Drama At Abuga Pele Trial

Abuga Pele
There was drama at an Accra Financial Court yesterday when a prosecution witness in the much-touted Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) trial tried to distance himself from a cheque he purportedly signed.

‘I don’t recollect signing any cheque. I don’t remember seeing any cheque. The cheque I saw was in respect of GH¢826,153.64 and not this GH¢800,000 cheque before me. How it came about, I don’t know,’ Dr Shaibu Ahmed Gariba, who until September 2014 was the Director General of Management Development and Productivity Institute (MDPI), told the court.

The former National Coordinator of National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) and NDC MP for Chiana-Paga, Abuga Pele, and Philip Akpeena Assibit, CEO of Goodwill International Group (GIG), are standing trial for causing huge financial losses to the state.

Dr Gariba’s position, during cross examination by Raymond Bagnabu, counsel for Assibit, that he could not be sure of his signature on a Zenith Bank cheque resulted in a sharp argument between the prosecution and the defence.

Marina Appiah Opare, a Principal State Attorney who led the witness in evidence, objected to the tendering of the document on the grounds that it had no relevance in the subject matter—which was, consultancy services allegedly provided by Assibit for which payment was made.

She said the content on the document related to Oil & Gas training for NYEP beneficiaries, adding, ‘these are two different cases here.’

However, Mr Bagnabu said the witness and Assibit were joint signatories to the account in question and could not turn around to deny it, adding that the witness had given an extensive account of how MDPI and GIG collaborated in the NYEP projects.

After a back-and-forth argument, the trial judge, Justice Afia Asare Botwe, admitted the document in evidence on the grounds that ‘the document is relevant to determine the credibility of the witness.’

When asked by counsel whether GIG never prefunded any activity in its relationship with NYEP, the witness said he had no such evidence.

Pre-financing of contract
When pressed for the reasons he signed the document which showed collaboration between MDPI and GIG, including pre-financing of projects, Dr Gariba said: ‘I signed it without knowing the work they did. If it was today, I would not sign.’

PW5 told the court that MDPI did not have any direct contract with NYEP or the Ministry of Youth and Sports and insisted that GIG did not subcontract consultancy services under the Youth Enterprise Development Project (YEDP) to MDPI.

He also insisted that even if some staff of MDPI worked with GIG or went on tour in Kenya under the YED project, it was not done in their official capacity.

‘Under the contract between MDPI and GIG, there was no Tracer Study. We signed for Exit Strategy and this was done on condition that the $65 million will have to arrive first before we could proceed to work.’

Dr Gariba, who told the court he was a labour specialist in Canada until his appointment to MDPI in September 2010, said the institute was a sub-vented organisation that helped to build the capacities of both the public and private sectors through training and consultancy.

He said initially it was a company called Goodwill Solutions Associates Africa Limited, with an address in Mauritius and Assibit as the representative, that had signed an MoU with MDPI in 2009 to provide consultancy and other services for that NYEP and other institutions.

He said he got to know from Assibit about the $65 million from the World Bank for the YED project and eventually had a contract with GIG on the project, which was signed on January 17, 2011.

He said the MDPI and NYEP did not have any contract under the YED project, saying, ‘MDPI rendered no service to NYEP under the contract. I had no knowledge of monies raised in the name of MDPI and I only got to know about it from EOCO.’

He told the court that Assibit once showed him a cheque of GH¢826,153.64 payable to MDPI/GIG, which he said ‘was for prefunding activities of accessing the World Bank loan and I told him to return it.’

‘I was scared about it. I hadn’t seen such an amount before. I was told later at EOCO it was cashed,’ he added.

He said the contract was ‘highly dependent on $65 million coming but since no service was rendered, we did not do anything’, adding that ECO showed him letterheads of MDPI, which were signed by Assibit though he did not work with the institute.

C harges
The Chiana-Paga MP is facing six counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state under Section 179A (3) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 Act 29, two counts of abetment under Sections 20(1) and 131(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and one count of intentionally misapplying public property, contrary to Section 1(2) of the Public Property Protection Act, 1977 (SMCD) 140.

Mr Assibit, who is the first accused person on the other hand, is facing six counts of defrauding by false pretences, contrary to Section 131(1) of the Criminal and Offences Act 1960 (Act 29) and five counts of dishonestly causing loss to public property contrary to Section 2(1) of the Public Property Protection Act, 1977 (SMCD) 1.

Accused persons
The accused persons are on trial for the various roles they played, which the Attorney General’s Department said caused huge financial loss to the state.

The NDC MP is accused of wilfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢3,330,568.53 while Assibit is being tried for defrauding the state of an amount equivalent to $1,948,626.68.

The two have pleaded not guilty and are currently on bail.

By William Yaw Owusu

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