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General News Wed, 4 Apr 2001

Lotto Receivers & Workers Defy Minister's Order

Members of the National Lotto Receivers Union (NLRU) and workers of the Department of National Lotteries (DNL) on Wednesday prevented agents of Simnet Ghana Limited, a company claiming joint ownership of DNL, from installing their equipment on the premises of the DNL.

This is in spite of a letter by Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Minister of Finance that Simnet should be allowed to install its equipment.

The letter to the Acting Director of DNL quoted the 2001 budget, which said: "All agreements with the Department of National Lotteries relating to lotteries business, which were not yet operational should be suspended until further notice to enable the Ministry of Finance to study their revenue implications"

The Minister's letter dated 27th March 2001, said: "The purpose of this letter is to inform you that while the Ministry of Finance is studying the revenue implications of such agreements, Simnet personnel should be allowed to install the equipment in order not to create any technical problems."

Mr Osafo-Maafo said he hoped that the letter would clear all existing doubts regarding the budget statement on lotteries and that the DNL would extend the necessary co-operation to Simnet.

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The workers and lotto receivers, spotting red hand and head bands, rushed on the vehicle of Simnet's agents and prevented them from off-loading their equipment.

With the assistance of the Police, the agents of Simnet sat in their car and drove out of the DNL premises amidst shouts from the crowd.

The development is based on an agreement signed between Simnet, the previous management of DNL headed by Colonel (Rtd) Martin Gbikpi and the Ministry of Finance in June 1999.

Under the 10-year management and consultancy agreement Simnet would provide and operate computerised lotto coupon machines at DNL. The agreement is renewable in five years in either Malaysia or Britain.

The agreement, which did not become operational until the change of government, also committed the accounting, personnel and technical departments of the DNL to Simnet for the period.

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Mr Dan Mensah, Chairman of the over 10,000-member NLRU, told newsmen that the agreement was shrouded in secrecy, saying that it threatens the fate of both lotto receivers and workers of the DNL.

He explained that under the agreement, Simnet is to install computerised machines at communication centres, fuel stations and shops to sell coupons and said this would lead to loss of commission to lotto receivers and eventually retrenchment of DNL personnel.

Mr Mensah alleged that when the NLRU registered its disagreement to the deal last year, "Simnet officials offered to bribe us with 10,000 dollars to agree with the move."

"If the agreement is genuine, why should they offer to give us 10,000 dollars to keep mute and allow them to carry on?" he asked.

He said Col. Gbikpi, has created the impression that lottery needs to be computerised before it can generate enough revenue.

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However, he said, since the manual system was replaced with a computerised system, DNL's contribution to the national budget has taken a nosedive from 25 per cent in the 1980s to one per cent now.

Mr Mensah said information available to the NLRU indicates that Simnet was registered at the Registrar General's Department in March 1999, entered into agreement with DNL in June 1999 before registering with the National Investment Council in October the same year.

This, he said, raised questions about how genuine Simnet is, adding that the union members and DNL workers would continue to oppose the deal until the government invited all stakeholders to deliberate on issues affecting the industry.

They have, therefore, sent a petition to the Minister appealing for an opportunity to discuss the matter.

"Until then we will not sell coupons for DNL anymore - we will keep the proceeds of sales of coupons to ourselves," he said.

"If the government does not want us to help them settle some of the 41 trillion cedis debt then we will not trouble ourselves."

The Acting Director of DNL, Mr J. B. Danquah refused to comment on the issue and insisted, against the desire of workers, that newsmen should leave the premises of the DNL to allow him to hold a meeting with the workers.

Source: GNA