The list of former ministers in the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government – headed by John Dramani Mahama who have been caught in the double salary scandal – continues to swell.
It is obvious that the alleged double-salary issue, which the police have said amounts to stealing, was widespread and appeared to cut across all categories of appointees who served under the former president.
So far, 12 of the ex-ministers, majority of who are currently serving as Members of Parliament (MPs), have been officially grilled by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, and DAILY GUIDE is reliably informed that there are more names coming.
The whole scandal was triggered following an audit of the payroll data from the office of the president and parliament from 2012 through 2016.
It showed that certain MPs, who at various points also served as ministers or deputy ministers, received double salaries at least once a month or throughout the four-year tenure of President Mahama.
In all, over 40 of such appointees are said to be involved, although earlier reports had suggested that 25 were being investigated.
The breakdown indicated that in 2012, four of the ministers who are currently not serving in parliament, took double salaries, but by 2013 the double salaried appointees had increased to 22, while in 2014 about 18 were said to be involved.
For 2015 and 2016, 15 and 12 appointees took double salaries respectively.
From 2012 to 2016 when the NDC was booted out of office, some of the appointees were captured in all the data collated as having received double salaries throughout.
DAILY GUIDE has learnt that some of the former ministers who drew salaries as MPs and ministers of state detected the double salary anomaly and notified the authorities for the right thing to be done.
It is however unclear whether the payments that had already been credited to the accounts of such people were returned to government chest.
Some NDC elements after cynically claiming the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government is witch-hunting them through the police, are now admitting that, indeed, the double salary saga is true.
However, they are now pushing the argument that it was a ‘top-up’ for the affected ministers and not the actual monthly salaries as being claimed by their political opponents.
Bernard Allotey Jacobs, NDC Central Regional Chairman, conceded at some point that some of the ex-ministers, who were MPs, actually received double salaries and said they were ready to use their ex-gratia to offset them.
So far, Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, MP for Ellembelle and former Minister of Energy and Petroleum; Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo, MP for Kpone Katamanso, who was the former Greater Accra Regional Minister, as well as former Minister of State in-charge of Social and Allied Institutions, Comfort Doyoe Cudjoe Ghansah, who is NDC MP for Ada East, have been interrogated by the CID.
Also, a certain Bashir Fuseini Alhassan, who is believed to be ABA Fuseini, NDC MP for Sagnerigu and former Deputy Minister, Northern Region, was also there to write a statement before being admitted to bail.
Second deputy minority chief whip, Eric Opoku who is NDC MP for Asunafo South and former Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister, has also been to the CID.
Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, NDC MP for Tamale Central and former Minister of Roads and Highways; Fifi Fiavi Kwetey, former Minister of Transport and NDC MP for Ketu South; Abdul Rashid Hassan Pelpuo, former Minister of State at the presidency and MP for Wa Central and Aquinas Tawiah Quansah, Ex-Central Regional Minister and former MP for Mfantseman West, have all been interrogated by the police over the scandal.
Three others – Edwin Nii Lante Vanderpuye, former Minister of Youth and Sports, who doubles as current NDC MP for Odododiodioo and Alhassan Azong, former Minister of State in-charge of Public Sector Reforms and former People’s National Convention MP for Builsa South Constituency, as well as Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine, who served as Deputy Attorney General under President John Mahama, were also at the CID headquarters for interrogation.
When the scandal broke, Nii Lante Vanderpuye told Hot FM and Citi FM, among others, that he had not been invited by the police, claiming that DAILY GUIDE was defaming him.
He threatened to sue the paper if an apology was not rendered.
But yesterday the paper learnt that he was at the CID headquarters and granted police enquiry bail.
According to the police, the alleged double salaries saga “is contrary to Section 124 (1) of the Criminal and other Offences Act 1960 (Act 29) as amended in 2012 (Act 849). Section 124 relates to the offence of stealing.”
The scandal took a dramatic twist when the Special Prosecutor, Martin A.B.K. Amidu, waded into the debate and appeared to give tacit endorsement of the move by the police to prosecute the former appointees who might be found liable.
Mr. Amidu, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the NDC administration, said on Citi FM last Thursday that if his former colleagues are found to have fallen foul of the law, they should not go unpunished.
“Indeed, that (double salary) is an offence of abuse of office for private gain,” he said without mincing words, before revealing that he also received double payments when he served as minister during the NDC governments.
He stated that he returned the excess money to the government.
All the affected ex-ministers were reportedly charged with stealing and are to reappear before the CID in May.
They have been appearing before the police with their lawyers and are all on bail.
By William Yaw Owusu