On February 28, 2015, hundreds of youth thronged five police training depots across the country for enlistment into the Ghana Police Service (GPS), only to discover that they were victims of the biggest recruitment scam in the history of the security service.
It emerged that their recruitment letters, which bore the signature of the then Director General in-charge of Human Resource of the GPS, Commissioner of Police (COP) Patrick Timbilla, were fake and that the supposed enlistment was fraudulent.
Saddled with their luggage, the aspiring police personnel who gathered at the depots at Kumasi, Koforidua, Pwalugu, Accra and Ho claimed they paid sums of money ranging between GH¢2,000 and GH¢7,000 to recruiters of the fraudulent exercise.
A Special Investigations Taskforce, investigated 14 people, comprising three police officers and 11 civilians, including Mr Timbilla, who was interdicted and “dishonourably discharged” from the Service after two years of investigations, found him ‘guilty’ of the two million cedis scam.
Six years down the line, scams continue to thrive during enlistment into the GPS, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and even the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) of the Ministry of Communications in February this year confirmed that it had received multiple reports of recruitment related scams targeting the youth through the GAF enlistment programme.
Similarly, the GPS, GIS and GNFS this year have issued a number of statements to clarify that they have neither created a special portal for protocol recruitment, nor authorised any individual or group to facilitate recruitment for the service.
The security agencies have arrested at least five scammers who swindled a total of 74 victims in a Ghc362, 000 fraud, between February and May this year. This is how they made headlines.
February 25, 2021; A 51-year-old self -acclaimed contractor George Ofori Attah was taken into police custody for allegedly defrauding two people of Gh12, 000 with the promise of getting them recruited into the Customs Division of GRA.
On March 7, 2021 ; Two suspected recruitment scammers; 46-year-old AwuahForson, and his 71-year-old accomplice, Ekow Hackman are in the grips of the GIS in Tema for allegedly defrauding about 30 victims of over GH¢250,000.
May 23, 2021; A police officer, Sergeant Kennedy Asomani, was hauled before the Accra Circuit Court for duping 44 persons of GH¢100,000 with the promise of enlisting them into the service.
Eligibility / recruitment process
The various Security Services have their own eligibility requirements. Generally , one must be a Ghanaian by birth; of good character with no criminal record; not less than 18 years and not more than 30 (for general duty) ; medically fit ; satisfy a height requirement and educational qualification (Basic Education Certificate Examination at least) to be eligible for recruitment.
Enlistment is advertised after the need to recruit is justified by the services and financial clearance given by the Finance Ministry; recruitment is published in the national dailies; applicants apply; are shortlisted; undergo body and documents examination; write aptitude test and selected applicants begin training.
Scammers, often working in syndicated groups, operate all year round through various avenues especially the internet where they have created fake accounts of politicians, high ranking security officers as well as the supposed special recruitment pages which they use to dupe unsuspecting people.
While gathering information for this article, the writer discovered a number of fake pages, many of which the prominent people who are being impersonated have issued press releases to warn the public.
Under the guise of protocol recruitment, the fake accounts had announced timelines for special recruitment with telephone numbers which their victims were to call. The comments sessions were unfortunately filled with queries from wannabe security personnel who would later become victims.
Some of the scammers, according to checks, also fish out their victims at political party rallies where they assure the unsuspecting preys of exploring political connections to get them into the security services of their choice.
A victim’s account
Sandra (real name withheld), 23, is one of the latest victims of such recruitment scams. Between September and December, last year, she spent more than GHC10, 000 on a supposed protocol admission into the GIS Training School at AssinFosu in the Central Region.
The Senior High School graduate and shop attendant was convinced to pay a total of Ghc8,500, in tranches, as facilitation fees; medical examination which cost more than Ghc600 cedis while the rest was spent on purchasing items on a prospectus she was given.
Having found what she thought was a springboard into the world of work, Sandra wrote her West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) remedial with less seriousness and failed woefully.
Sandra met one of her predators at a political rally in a town in the Central Region. The scammer gave her the phone number of the Member of Parliament (MP) whom he was sure would help her get into the Immigration Service.
“When I called the number, a man instead of the female MP, answered the call and told me the minister was busy and that I could speak to him. After listening to my request, he gave me the supposed number of “Commander Takyi” [referring to the Comptroller-General of the Immigration service] and asked me to call and mention the MP’s name,” she said.
According to Sandra, she travelled to Accra to meet the “Commander Takyi “ at the Immigration Head office where she filled a form and was later asked to do two medical examinations at Jack and Jill Hospital and 37 military Hospital.
She did not undergo any screening, but she received a purported service number and prospectus. Per the email she received, she was supposed to report to the training camp in November last year but the scammer has since been shifting the dates. As of the time of publishing this article, she was still at home.
“The last time I heard from him, he asked me to meet him at the Immigration head office but he did not show up”, she said.
When the Ghanaian Times checked the number said to be that of the Comptroller-General of GIS on MTN mobile money (Momo) service, it was registered in a female name. The number of the said MP was registered in another name. The same number has been listed on several fake pages which are advertising protocol admission for immigration, armed forces and police.
The GIS Reaction
Reacting to Sandra’s story, the Public Relations Officer of the GIS, Superintendent Michael Amoako-Attah, said there was no recruitment in 2020 but a backlog of applicants were called for training in December.
He said applicants only pay for the forms and medical examination, adding “we do not use social media for recruitment nor do we use momo for transactions. We use the bank.”
He confirmed that Sandra had been scammed especially when she did not have an admission letter. Through the reporter, he asked Sandra to either report the fraudulent incident to the Police or collaborate with the intelligence unit of the GIS to track down her fraudsters, but she did not choose any of the options.
Supt. Amoako-Attah explained that there was nothing like protocol admission in the service as all recruits go through the same process adding that the initial selection process was done electronically without human influence.
He said the 2020 recruitment was not advertised because the Service did a massive recruitment in 2017/2018 during which they had over 84,000 applicants out of which 40,000 qualified for the 1, 000 slots available.
“Since then, instead of advertising, we just pick from the pool of backlog”, he said.
Supt. Amoako-Attah said aside from issuing press releases to warn the public against unscrupulous persons, the intelligence unit of the Service had been liaising with the police to trace and arrest the fraudsters.
He said Immigration personnel had also been warned to stop uploading pictures of themselves in uniforms on social media because that is where the fraudsters download and use them to create the fake accounts.
Why they fall victims
Supt. Amoako-Atta said while job security and love for the uniform was the key reason many youth were attracted to the Service, desperation, ignorance and unemployment pushed them into the hands of the fraudsters.
Two other victims of the recruitment scam told the Ghanaian Times on condition of anonymity that they chose the shortcut because it had worked for many of their friends. They also alleged that there were security officers involved in the scam, a claim the GIS denied.
Interior Ministry investigates
Multiple sources at the Interior Ministry told the Ghanaian Times that a committee has been set up by the government to probe the increasing cases of recruitment scam regarding the security services.
One of the sources confirmed that there were allegations of the involvement of security personnel but was tight-lipped on the scope and timelines of the committee’s probe.
Security and Fraud Consultant
A Security and Fraud Consultant, Richard Kumadoe, described the issue as a serious one and advocated a relook at the recruitment processes to block the loopholes or if possible overhaul the system to address all teething issues.
“ The fact that these issues keep coming up means we must be doing something wrong and we have to review the way things are being done so it does not open the floodgates for people to take advantage of the youth. Once the process is flawed the outcome will be flawed”, he said.
While the interior ministry investigates the issue, he advised the public to be vigilant so they do not fall victim to recruitment scam.