The Serious Fraud Office is undertaking painstaking investigations into the issue of unclaimed salaries of Ministries, Municipal Assemblies, Departments and Agencies at the various banks to unravel the mystery that surrounds it.

This nationwide exercise, which has already started yielding dividend, is expected to save the Government of Ghana billions of Ghana Cedis, which hitherto would have gone unaccounted for.

For instance, in March 12, 2007, the Ghana Commercial Bank paid GH¢2.143, 168,758.22 unclaimed salaries into the Controller and Accountant-General Department’s suspense account at the Bank of Ghana. Again in December 31,2008, SG-SSB paid GH¢54,525.59 into the Controller and Accountant General Department’s suspense account at the Bank of Ghana.

Speaking to The Statesman in an interview, Tetteh Mensah, Assistant Director in charge of Investigations at the SFO, explained that the fraud investigation is to find out why heads of government institutions have not taken measures to address the problem of unclaimed salaries and also to compel banks that have been holding unclaimed salaries of government workers to return it promptly to the suspense accounts ofthe Controller and Accountant General at the Bank of Ghana.

The SFO intends to press criminal charges against heads of government institutions depending on the seriousness of the offence, if it is deliberate, and administrative sanctions if not.

He pointed out that previously this matter was dealt with lightly but research and monitoring by his office shows there is more to it than meets the eye.

Mr Tetteh Mensah disclosed that previous instructions to the MMDA’s and the banks to ensure the prompt transfer of these monies to the Bank of Ghana have fallen on deaf ears, because it is in the interest of the banks to keep and use these monies to run their businesses for some time before returning them.

He said it is only common sense that a person who had genuinely worked hard for his salary would go and cash it instead of leaving it at the bank. He said it is even more baffling why the heads of government institutions have not taken steps to delete these names, if they were dead, resigned or vacated their post, from their pay rolls or informed the Controller and Accountant General’s Department about it. He said the direction of the investigations is also to find out whether these unclaimed salaries belonged to ghost names being inserted into the pay rolls.

“For how long have these unidentified people claimed these monies and when did they realise the security is on to them and therefore stop cashing it,” he added.

According to Mr Tetteh Mensah, as part of the investigations, heads of government institutions will be required to explain and establish the names of the individuals, their identity, staff number and appointment letter, to whom the unclaimed monies were paid to.

The SFO is currently in talks with the CAGD to delete some of these names from the government pay rolls to save the nation much needed resources.

Meanwhile, the SFO has asked all the banks to provide it with the statement of accounts of the CAGD, recipient of the unclaimed monies and the organisations to which they belong. But according to Mr Tetteh Mensah, some of the banks have refused to comply with this order and consequently the SFO would drag them to court under Section 15 (2) (b) of the SFO Act 466 for the court to compel them to do so.

Source: The Statesman