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General News Tue, 29 Nov 2005

Government losing billions

....through fraud and collusion at high places
Alhaji Moctar Bamba, the former deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs, who was forced to resign in the wake of a major scandal, is in the news again, even as he intensifies his campaign to secure the position of NPP national organizer.

Evidence from official court records, judgements, together with Police memoranda indicate how deeply he abused his office at the Presidency and hi-jacked the auction business, which he controlled from his desk then, and succeeded in squashing a number of auctioneers, depriving them of their livelihood because they raised their voices against the massive corruption that was going on in the business.

"I think the 1st plaintiff, Abdulahi Showumi Williams, and all his colleagues deserve commendation, having taken the fight against corruption and disorder in the Auction business to the authorities concerned. The governments, for the past 14 years, failed to establish the Auctioneers Registration Board until after the plaintiffs have issued the writ against the government. What is unfortunate is that the plaintiff started drawing government's attention to the breach of Law 230 as far back as between the years 2000 and 2002. They were ignored until April 2004."

The above, was part of the ruling of Mr. Justice Victor Ofoe, at the Fast Track Court in Accra on Tuesday, November 8, 2005 in consolidated suit numbers AP5/2003 & AHR4/2005.

The 1st plaintiff in the above cases, Alhaji A. Showumi Williams, chairman of the Ghana Auctioneers Association (GAA), and some of his colleagues, pushed hard to rid the system of systemic corruption and abuses in the business. In the end, they courted the displeasure not only of some government bodies, but also their own members.

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Their reward was a purported removal of some of their members from office and the strangulation of their business by officialdom.

Together with most of his colleagues who are legitimately licensed auctioneers, Alhaji Williams has not been awarded any public auction sales to date.

The woes of the plaintiffs began when the Chief Internal Auditor of the Service, Nene Sasraku I, cited Premier Mart's handling of an auction sale of the Service's vehicles to be "quite unethical and unacceptable" because "the established procedure has been side stepped" and recommended a police investigation.

A police audit report revealed that even though on record, police vehicle with registration number GP 157 had been auctioned for ?2.1 million, it was not taken away, but rather police Nissan patrol with registration number GP 188, which was not auctioned, was taken away.

According to the report, 'after realizing that his deal would be exposed, the auctioneer, quickly ran to the Castle and managed to secure a letter from the Office of the President, which had allocated the said vehicle and one other, GP 1826, to some named persons.'

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The Association wrote to the auctioneer and suspended him as its National Treasurer, pending the outcome of the police investigations.

However, another letter from the Chief Internal Auditor, dated March 26, 2002, informed the GAA that 'following a discussion held with the Honourable Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs, Alhaji Moctar Musah Bamba, and upon the advise of Deputy Commissioner -Technical and General Services, it has been agreed to drop the above investigation requested for by this outfit.'

Reasons cited by the police for such an about-turn was that they did not want a confrontation with the Office of the President as well as the GAA.

The police however, cautioned that it had 'resolved not to entertain in future such (un)ethical behaviour from any auctioneer and promise to act swiftly, decisively and explicitly, should such a thing recur.'

The police appealed to the Association to 'always assign your officers who are of good ethical and professional standing for such an important national exercise,' and commended it for the concern and swift manner in which it had handled the matter.

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Within three months of being left off the hook by the police, following Alhaji Bamba's intervention, Mr. Doku on July 4, 2002, sent a demand notice to Mr. Williams, with a week's ultimatum, to surrender all financial books and monies collected on behalf of the Association.

Correspondence, some of which dates back to 2001, recall the frustrations encountered by the auctioneers.

The association drew Bamba's attention to the directive from J. O. Obetsebi-Lamptey, who was then the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff, to him (Bamba) that he should contact GAA for a list of its paid-up members and deal with them.

According to the association, in spite of providing 'a list of registered Auctioneers compiled by order of seniority and lodged at your office by this Association at your request, we have observed with dismay that you have appointed out of turn, a number of Auctioneers, ... . without consultation with the Auctioneers Association.'

They also accused Bamba of having taken auction jobs from a senior and experienced auctioneer and awarded them to his relatives who had just been registered, to conduct auction sales at Cocoa Marketing Board and CEPS, in Sunyani.

After several complaints to various quarters, Alhaji Williams, on February 5, 2003, fired off a letter to H. E. President J. A. Kufuor, through the Chief of Staff, with a copy to the chairman of the Council of State.

In the letter headed 'Government Losing Billions Of Cedis Through Massive Corruption And Fraud In Auction Sales of Assets', the association had pointed out how auction sales of government assets had become 'a source of quick and devilish money-making by fraudulent and illegitimate auctioneers and their collaborators in Government and in the civil service, who have taken advantage of the prevailing fraudulent and corrupt auction sales procedures.'

The GAA chairman revealed to the president how government vehicles, equipment, and other assets were pegged at ridiculously low prices by 'a valuer with doubtful credentials, qualification and competence at the command of Hon. Alhaji Moctar Bamba, Chairman of the Auction Sales Committee, who subsequently appoints illegitimate and unqualified auctioneers to sell clandestinely to their favourite customers for their mutual benefits, and to the detriment of the state.'

'The procedures,' according to GAA, 'makes it possible for those corrupt and illegitimate auctioneers to pay huge bribes to their collaborators in Government and in the civil service, for undeserving allocation of jobs,' adding that these fraudulent practices deprived the state of billions of cedis.

Meanwhile, when The Chronicle contacted Alhaji Bamba for his comments on the aforementioned, he denied ever being the Chairman of any Auction Sales Committee nor could he remember any case involving Mr. E. A. Doku of Premier Mart.

Source: Chronicle
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