Friday, 25 September

Domelevo being "persecuted, hounded" – Manasseh; scores him 80%

Investigative journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni

Auditor-General Daniel Yaw Domelevo is being hounded out of office and persecuted for doing his work well as far as the fight against corruption and the protection of the public purse is concerned, investigative journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni has said.

“I think the office of the Auditor-General is the only serious institution we have in this country in terms of the fight against corruption,” Mr Awuni told Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show host Benjamin Akakpo on Monday, 9 December 2019.

Comparing Mr Domelevo’s work to that of the Martin Amidu-led Office of the Special Prosecutor, Mr Awuni said: “I felt Martin Amidu could do [something] better but I don’t see any seriousness from that office”, adding: “While I’ll give Martin Amidu’s office 20 per cent, I can score the Auditor-General and his office 80 per cent. So, I have a lot of trust in that office”.

Recently, there have been a back-and-forth between Mr Domelevo on the one hand and the Office of the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo Marfo as well as the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) on the other hand.

Mr Domelevo surcharged Mr Osafo Marfo for supervising the payment of $1 million to private firm Kroll & Associates for “no work done”, according to the 2018 Auditor-General’s report.

Just around the same time that Mr Domelevo was having his duel with the Senior Minister, EOCO launched a full-scale investigation into alleged procurement breaches against him vis-à-vis the purchase of some vehicles for the Audit Service.

A private citizen lodged a complaint with the state investigative body against the Auditor-General, the Deputy Auditor-General (Finance and Administration), Mrs Roberta Assiamah-Appiah, and the Audit Service Board, accusing them of circumventing the procurement laws.

Mr Domelevo, however, denied all the allegations and described the petition as a “storm in a teacup.”

In a letter to EOCO dated 18 November 2019, Mr Domelevo said: “You would recall that for close to four weeks now, your office has been inviting officers from the Ghana Audit Service including myself on the premise of investigating alleged procurement breaches in respect of some vehicles procured by GAS in 2008 for effective conduct and delivery of audit activities.

“I was personally invited by a letter dated 7 November 2019, which invitation I honoured out of respect for your office on 14 November 2019 only to be cautioned by your officers and asked for a caution statement which I gave. I had had to be granted bail – thanks to my driver – before I was allowed to leave your premises.

“A careful reading of your enabling law, the Economic and Organised Crime Act, 2010 (Act 804) as amended by the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959) and from discussions with my lawyers, I am of the firm belief that your office does not have the mandate to investigate any breaches under the Public Procurement Act.

“In fact, I am advised that the relevant provision in Act 959, which amended Act 804, is section 80, and therein, your office’s mandate to investigate corruption and corruption created offices, which has been defined to include procurement breaches, has been taken away.

“Thus, this power your offices purports to exercise now, has been effectively taken away by the amendment contained in section 79 of Act 959.”

However, in response, EOCO, in its statement, said: “Per section 3 of Act 804, the functions of the Office (EOCO) are to (a) investigate and on the authority of the Attorney General, prosecute serious offences.”

It explained that serious offences are further defined in section 74 of Act 804 extensively and not restricted to corruption-related offences.

According to the statement, Section 79 of the Special Prosecutor Act, Act 959, is limited to corruption-related offences under the category of the serious offence of the EOCO Act.

“It does not oust the jurisdiction of EOCO from investigating other serious offences that are not necessarily of a corruption-related nature,” it added.

EOCO said the investigations are in line with its legal mandate.

Subsequently, the Auditor-General filed a suit in court over the matter. In his writ, Mr Domelevo said: “I have been advised by my lawyers and verily believe same to be true that [the] Respondent [EOCO] has no statutory mandate to investigate the [Audit] Service and myself, either jointly or individually for any offences relating to breaches of the procurement laws of the Republic of Ghana”, since, according to him, matters of that nature are “within the statutory province of the Office of the Special Prosecutor.”

He insisted “EOCO is clearly acting with impunity and without regard for due process and the rule of law and above all my constitutional right to administrative justice”, adding that allowing the probe to go on will amount to allowing EOCO’s “ultra vires acts to go unchecked for which I shall continue to suffer irretrievable hardship, damage and harm as [the] Respondent will disrupt my constitutionally- and statutorily-mandated duty to the Republic.”

“It is just convenient for the court to intervene to restrain EOCO from continuing with its illegal and unlawful investigations and arrests of officers of the Audit Service pending the determination of the present suit as the balance of convenience is in Applicant’s favour”, Mr Domelevo said, noting that he dragged the Crime Office to court because “EOCO is hell-burnt on carrying on its purported investigations and has no plans to stop unless this honourable court intervenes.”

The A-G is seeking an “order of interlocutory injunction restraining EOCO by itself, its servants, agents, and all such persons however called, from undertaking or continuing to undertake any investigation of the Audit Service and Applicant for alleged breaches of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663).”

Asked by Benjamin Akakpo if he believed the sequence of events give credence to perceptions that Mr Domelevo is being persecuted, Mr Awuni said: “I believe so because it started with negative campaigns, publications, and that the Senior Minister has given him work to do and he said he wouldn’t do, and there was a problem with him and the Board and then this one, so, I sincerely feel, from what I know that it appears some people are not comfortable with him and would be very happy to get him out. That is what I feel, I feel he is being persecuted because if the government is really serious about fighting corruption, there are a lot of very damning revelations that are supposed to be prosecuted, that are supposed to be followed [but] nobody is doing that”.

He wondered why EOCO is not attaching the same seriousness to what he considers worse procurement breaches which have resulted in the country losing billions of Ghana cedis.

“… EOCO works under the Attorney General and, so, if the Audit Service bought cars worth GHS6 million and part of the procurement process, they claim, was breached, and they are so serious about it, I also know that this Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, gave advice on the Zoomlion contract, that contract is worth GHS270 million a year and then from 2013 when the contract expired, it hasn’t been renewed, it hasn’t been taken through the procurement process; up to 2019, it cost the state GHS1.620 billion.

“This did not go through the procurement process but the Attorney General said: ‘Well, allow it to run for another year or so’. So, if this is a government that is interested in procurement breaches, then the very first contract they should be dealing with was the Zoomlion contract. That one, there’s even no contract …

“So, if there’s another one that there’s a valid contract but part of the procurement process has issues and we are treating it with all the seriousness, and one that is even of a higher value and there’s evidence of fraud in that deal, the initial one didn’t go through procurement, it didn’t go through any tendering, there’s no contract, nothing; if you compare these two and you see where the state or the government is putting a lot of emphasis, then you can only conclude that: ‘Well, Domelevo is only doing his work well’, and in this country if you are doing your work well, prepare to come against such obstacles”, he noted.