General News of 2010-02-25

Child Labour Cash Lands In Wrong Pockets

By Larry-Alans Dogbey Enoch Teye Mensah, who was recently vetted as a minister-designate, would have his character tested when he assumes office and comes face to face with a clear case of conflict of interest, involving a departmental head under the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare. The outgoing minister, Stephen Kwao Amoanor, and his deputy, Antwi-Boasiko Sekyere, appear not to have shown interest in the matter, which The Enquirer’s Intelligence has revealed was investigated by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), which still has custody of it. The National Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour in Cocoa Farms, a donor-funded project under the Ministry, has become a goldmine for the officer-in-charge, Mrs. Rita Owusu Amankwah, who is the programme manager, and her husband, Yaw Owusu Amankwah, to amass funds from DANIDA, Ghana Cocoa Board and other sponsors of the programme. Mr. and Mrs. Owusu Amankwah set up and succeeded in smuggling their own Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called ‘Aid For Change Ghana,’ into a group of NGOs partnering the programme and managed to advance huge sums to it, purported to be for educating cocoa growing communities against the use of children in cocoa farms. When confronted by The Enquirer, Mrs. Amankwah confirmed she was part of the NGO, but denied its ownership. She declined to give out the names of its directors and insisted she only accepted an invitation by a friend to be part of the NGO, and thought that her loving husband should also be a partner. She described her membership of the NGO, which she claimed she has since resigned, as an act of indiscretion on her part, and insisted that there was nothing corruptible about her conduct. However, investigation by this paper unearthed documents, which prove the assertion of Mrs. Amankwah deceitful. The documents obtained from the Registrar Generals Department in Accra, name her and Mr. Owusu Amankwah as the first and second directors of “Aid for Change Ghana.” Mr. Amankwah is further listed on the document as the ‘Secretary’ and the person who, as a matter of fact, submitted the papers to get the NGO registered to the Registrar Generals’ Department. As of last year, out of a total amount of GHc100, 000 earmarked for the programme, GHc40,000 was paid into the Programme Manager’s NGO account at the Adum-Kumasi-Harper Road Branch of Standard Chartered Bank, The Enquirer investigations has revealed. The shocking thing about Mr. Owusu Amankwah’s NGO is that at the time of advancing these monies into its coffers, the NGO, which was registered in November 2008, had no track record at all in the areas for which the monies were advanced to it, even though track record was listed as a key requirement in the selection process. Again, although the number of districts given each partner NGO was based on track record and experience, “Aid For Change Ghana,” just few months after its formation, was given five districts, namely Tano South, Tano North, Ahafo Ano South, Asutifi and Dormaa in the Brong Ahafo Region, the highest number of districts given any single NGO under the project. Another scandalous thing about the project was that at the time that the huge monies were being advanced to “Aid For Change Ghana,” the Department of Social Welfare, had not granted it an operational license, which was another key requirement for an NGO to operate. Other documents on “Aid For Change Ghana,” sighted by The Enquirer, also reveal that another key official of the programme at the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, one Vincent Frimpong Manu, a Programme Remediation Officer of the project, is a board member of the project manager’s NGO. Indeed, Vincent Frimpong Manu, in his capacity as Programme Remediation Officer (1), applied to the Chief Director of the ministry, Mr. E. A. Akuffo, for the release of funds to ‘Aid for Change Ghana’, through Rita Owusu Amankwah herself, following a memo from the Managing Director of the NGO, Nelson Gyasi-Boadu, dated, June 23, 2009. It was further revealed that Nelson Gyasi-Boadu, who is based in Kumasi, is a front man for Mrs. Rita Owusu Amankwah, as she does all the paperwork in Accra, and calls him from the Ashanti Region to append his signature before sending it to the Chief Director, Mr. Akuffo, through either Mrs. Owusu Amankwah herself or Mr. Manu. Reports obtained by The Enquirer suggest that the day-to-day running of the NGO is technically done at the ministry, specifically in the office of the Programme’s Manager. A careful perusal of the documents, reveal that Nelson Gyasi-Boadu, who has been requesting for monies on behalf of the NGO, as Managing Director, is not an executive council member of ‘Aid For Change Ghana’. Members of the executive council include the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owusu Amankwah, Emmanuel Amofa, Alex Owusu Adjei and one Matilda Nyantakyi Broni, based in Kumasi, and said to be a lifelong pal of Rita. Rita is reported to have fallen for Matilda’s counsel, after she one day stormed the ministry and openly advised her to also ‘chop’ some of the donors’ cash, instead of doling it out to other NGOs to ‘chop’. This is said to have conceptualized the formation of “Aid For Change Ghana.” The Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, Mr. Antwi-Boasiako Sekyere, when reached, told The Enquirer that the issue was brought to their (he and Mr. Stephen Kwao Amoanor) attention in September, last year by the BNI, which also informed them of its investigations. However, since that time, no attempt has been made, according to the Deputy Minister, to know the outcome of the BNI probe. “We are waiting on the BNI to bring their report to us,” he told The Enquirer, when asked why the ministry had not followed up on the investigations. Meanwhile, another document written to the Chief Director by the head of the Internal Audit Unit of the ministry, Mr. Eric Afriyie, dated December 15, 2009, and sighted by The Enquirer, has called for an immediate termination of the partnership between the programme and “Aid For Change Ghana.” It described the involvement of Mrs. Rita Owusu Amankwah in “Aid for Change Ghana” and its partnership with the ministry as a conflict of interest issue, and therefore it must be terminated.Source: The Enquirer
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