational) interest in the company or recusing himself, except on one occasion, in violation of the Board’s resolution on the matter and Article 284 of the Constitution.

The evidence further showed that the Respondent, on at least two occasions, used his office as CEO of PPA improperly by altering the decision of the Board to the benefit of TDL, a company in which he has personal (financial and relational) interest.

Officials of TDL (Thomas Amoah, Administrative Manager, who is also sometimes described as General Manager, Project Manager or Group Manager, and Abigail, the Office Secretary), the company in which the Respondent is majority shareholder and director, were clearly seen and heard in the documentary offering to sell contracts awarded to TDL by public procurement entities through restricted tender.

The evidence also established a pattern of movement of large volumes of cash through the Respondent’s Bank Accounts between March 2017 and August 2019, far in excess of his known income (Stanbic Bank: USD Account – $516,225.00; Cedi Account – ¢3.83 million; Euro Account – EU54.500; UMB Bank: $110,000). The Respondent could not offer a satisfactory explanation to the source of that huge volume of cash that passed through his bank account between March 2017 and August 2019 (unexplained wealth).

“The totality of the evidence showed that the Respondent had put himself in a position where his personal interest (financial and relational) conflicted with the performance of the functions of his office as CEO and Board Member of PPA.”

“From the Respondent’s own mouth, his personal objective or reason for establishing TDL is quite evident, namely, to help his brother-in-law settle in Ghana after along stay in the UK, and to prepare for his own retirement from public office as he was then about 59 years. The brother-in-law, Francis Arhin, who became the CEO of TDL, substantially corroborates the Respondent’s account of the objective/reason for the establishment of TDL,” the report noted.

In 2001 a committee of enquiry set up by the then Minister of Works and Housing, Kwamena Bartels to investigate cases of embezzlement at the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) as reported by the Chief Internal Auditor, the Justice Nicholas Yaw Boafo Adade Committee of Enquiry, found a number of staff culpable and among them was Adjei.

The committee, among others found that certain regions had acquired large stocks of printed stationery, contrary to the GWCL Board’s directive that such stocks should not be purchased in excess of a year’s requirements of the particular region.

The committee also found that some regions had stocks of stationery that could last for 100 years. In the course of the investigations, the committee found other issues such as embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.

For instance, an untraceable amount of ¢800 million (old cedis) was written off from the creditors’ records of the company while an excess amount of about ¢3 billion (old cedis) was paid to a supplier.

Three chief managers and 14 other workers were implicated in the report.

The Adade Committee made recommendations some of the employees to be dismissed and added that they should face prosecution. The employees were Charles Adjei – Managing Director, A.B. Adjei – Chief Manager (materials) who was later appointed CEO of the PPA, Robert Tackie – Deputy Manager (Finance and Administration), Charles Mensah – Chief Manager (Commercial), S.G.O. Lamptey- Deputy Managing Director (Operations) and E.N.A. Amarteifio- Stores Manager.

Others are Peter Deamesi – Chief Manager (Administration), Albert Asomoah- Eastern Region stores, Eric Owusu-Ansah – Western Region stores, Madam Mary Ofori- Ashanti Region stores and Kenneth Ennin – Principal Revenue Officer.

The rest are Messrs Kofi Quarshie- Purchasing Officer, Atta Poku- Senior Audit Assistant, Henry Forson – Storekeeper, Charles Ansong Lawson (then retired) – Public Relations Manager and Capt Victor Ansah (rtd) – Consumer Relations Officer.

The Commission however indicated that Cobbie Kessie, former deputy Managing Director, who, after having been confirmed, was dismissed by the Board on the orders of Charles Adjei, should be compensated for wrongful dismissal, adding that the company may decide to reinstate him if the need to employ another deputy MD arises in the future.

“However, he, together with Messrs Charles Mensah, Peter Deamesi and A.B. Adjei misused an amount of ¢72.5 million so they should be investigated and prosecuted for causing financial loss to the state,” the Committee said.

Adjei, together with nine other staff were reinstated at Ghana Water, because the Attorney General’s Department, contrary to the Committee’s findings, couldn’t prosecute them for lack of sufficient evidence.

By 2003, Adjei and the others were left off the hook and in 2005, when the PPA was established, Adjei was made to head it, until his removal from office when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) won the 2008 elections. He was however returned to that office after the 2016 elections.

The CHRAJ has also made a recommendation that Adjei should be banned from public office for five years.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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