Court officials loot accounts, they pocket court fines

Author: Suleiman Mustapha & Dundas Whighan
Court officials loot accounts, they pocket court fines
Court officials loot accounts, they pocket court fines

Thousands of Ghana cedis in court fines and fees have been lost due to alleged corruption and embezzlement by some staff of the Adjabeng District Court Registry in Accra.

A Daily Graphic investigation has established that the fines and fees charged by the court have been embezzled by some cashiers of the registrar’s office.

Mrs Patience Nai, a High Court registrar and Mr David Laryea, are alleged to have diverted and pocketed money in court fines and fees which should have been paid into the Consolidated Fund.

A source close to the Adjabeng District Court Registrar’s Office hinted theDaily Graphic that the diversion of court fees and fines was an age-old practice at the Adjabeng Registry.

A three-month investigation by the Daily Graphic has established that a fine of GH¢2,400, in the case of The Republic v. Eric Duah, paid by the convict on May 17, 2017, was diverted and embezzled by the two cashiers.

The cashiers have confessed to the Daily Graphic that they indeed did not pay the money into the Consolidated Fund when they were confronted with evidence. Again, in the case of The Republic v Peter Mahamadu Seidu, the defendant was fined GH¢3,000, which was also not paid into the Consolidated Fund, but rather lined the private pockets of the two cashiers.

Though the two cashiers initially denied any involvement in the embezzlements at the courts, they were later made to refund those money to the state.

Stealing and embezzlement of court fines and fees had become rampant and widespread across the country, according to a worker of the Judicial Service, who pleaded anonymity.

He said the acts of the two cashiers at the Adjabeng courts were just a microcosm of the widespread stealing of fines and fees in other courts.
Series of cash embezzlement

According to the 2015 Auditor-General’s report, the Judicial Service consistently failed to revenue totaling GH¢5,815,845 million and £75,000. The report states that the Auditor-General cannot, therefore, confirm whether the revenue and deposits have been credited to the accounts of the courts.

Again, according to the 2016 Auditor-General’s Report, the commercial courts understated their revenue by GH¢21,033,516 million.

The report states that two cashiers at a Commercial Court in Accra inadvertently understated total collections in the revenue and deposit cash books by GH¢20,893 million and GH¢140,420.24 resulting in a total understatement of GH¢21,033,516 million.

According to the Auditor- General, the situation occurred due to the failure of the accounts units to carry out regular reconciliation exercise.

In 2016, a cashier at the Ho District Magistrate Court, Ms Theresa Tetteh of HFC Bank, misappropriated GH¢12,142.60 from the money collected as court fines and fees.

Again, in 2015, Ms Agatha Abassa-Addo, a cashier at the Nkroful Magistrate Court in the Western Region, caused the payment of GH¢33,590.70 from the Deposit Account as refund to claimants but failed to produce evidence of application letters, acknowledgement receipt, witnesses and contact addresses.

Missing court cash

Between January 2010 and November 2011, Mr Marcellinus Tordidzah, a cashier at the Magistrate Court had embezzled GH¢2,957.20 in revenues to the courts.

The Auditor-General had in 2016 recommended that the Accountant of Fiapre Circuit Court ‘B’ should be held liable for his inability to produce bank statements from Ghana Commercial Bank to authenticate total revenue of GH¢193,393.20 purportedly deposited with the bank.

In 2016, the Sunyani High Court collected a total revenue of GH¢135,829.00 from judgement deposits between March and July 2015. However, reconciliation of the cashbook and the bank statement revealed that GH¢125,369.70 was rather lodged, leaving GH¢10,495.30 unaccounted for.

According to the Auditor-General’s 2016 Report, the Registrar’s failure to supervise the work of the cashier and undertake regular reconciliation resulted in the anomaly.
It consequently recommended that the total amount of GH¢10,495.30 be refunded by the registrar and the cashier.

The Auditor-General, therefore, accused the management of the country’s courts of failure to prepare bank reconciliation statement, resulting in the nondetection of the acts of embezzlement.

Letter to Chief Justice

A letter from a judge of the Adjabeng District Court, Mr Isaac Addo, to the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, which was seen by the Daily Graphic, expressed concern about several gaps in revenue collection at the courts, leading to embezzlement of funds at the courts.

Though, the Judge had declined to talk to the Daily Graphic when contacted, his letter to the Chief Justice has nailed the two staff at the Adjabeng court registry, Mrs Patience Nai and Mr David Laryea.

“I strongly believe that these acts have been going on at the court for a very long time and may also happen in the other courts,” the letter states.

Judge Isaac Addo, therefore, recommended that a team be established as soon as possible to carry out auditing of all the dockets in all the courts throughout the country to bring the perpetrators to book.