After reportedly admitting that they took $4 million unlawfully from the state kitty, some former members of the board of National Communications Authority (NCA) have said they are prepared to refund the cash.
The $8 million contract was meant to buy ‘spying and phone tapping’ equipment for the National Security Secretariat but $4 million out of the total amount allegedly ended up in private accounts, with $1.5 million of the money going to NCA board of directors under then President Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.
While the Israeli suppliers were chasing the money for the equipment supplied, the former board members were gloating with ‘free’ state cash.
DAILY GUIDE has learnt that the former board chairman, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie – a junior brother of Seinti Baffoe-Bonnie, then senior staffer to former President John Mahama – has pledged to ‘mobilize’ his colleagues to refund the money.
He reportedly asked for one month (end of May 2017) to return his loot and get the other board members to negotiate with Ecobank to refund the rest of the money into NCA account.
Apparently, it was a scene of blame game when some of the directors faced interrogators over the missing $4 million.
One top former NCA boss was said to have put up a spirited defence by denying ever taking the money, but Baffoe-Bonnie quickly reminded him that all of them were part of the loot.
DAILY GUIDE learnt that the local agent, George Oppong who was given $100,000, is cooperating with the investigators while Alhaji Salifu Osman, who was a chief director at the Ministry of the Interior – before John Mahama appointed him a Deputy National Security Coordinator – who was reportedly given $70,000, is said not to be cooperating with the investigators. Efforts to reach him yesterday were unsuccessful as he was not picking his calls. George Oppong is equally ready to return the $1.5 million sitting in his account to the NCA.
Although the former directors are making frantic efforts to refund the money, there are unconfirmed reports that the past board members might be charged for abuse of office and causing financial loss to the state.
It has been reported that the importation of the equipment from an Israeli company was even concealed from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration as the equipment were reportedly moved into a private property at the time NPP took over – with no documentation at the National Security Secretariat on them.
There was no inventory or traces of the deal in the handing over notes left behind by the Mahama-led government, making the whole transaction look suspicious.
Sources say the NCA was approached by the National Security under the NDC administration to provide funding for the spying and phone tapping equipment purchased from Israel for supposed counter terrorism operations.
However, instead of the $4 million paid by the NCA going to the suppliers, only $1 million reportedly got to the Israeli company, with the rest shared among some of the board members.
Like spoils of war, the chairman allegedly took $1.5 million and shared it among members, pocketing $200,000 himself.
The total contract sum for the project was said to be $8 million and the Israeli company was supposed to get $6 million while a local agent was to keep $2 million.
The NCA, with instruction from the National Security, made $4 million part-payment into the private account of the local agent 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.
William Mathew Tevie, who was the Director General, had $150,000; the local agent, George Oppong had $1,000,000; Alhaji Salifu Osman, a Deputy National Security Coordinator who represented the NSS on the NCA board, was allegedly given $70,000 and Dr. Nana Owusu-Ensaw, another board member, allegedly took home $500,000 to be shared with other unnamed persons.
The local representative of the Israeli company, a certain Penny, was also paid $100,000.
The Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) has already had sessions with some of the people mentioned who have confessed receiving the money, while others are denying any knowledge of the deal.
They are being investigated for abuse of office and causing financial loss to the state.
According to National Security sources, the money was not approved by the NCA board as there was no minute to support the payment, except instruction to the finance officer of the NCA to do the payment.
Report says the cover of the transaction was blown by the Israeli company which was persistent in demanding the payment of the service rendered, having shipped the phone tapping equipment to Ghana and cleared them from the port.
This persistent demand drew the attention of the National Security hierarchy to the deal, upon which Alhaji Osman was invited for interrogation.
Being under pressure, he conceded that they actually imported the equipment after which he allegedly refused to cooperate with the investigators.
By William Yaw Owusu