The Accra High Court on Wednesday adjourned to March 23, the trial of Mrs Sedina Christine Tamakloe Attionu, and Mr Daniel Axim, former officials of Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) who have been charged for misappropriating state funds.
Mrs Attionu, the former Chief Executive Officer and Mr Axim, also former Operations Manager have also been charged with conspiracy, stealing, money laundering and causing financial loss to the state.
Mr Francis Bandoh, MASLOC Financial Officer and a Prosecution Witness during cross-examination told the Court that he had tasked the secretary to the Head of Legal, MASLOC to look out for documents on how VW Parati vehicles were procured under the leadership of the first accused.
He was answering questions under cross-examination by Mr Agbesi Dzakpasu, lawyer for Mrs Attionu, who had asked the witness to point out from the bundle of documents which had been brought to be tendered in evidence in court on the procurement of the vehicles.
Mr Bandoh told the Court that though 300 VW vehicles were procured, his office had no record of the correspondence between MASLOC and the Public Procurement Authority.
The Witness however made available to the court documents of a transaction involving MASLOC and Auto Plaza.
Mr Bandoh said, he requested from Auto Plaza how much MASLOC owed them after supplying them with 400 vehicles.
When asked whether MASLOC engaged the services of Baffour Awuah and Associates, an Audit firm; the witness answered in the negative.
He however explained that it was EOCO that requested the Audit Service to audit MASLOC as per the law the Audit Service Act mandates the Auditor General to audit all entities in which the state had interest and MASLOC falls under that.
He said MASLOC also engaged and paid one John K. Audit firm to conduct an audit.
Mr Dzakpasu asked the witness whether his office disbursed funds to Kokompe and the June 3 disaster victims, and how many and how much was given to each of them?
Mr Bando answered in the affirmative, but said that he needed to refresh his memory on how much was paid to the victims.
Mrs Attionu has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is on bail in the sum of GH¢5 million with two sureties. Axim had also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and stealing and has been admitted to a one million Ghana cedis bail with one surety.
The court directed that all the sureties should be independent and economically sufficient as well as having no criminal record and not under any criminal investigations.
The Court presided over by Mrs Efia Serwah Asare-Botwe also ordered the accused to deposit their passports with the Court’s Registry.
Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, Director of Public Prosecutions had earlier told the court that both accused held their respective positions from November 2013 to the January 2017.
She said in 2017, the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) conducted investigations into certain fraudulent disbursement of MASLOC funds involving the two accused.
The prosecution said the audit revealed that, in June 2014, MASLOC invested GH¢ 150,000.00 in Obaatanpa Micro-Finance Company Limited, a licensed Tier II Micro-Finance Company located at Ejura in the Ashanti Region.
She said Mrs Attionu also offered Obaatanpa a further investment of GH¢500,000.00 and as a result, a MASLOC Agricultural Development Bank (adb) cheque dated July 24, 2014, in the sum, of GH¢500,000.00 was drawn in favour of Obaatanpa.
Mrs Obuobisa said after Obaatanpa was issued the cheque, Sedina informed the Board Chairman of Obaatanpa that the money would attract a 24 per cent interest but the company decided to return the money because of the high interest rate and issued a cheque to that effect.
She said when the cheque was presented, Sedina declined it and asked for cash rather, upon which her request was honoured on August, 24, 2014, she wrote a letter to acknowledge receipt of the money.
The Prosecution said in 2015, per letters some of which were under the hand of Sedina, MASLOC made demands on Obaatanpa for the interest on the principal amount of GH¢500,000.00, and in response Obaatanpa reminded MASLOC of the refund and particularly drew the attention of Sedina to the unjustified demand.
She said in 2017, when a new CEO took office, a demand notice was again sent to Obaatanpa for the payment of the accrued interest of which Obaatanpa again informed MASLOC of the payment but investigations revealed that MASLOC had no record of the amount repayment in cash to Mrs Attionu.
The Prosecution said further investigations disclosed that in April 2016, Mrs Attionu obtained the approval of the MASLOC Board to utilize GH¢1,706,000.00 of MASLOC funds for a nation-wide sensitization and monitoring programme for 85,300 beneficiaries of MASLOC loans, where each of the beneficiary was to receive GH¢20.00 to cover transportation and refreshment.
She said between April and December 2016, Mrs Attionu used her office to withdraw GH¢ 1,816,000.00 in three tranches though the Board had approved of only GH¢1,706,000.00.
Mrs Obuobisa said other investigations revealed that out of the GH? 1,816,000.00 only GH¢1,300.00 was spent on refreshment for some beneficiaries in the Volta, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo Regions and that no Programme took place in the other regions.
The Prosecution said investigations also revealed that in 2013 following a fire disaster at the Kantamanto market, the then President John Dramani Mahama directed MASLOC to provide assistance of GH¢1,465.035.00 to victims, of which the money was to be disbursed through Dwadifo Adanfo Savings and Loans Company Limited but Sedina appropriated GH¢579,800.00 out of the total amount.
The Prosecution said in August 2016, Sedina on behalf of MASLOC wrote to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) for approval to procure vehicles from Mac Autos and Spare Parts Limited for the Ghana Private Roads Transport Union using sole-sourcing under the PPA Act.
The Prosecution said in October 2016, the PPA wrote to MASLOC requesting it to furnish it with financial arrangements approved by the Ministry of Finance and on December 5, same year, the then Minister for Finance wrote to the PPA to confirm financial arrangements which were being put in place for the purchase of vehicles.
She said however, without approval from PPA, Sedina signed a contract with Mac Autos on December 6, 2016 to supply MASLOC with 350 vehicles including 150 Chevy Aveo saloon, 100 Chevy Sparklite and a 33-seater Isuzu bus.
Mrs Obuobisa said MASLOC applied for a tax waiver on all the vehicles, saying, the unit price offered for the Chevy Aveo was GH¢74,495.00 but investigations revealed that the actual price was GH¢47,346.93, whilst she gave that of the Chevy Sparklite as GH¢65,095.00 whilst the actual price was GH¢35,918.37 and Isuzu 33-seater bus as GH¢445,560.00 but the actual price was GH¢293,877.55.The Prosecution said, in November 2016, MASLOC procured 200 pieces of Samsung B310 mobile dual sim phones at GH¢93,412.00 under a project called PINCO Project Market Survey, whilst the actual price was GH¢24,400.00.
She said, another investigation brought to light that in January 2017, Sedina without the requisite approval and authorization caused to be paid to herself and her deputy, one Mustapha Abubakar Batalima the sums of GH¢135,592.33 and GH¢82,218.76, respectively as ex-gratia.
She further said in that same month, Sedina caused to be paid to herself and her Deputy GH¢28,445.94 and GH¢27,486.62, respectively.