Information Minister Strangely ‘Missing’
The current loud silence by the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has set tongues wagging, as to what might have caused the eloquent young politician’s sudden quietness on all airwaves.
Mr. Oppong Nkrumah, who is the chief spokesperson of the government, went into hibernation for the better part of last year, and even this year,he is not coming out to explain government policies and programmes as he used to.
Many had begun to wonder what was causing the obvious silence until the Auditor-General’sCOVID-19 audit report, from March 2020 to June 2022, reared its head into the public barely two weeks ago.
The report, which had indicted some appointees of government, departments and agencies, also cited the Information Ministry for misappropriating huge sums ofthe COVID-19 funds.
Even though the minister went silent long before the report was released few weeks ago, some are of the view that the minister, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for the OfoaseAyirebiin the Eastern Region,knew ahead what was waiting to happen, the reason he has been quiet.
According to the A-G Johnson AkuamoahAsiedu’s report, the ministry paid unapproved GH₵151,500 to its own staff as COVID-19 insurances.
The report also said allowances totaling GH¢811,800.00 were paid to staff of the Information Ministry “without adequate supporting documents.”
But at the ministry, which Mr. Oppong Nkrumah has headed over the last five years, the staff are amazed at the report by the A-G, as many have been wondering where the said money went to.
The Anchor’s sources say, since the report emerged, the workersof the ministry have been meeting in small groups and talking about the expose.
The staff, this paper gathered, are absolving themselves of any money paid to them and are blaming the minister, asking where and whom he paid the money to.
Interestingly, since the report was released, the outspoken MP and minister has refrained from commenting on it.
Already, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has said Mr. Oppong Nkrumah and his staff must refund all “unjustifiable” payments made to them under the cloak of COVID-19 allowances.
At a press conference on the Auditor-general’s report on Ghana’s COVID-19 funds, the National Communications Officer of the NDC, Mr. SammyGyamfi, told journalists last Wednesday, 1st February 2023, that “it also emerged that at the height of the pandemic when frontline health workers complained about the lack of adequate PPE, with some even losing their lives, senior management and supporting staff of the Ministry of Information were busy paying themselves a total amount of GHS151,000.00 as ‘COVID-19 risk allowance’ without approval.”
“One may ask: what risk did these staff of the Ministry of Information, led by the minister, Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, face to warrant the sharing of such colossal amounts of money among themselves as risk allowances without approval?”
“What is even more bizarre,” Mr.Gyamfi pointed out, “is the finding by the Auditor-General that allowances totalling GH¢811,800.00 were paid to staff of the Information Ministry without adequate supporting documents.”
“The Auditor-General noted that apart from expenditure memos and signed sheets, there were no activity or programme reports to support and authenticate the allowances paid,” he noted.
He further said: “It goes without saying, that the Minister of Information and his staff must immediately refund these unjustifiable payments to the state coffers or be held to account.”
His comments come after the Auditor-General’s report revealed some infractions in government’s expenditure for COVID-19 spanning from March 2020 to June 2022.
The NDC national communication officer called on President Akufo-Addo to fire all the ministers implicated in the report.
He mentioned them as Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu and Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.
Mr.Gyamfi listed further some of the corrupt practices that were uncovered as payment of a total of US$607,419.02 out of US$4,049,460.12 for the purchase of 26 ambulances that were never delivered, and paying for $80million worth of vaccines by the government that were never delivered, among others.
He further asked the President to also sack the chief executive of the National Food Buffer Stock Company, and all other officials who were cited in the report for violating the laws of the country in their expenditure of the COVID-19 funds.
Mr.Gyamfi also urged the Office of the Special Prosecutor to “investigate all ministers and public officials who have been cited in the report for wrongdoing and bring them to book.”
He went on to urge Parliament to compel the Auditor-General to exercise his power of surcharge and disallowance to retrieve all COVID-19 funds that have been “misapplied or misused through various infractions and veritable acts of criminality.”