Thirty-two of the interdicted officials of the National Service Scheme were granted bail by an Accra Financial High Court yesterday, in the sum total of GH¢ 20 million.
The court, presided over by Justice Georgina Mensah-Datsa, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of three others who failed to show up.
The former employees who are charged with conspiracy to steal and stealing appeared in court for the first time since their arrest in 2014, for allegedly causing financial loss to the tune of GH¢ 107, 897,018.36 belonging to the state.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The bail conditions varied between two and three sureties, depending on the amount of money each of the accused was alleged to have stolen.
Alhaji Mohamed Alhassan Imoro, former Executive Director of the Scheme, who was alleged to have stolen GH¢86 million was also in court.
The accused persons are mostly regional directors, accountants, programme planning, monitoring and evaluation officers, information technology officers, internal auditors and officers from the national headquarters.
They are Nelson Ayutiga, Chief Accountant; Gloria Aku Mensah, Head Internal Audit, Ebenezer Anim Danquah, National Volunteer Programme, Alhassan Iddrisu, Head of Programmes, Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME); Samuel Ofori and Michael Asubonteng, Head of Information Technology, all from the NSS Headquarters.
Others are Theophilus Ato Kwofie, Western Region; Seth Nana Asiedu Obugyei, Seth Quartey, Emmanuel Asare Asante, Greater Accra Regional Director, accountant and administrator, respectively.
The rest are Alhaji Ali Ahmed, Festus Obeng Sefa and Alexander Agumen, Central Regional director, accountant and administrator respectively.
Those accused in the Eastern Region, are Nana Fosu Amankwa and Francis Himbuah, regional director and accountant, respectively.
Gabriel Nyoke and John Kwame Ayew are the accused persons in the Volta Region, while Silas Nantoma, Joseph Bati and Ali Husein are from the Upper West Region.
Dominic Pupula Maasensog and Solomon Kurug Sombil were accused in the Upper East Region; while Joseph Kwesi Quinoo, Raphael Adu Agyapong, Abubakar Mohammed, Helena Mensah and Freda Donkor are from the Ashanti Region.
Ebenezer A. Edzii and Samuel Larbi-Siaw were from the Brong Ahafo Region, while Abiru Shaibu Ternni, Dominic Dele, Cletus Kaba and Mutaru Yussuf were from interdicted in the Northern Region.
The facts, according to the prosecution, were that the accused between September 2013 and August 2014, bloated the payroll of the Scheme by 31, 516 names for both the National Service postings and the Voluntary Service recruitments.
Mrs. Penelope Mamata, a Chief State Attorney, said the illegality was hatched by the former Executive Director and supported by senior officers of the Scheme at the National Service Secretariat, as well as district and regional directors of the Scheme.
She said the accused also shared travel and transport allowances meant for service personnel in August 2014.
This was done by the inclusion of non-existent (ghost names) on the payroll for payment of monthly allowances to the unknown personnel.
The ghost names were added to the genuine ones on the nominal rolls based on which payment vouchers were prepared.
She said the payment vouchers were prepared by the Chief Accountant, Nelson Ayeltiga and same passed to the internal auditor, Gloria Aku Mensah, who vetted the accounts and payment vouchers.
She said all the non-existent names were mostly posted to the rural areas to non-existent institutions.
She averred that the names of personnel posted to self-accounting public and private institutions, were retained on the government payroll without effecting the required amendment with the consultant of the Scheme.
She said the former Executive Director sent the ghost names to the regional directors with firm instructions on how much was to be sent to him every month.
According to her, on receipt of the non-existent names, the regional directors in turn passed the names to the district directors with instructions on the names to be retained and the amount of money to be sent to him.
She said the amount of money the regional directors sent to Alhaji Imoro depended on the number of names they got from him and the accompanying instructions.
“The ghost names the Executive Director sent to the regional directors were not given to them at one go. The Executive Director started giving out the names in September 2013, shortly after the postings. The names then increased from October through to January when the postings stabilised and no more names were given,” she said.
The Chief State Attorney said all the senior officials at the secretariat implicated in the fraudulent practice also had their personal deals with the regional directors.
Both the senior officials and regional directors, she said had confessed having engaged in such a criminal activity and had pledged to refund their share of the proceeds.
Alhaji Imoro, has since his arrest in 2014 denied involvement.
By Malik Sullemana