General News of Thu, 15 Feb 20188
CJ probes 2 court registrars over embezzlement of fines
The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, has dispatched three top auditors from the Judicial Service to probe embezzlement at the Adjabeng District Magistrate Court in Accra, while calls for the interdiction of the two accused registrars intensify.
The team, led by the Head of the Non-Tax Revenue Unit of the Judicial Service, Mr Eric Boamah, stormed the Adjabeng Court last week to collect receipt books covering fees and fines for verification.
Mrs Patience Nai, a High Court Registrar, and Mr David Laryea, a Circuit Court Registrar, who is also an assistant referee, have, for many months, allegedly diverted and pocketed unspecified sums of money in court fines and fees.
A source close to the registrar’s office hinted the Daily Graphic that the diversion of court fees and fines was a practice at the Adjabeng Court Registry spanning many years.
A three-month investigation undertaken by the Daily Graphic established that conviction to a fine of GH¢2,400 in the case of the Republic v. Eric Duah, paid by the convict on May 17, 2017, was diverted and embezzled by the two cashiers.
The Daily Graphic has gathered that the investigations instituted by the audit team established by the Chief Justice would take a month to complete.
Already, the team has spent more than five days at the court verifying court receipts against amounts deposited into the Consolidated Fund.
A source at the Judicial Service who pleaded anonymity told the Daily Graphic that “all the case dockets and receipt books for the last two years have been collected by the auditors”.
Group demands interdiction
Ahead of the probe, Imani Ghana and the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), in separate interviews, called for the interdiction of those alleged to have pocketed court fines and fees.
The Executive Director of the GII, Mrs Linda Ofori-Kwafo, called for the interdiction of the parties involved in the corrupt act at the court, so that they did not interfere with investigations.
She said if the positions of those being investigated could influence the process, then they must be required to step aside.
“Asking them to step aside is to ensure that those accused of embezzlement do not interfere with the investigations,” she said.
Mrs Ofori-Kwafo called for the automation of the payment process to minimise corruption at the courts, which was becoming widespread.
She said several studies by anti-corruption institutions in the past had pointed to widespread corruption within the Judiciary, which had not been adequately resolved.
The President of Imani Ghana, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, also added his voice to calls for the interdiction of the two implicated in the embezzlement scandal.
That, he said, would pave the way for unimpeded investigations to unravel the level of embezzlement at the court.
“People who have been implicated in the investigations must be told to step aside, paving way for full auditing to be done. This will lead to a perfect conclusion to be arrived at,” he said.
Missing court cash
According to the 2015 Auditor-General’s report, the Judicial Service consistently failed to reconcile revenue totalling GH¢5,815,845 million and £75,000.
The report stated that the Auditor-General could, therefore, not confirm whether the revenue and deposits had been credited to the accounts of the courts.
Again, in 2016, the commercial courts under-stated their revenue by GH¢21,033,516. The 2016 report stated that two cashiers at the Commercial Court in Accra inadvertently under-stated total collections in the revenue and deposit cash books by GH¢20,893,095.76 and GH¢140,420.24, respectively, resulting in a total understatement of GH¢21,033,516.
According to the Auditor-General, the situation occurred due to the failure of the accounts units to carry out regular reconciliation exercise.
It is recalled that in 2016, a cashier at the Ho District Magistrate Court, Ms Theresa Tetteh of the HFC Bank, allegedly misappropriated GH¢12,142.60 from the money collected as court fines and fees.
Again, in 2015, Ms Agatha Abassa-Addo, a cashier at the Nkroful Magistrate Court in the Western Region, allegedly caused the payment of GH¢33,590.70 from the Deposit Account as refund to claimants but failed to produce evidence of application letters, acknowledgement receipt, witnesses and contact addresses.
Between January 2010 and November 2011, Mr Marcellinus Tordidzah, a cashier at the magistrate court, had embezzled GH¢2,957.20 in revenue to the courts.
Stealing at BA courts
The Auditor-General had, in 2016, recommended that the accountant of the Fiapre Circuit Court ‘B’ should be held liable for his inability to produce bank statements from the Ghana Commercial Bank to authenticate total revenue of GH¢193,393.20 purportedly deposited with the bank.
In 2016, the Sunyani High Court collected total revenue of GH¢135,829.00 from judgement deposits between March and July 2015.
However, reconciliation of the cashbook and the bank statement revealed that GH¢125,369.70 was rather lodged, leaving GH¢10,495.30 unaccounted for.
According to the Auditor-General in its 2016 report, the registrar’s failure to supervise the work of the cashier and undertake regular reconciliation had resulted in the anomaly.
It consequently recommended that the total amount of GH¢10,495.30 be refunded by the registrar and the cashier.