Extensive investigations have revealed that some officials at the Ministry of Information are dipping their hands into state coffers under the pretext of rewarding journalists, reports the Daily Guide newspaper.
Documents available to the Daily Guide reveals how a presidential aide and member of government’s communication team, Stanislav Zoexe Dogbe is said to have collected GH¢169,000, the equivalent of 1.6 billion in a ‘Ghana Must Go bag’ under the pretext of an intensive public education campaign for the 2010 budget statement read by Finance Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffuor in November 2009.
Mr. Dogbe, who describes himself as a special aide to President Mills, however told Daily Guide that the money was approved by Zita Okaikoi, former Minister of Information as well as the Chief Director of the Ministry, Victor Horla Kwashie Senaya. According to him, part of the cash was used to buy Christmas hampers to selected journalists and to influence articles published in the media.
The amount of GH¢169,000 was signed and approved by L.F. Dzakpa and first released to the Chief Director of the Ministry with a payment voucher dated December 15, 2009 over a month after the budget had been read. The particulars of payment read: “being release funds to enable the Minister to meet expenses on the public education campaign on the 2010 Financial Budget statement.”
Interestingly, Stan who enjoys all the privileges of a deputy minister, by virtue of his position as a presidential aide, said the money was expended on activities like organizing an event for the Institute for Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ), radio and television interviews, paid for feature articles in selected newspapers and a program for editors of some media houses which were held before and during 2009 Christmas which he said included hampers given to editors and reporters as Christmas gifts.
Ministry of Information sources have meanwhile, explained to Daily Guide that government education campaigns were usually carried out by the Information Services Department (ISD) but Director Nee Agiri Barnor was kept in the dark about the money cashed for the so-called education campaign.
The money was released following a memo dated December 8, 2009 from the Director of Finance and Administration of the Ministry to the Principal Accountant with the consent of the Minister, asking for the release of an amount of GH¢169,000 to undertake what it described as “media management and coordination” in connection with the public education campaign on the 2010 budget. The request for the money was placed almost a month after the budget had been read.
This has raised questions of impropriety since the money did not go to the right channel-ISD – for the public education. Mr. Dogbe duly acknowledged receipt of the amount from the Principal Accountant of the Information Ministry with a receipt dated December 21, 2009 (3 days to Christmas), indicating it was to “enable me to carry out public education on the 2010 annual budget”, which interestingly was read on November 18, 2009 by the Finance Minister.
Though the stated reason for the release of the amount was for public education on the 2010 budget, it is not too clear what exactly the money was used for, as there is virtually nothing to show for it while Stan stammered through some explanations when contacted. Daily Guide has learnt auditors are finding it difficult to close the account of the Information Ministry because queries raised have still not been answered. Workers of the Information Services Department (ISD) have been alarmed at this and other developments at the Ministry, since Stan seems to have taken over most of their roles and responsibilities.
They are equally not happy with the way he seemingly throws his weight about as though he wields more powers than the Director of the ISD, Nii Agiri Barnor who has virtually been sidelined in the running of the Ministry. Stan is in full control of the dissemination of government information and occasionally issues statements on behalf of the two deputy minister, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and James Agyenim-Boateng.
Stan was however not forthcoming with information about how he spent the GH169,000 released to him in cash when contacted as he initially pretended not to know anything about the money. In a quivering voice, he said “I don’t even remember”, but quickly changed his statement to “I know that there was education on the budget activities but I don’t remember what…because…fine, I never handled funds related to that project, so I’m surprised that I would have signed for it.” He told the Daily Guide that he would check with the Chief Director and get back as quickly as possible the same day.
When reached later, he asked for a meeting which he said would be attended by the Minister of Information, John Tia Akologu and the Chief Director, the next day, Friday, so he could explain how he expended the taxpayers’ money since he had managed to secure the needed information on the issue. When he was called again on his cell phone, he said he could not hear well and after several ‘hello…hellos”, he suddenly dropped the call.
He later sent a text message saying there had been a change in plan and that he was travelling on an impromptu national assignment with Vice President John Mahama to Cape Coast to launch the National Youth Policy programme, with the promise to give details of the information about how the taxpayer’s money had been spent.
Later when Daily Guide managed to catch up with the presidential aide and a member of the government’s communication team, on the evening of Friday, August 13, 2010, he admitted to signing for and collecting the said money but said he did so on behalf of Zita Okaikoi who was the sector minister. He however claimed “there was absolutely nothing wrong with it”, and emphasized that “I don’t regret signing on behalf of the Minister”, suggesting the money was spent with the minister’s blessing.
When Minister Okaikoi was contacted, she advised Daily Guide to sort the issue out with the Chief Director of the Information Ministry.
Source: Daily Guide