An Accra High Court trying five former National Communications Authority (NCA) board members yesterday heard how the authority’s support for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) was captured in the minutes of the board’s meeting but the deal for which they are being tried was not recorded.
Mrs. Asafu-Adjei, first prosecution witness (PW), who is the Director of Legal Administration at the NCA, told the packed court that the Cyber Surveillance System deal, which the accused persons claim was going to be used for anti-terrorism, could not be traced in any of the minutes of the board’s meetings, even though $4 million was paid out.
The payment was said to have been carried out without the board’s approval; and the then National Security Coordinator, Yaw Donkor, was also not aware of the deal.
The immediate-past board members, including Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, Chairman; William Mathew Tetteh Tevie, former Director General of the NCA; Dr Nana Owusu Ensaw, former chairman of finance sub-committee of the NCA board; Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, former National Security Deputy Coordinator on the NCA board, as well as George Derek Oppong, private businessman/Director of Infraloks Development Limited (IDL), have been charged with wilfully causing financial loss to the state and stealing.
The witness, continuing with the evidence-in-chief, explained to the court how the NCA, apart from its mandated monitoring duties, also provided some financial support to some state institutions subject to the approval of the governing board of the authority.
She said the state broadcaster was one of such institutions.
According to Mrs. Asafu-Adjei, the Minister of Communications occasionally writes to the Authority to provide some institutional support to agencies under the ministry and that these requests come in the form of letters directed to the Director General; and subject to the approval of the board, payment is affected.
She said in 2015, for instance, the NCA board approved a request from the Communications Minister to support the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation to procure some equipment and “My Lord, the board considered the request and approved GH¢2.252,313.61 for the said procurement.”
She told the court that aside the institutional support given to the GBC – which is duly captured in the minutes of the NCA board’s meeting – there is no other institutional support approved by the board.
The NCA lawyer, who was being led in her evidence-in-chief by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Attakora Obuobisa, told the court that until late last year when a Cyber Security Unit was created at the Information Communication and Technology Department of the NCA, the Authority had nothing to do with Cyber Security as it was not part of its original mandate.
She said at no point in time in 2015 did the NCA board meet to discuss issues of procuring a Cyber Surveillance System, nor a contract between the Authority and Infraloks Development Limited (IDL) – which explains why it did not appear in any of the minutes of the boards’ meetings, the procurement plan, or the budget.
Mrs. Asafu-Adjei concluded her evidence-in-chief by stating that “in any case, where there is the need for institutional support which hitherto was not budgeted for, the board would have to consider their request, approve it, before funds are made available.”
She said, however, that that did not happen with the purported NCA-IDL contract.
In his cross-examination, Thaddeus Sory, counsel for Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, suggested to the witness that she had never been happy with his client and if she had the opportunity, she would ‘pay him back,’ to which the witness said could not be true.
Mrs. Asafu-Adjei earlier told the court at the last sitting that in July 2015, she was asked to proceed on leave with immediate effect as she had accumulated 154 leave days.
She said when she returned from her leave on March 23, 2016, she was stripped of her duties as Director of Legal Administration and made to serve as Director of Policy and Innovation until there was a change in administration in 2016.
Mr. Sory then sought to insist that the witness was seeking revenge for the decision by testifying against the witness; but the witness parried the suggestion, saying she had a good relationship with Mr Baffoe-Bonnie.
Counsel (Mr. Sory): As a very good friend of the Board Chairman, why did you not find out why you were treated differently from other colleagues who had accumulated longer leave days?
Witness (Mrs. Asafu-Adjei): I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t ask anybody especially when I needed it.
Counsel: Why did you not ask for it earlier if you so needed it?
Witness: My leave had been deferred. If they (defence lawyers) had access to my file they would notice that my leave had been deferred and I was sometimes recalled from leave so I took a few days’ leave instead of the full 36 days.
Asked whether she notified the Public Procurement Authority about the irregularities in the NCA-IDL contract for it to be investigated, she recalled telling the court that the NCA did not have an idea about the deal and she only got to know about it when investigators showed it to her.
Mr. Sory then put it to her that the request for the Cyber Surveillance System came as a request from the National Security as an institutional support, but she said it is a notorious fact that the National Security has a huge financial capability to support itself.
She said even if the request came, it would have gone to the board and minutes of the board’s meeting would have reflected it.
Agbesi Dzakpasu, who is representing Mr. Tevie, started his cross-examination and questioned the authenticity of the NCA budget tendered in evidence since it did not contain any figures; and the witness said that was the style of the then secretary who prepared the budget.
Sitting continues on Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
By Gibril Abdul Razak