Former Board Chairman of the National Communications Authority (NCA), Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, has reportedly started returning his share of the money he and his colleagues unlawfully pocketed in that state agency.
According to Mustapha Hamid, Information Minister, Mr Baffoe-Bonnie, former Board Chairman appointed under the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, had paid $40,000 out of his share of $200,000 from a total amount of $4 million meant for buying phone tapping gadgets.
After reportedly admitting that they took $4 million unlawfully from the state kitty, some former members of the board of the NCA said they were prepared to refund the cash when they appeared before the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), which is probing the graft.
The $4 million was meant to pay an Israeli company which had a contract with the government.
The contract, worth $8 million, was meant to buy ‘spying and phone tapping’ equipment for the National Security Secretariat, but $4 million out of the total amount ended up in private accounts, with $1.5 million of the money going to the NCA board of directors.
According to the Information Minister, Mr John Mahama’s NDC government had contracted NSO Group Technology Limited of Israel to supply eavesdropping gadgets worth $6 million and the equipment were meant to help the government monitor the calls of suspected terrorists.
In the course of the transaction, Mustapha Hamid said a local agent – Infraloks Development Limited – headed by one George Oppong, charged $2 million as facilitation fee, bringing the total amount to $8 million.
He said investigations indicated that Alhaji Salifu Osman, a Deputy National Security Coordinator, who represented the NSS on the NCA board, was the main architect of the whole deal.
The chairman of the NCA Board, who is a younger brother of Seinti Baffoe-Bonnie – then senior staffer to former President John Mahama – allegedly took $1.5 million and shared it among members, pocketing $200,000 himself.
The NCA, with instruction from the National Security, made $4 million part-payment into the private account of the local agent of the Israeli company at Ecobank and subsequently transferred $1 million to the company in Israel.
The $3 million left in the account was then split into two, with less than half going into the pockets of board members and the chairman allegedly taking the lion’s share of $200,000.
Records are showing that apart from Mr. Baffoe-Bonnie, the NCA Director-General, William Mathew Tevie, allegedly pocketed $150,000; the local agent, George Oppong, reportedly had $100,000; Alhaji Salifu Osman, the Deputy National Security Coordinator was allegedly given $70,000 and Dr. Nana Owusu–Ensaw, another board member, purportedly took home $500,000 to be shared with other unnamed persons.
The local representative of the Israeli company, a certain Penny, was also said to have been paid $100,000.
The information minister said that if political power did not shift, he was sure nobody would have known about what he described as a classic case of ‘create, loot and share.’
According to the minister, National Security, which did not have the funds for the equipment, allowed the NCA with supervisory mandate over such gadgets to fund the project.
While the Israeli suppliers were groaning for their money for the equipment supplied from the new NPP government, the former board members were gloating with free state cash.
According to Mustapha Hamid, demands by the Israeli firm to be paid the $5 million balance after the Mahama administration had lost power in the December 2016 elections prompted the Akufo-Addo government to probe the transaction, which unconfirmed reports say was not part of the handing over notes from the NDC government.
The equipment is reportedly languishing in someone’s garage.
He said apart from Alhaji Osman, the others have admitted to the crime and have been given bail after the BNI had interrogated them but said Alhaji Osman remains at large.
The minister said George Oppong had refunded $1 million while others had also promised to refund everything.
“BNI hasn’t even decided at this stage because they believe that the money must be returned. … If they succeed in retrieving the money then they will decide their next action,” Mr Hamid said.
According to him, the transaction was a clear case of top officials colluding to plunder the state coffers.
“The reason why this is a classic case of ‘create, loot and share’ is that…it was basically Alhaji Osman, acting as Deputy National Security Coordinator, who spearheaded this deal. …People cannot just go and open a state vault and take whatever that is in there,” the minister cautioned.
By William Yaw Owusu