The Ajumako Magistrate Court has ordered fourteen staff of the Ajumako-Enyan-Essiam District Assembly (AEE) to pay back into government treasury the GH¢21,244 they fraudulently earned as salaries.The court, presided over by His Lordship K.B. Enimil, also slapped a fine of GH¢150 each on the accused persons, for abetting and conspiring with one Emmanuel Osafo Aduamuah, the ringleader of the group, and an accountant at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture stationed at Breman Essikuman to illegally promote themselves with increases in their salaries.

The court had earlier slapped a fine of GH¢1,000 on Emmanuel Osafo Aduamuah for abetment, conspiring and forging the promotion of the 14 staff of the local assembly, and subsequent loss of GH¢21,244 to the state. In default, he was to serve 18 months in prison with hard labour.

Prior to last Thursday’s (July 28, 2011) ruling by the Magistrate Court, the accused persons, namely Georgina Appiah, Gifty Obeng, Florence Baidoo, Kofi Dei, Kwame Yawson, Maxwell K. Adjokatcher, Matthew Appiah, Christian Boatemaa, Stephen Addae, Collins Hammond, Sarah Quaboh, Stephen Otabil, Emmanuel Quaboh and Felicia Ampah were standing trial on three counts of abetment, conspiracy and forging documents to promote themselves to the position of senior rank, with subsequent increases in their salaries.

Each of them pleaded guilty with explanation when the court sat on July 20, 2011 to determine their fate. However, the count of forgery on each of the accused was dropped, having taken into account the explanation provided by each accused.

“After listening to the explanations of the 14 accused persons, the story is the same. They sent their documents to one Emmanuel Osafo, who forged the documents of the District Assembly to get them promoted. So, the offense of forgery against these accused persons cannot stand. They are all not guilty of forgery,” noted His Lordship Enimil in his ruling.

The three counts of forgery, abetment and conspiracy on a staff of the Data Department of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Juliet Frimpong, were also dropped by the court, with His Lordship Enimil ordering the investigator in the case to prefer an appropriate charge against the accused.

Prior to His Lordship Enimil’s ruling, the accused persons, some of whom have worked with the Assembly for 14 years, took turns to explain how each of them got in touch with Emmanuel Osafo Aduamuah to assist them get promotion, with subsequent increases in their salaries, since all attempts by the AEE District Assembly to get them promoted proved futile.

“My Lord, I have been at the Assembly since 1997. I was promoted in the year 2000, and have since remained at where I am. I complained to management and they promised to get me promoted, but they have not been forthcoming. Therefore, I proceeded to seek help from Mr. Osafo, who was introduced to me by a colleague.

“In May, this year, I noticed some changes in my pay slip – which showed that I had been promoted, with an increase in my salary.

“I, therefore, proceeded to inform the DCE about the changes, and he promised to sit down with his management team to do something about it. I was then in my office when I received a letter inviting me to the police station for questioning,” Felicia Ampah, one of the accused recounted.

After escaping punishment from the count of forgery, the accused persons looked a bit relieved, with the ladies putting up broad smiles on their faces, thinking that a similar ruling was in the offing for them.

However, His Lordship Enimil did not hesitate to pronounce them guilty for counts of abetment and conspiracy.

“All the accused helped and conspired with one Emmanuel Osafo to promote themselves. They facilitated their own promotion through the wrong channel. They are, therefore, found guilty on abetment and conspiracy.

“Each of the accused is fined GH¢150 on abetment and conspiracy. In default, they are to serve twelve months in prison with hard labour. The sentences are to run concurrently,” the judge ruled.

In addition, the court ordered that each of the accused persons pay whatever he or she has earned back into government treasury. The court, therefore, ordered the prosecutor to furnish it with detailed information on how much each of the accused benefitted from the total sum of GH¢21,244, since the breakdown was not done when presenting the case.

With this pronouncement, some of the accused persons’ looked gloomy. However, the court restored their hopes when it ordered that an embargo placed on their salaries by the assembly should be lifted.

Also appearing before the court in connection with the case was Juliet Frimpong, a staff of the Data Department of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

She was also accused on three counts of forgery, abetment and conspiracy, but pleaded not guilty to all the charges leveled against her.

The prosecuting officer, Chief Inspector Broni, brought a witness in the person of Charles Kwabena Biney, Personnel Officer of the AEE District Assembly, to testify against her, but the court found no incriminating evidence in his submission.

This prompted the prosecutor to furnish the court with some forged documents, which he claimed were submitted to her (Juliet Frimpong) for action, but she failed to do due diligence on them.

Failure to do due diligence on the said forged documents, according to the prosecutor, resulted in the 14 accused persons gaining promotion, with subsequent increases in their salaries.

Mr. Biney was not convinced with the prosecutor’s evidence before the court, and noted, “I believe it wasn’t deliberate on the part of Juliet Frimpong to abet and conspire with the other 14 accused persons to loot state cash. She is the only person who works on the salaries of all the district assemblies, and I know her work is very demanding. It may be an oversight.”

The court, having listened to the submissions by the prosecutor and the witness, ruled that Juliet Frimpong was not guilty to all the charges leveled against her.

“Evidence given by Biney does not coincide with all the charges leveled against Juliet Frimpong. Therefore, Juliet Frimpong is discharged from the counts of forgery, abetment and conspiracy,” noted His Lordship Enimil.

He, therefore, directed the prosecutor to go back and prefer an appropriate charge against her. Hearing of the case was postponed to Thursday, August 25, 2011.
Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the 14 accused persons would face the wrath of the Assembly’s Disciplinary Committee.

Peter Light Koomson, the District Chief Executive, who spoke to The Chronicle, however, dismissed the suggestion that the workers could be sacked.  “Dismissing them would be a big blow to us. It will affect us severely, because the Assembly’s work will virtually come to a standstill,” he said.

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