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GRA 'disowns' Col Damoah's attack on Special Prosecutor's Labianca corruption report

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
GRA 'disowns' Col Damoah's attack on Special Prosecutor's Labianca corruption report
Rev Dr Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah - Commissioner General of GRA

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has dissociated itself from the recent comment by the Commissioner of Customs DivisionColonel (rtd) Kwadwo Damoah on the Office of Special Prosecutor's (OSP) corruption report on Labianca Group of Companies Limited.

Colonel Kwadwo Damoah, (retired) addressing senior customs officers in Kumasi last week had said a report by the Special Prosecutor that stated that a member of the Council of State had used her position to get a favourable decision from the Customs Division of GRA, which led to a reduction in the tax liabilities of Labianca Limited was "hollow".

Col Damoah had said the Special Prosecutor, whom, he described as a "small boy" was attempting to discredit him [Damoah] and indict himself and the Deputy Commissioner of Operations of the GRA in an investigative report released last week.

He said the report about the Labianca Company Limited was a calculated attempt to dent his [Damoah] reputation and will fail. 

Colonel Damoah also asserted that the Special Prosecutor's investigation was "hollow and actuated by malice".

"Anybody who has read that report very well, would know that basis of that and luckily for me, God is always on my side. Before that report came, that person had made statement to some people who had come (to tell me that), he was going to publish something that will discredit me and he will do that and I even sent people to go and tell him that he's a small boy and I am older than him. I have lived a meaningful life and if he attempts to destroy me, it won't be easy for him".

"People have tried it, I have survived and this one too I will survive," Colonel Damoah said to a rapturous applause by the Senior Customs Officers who had gathered at the function in Kumasi.

Related: 'He's a smallboy, I am older than him' - Customs boss to Special Prosecutor

GRA Dissociation

But in a press statement signed and issued Sunday night (August 14, 2022) by Rev Dr Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, Commissioner General of the GRA, the Board and Management of the GRA said it had followed media discussions and reactions following the release of the Report of the Special Prosecutor on the investigation into alleged commission of corruption and corruption related offences involving Labianca Group of companies and the Customs Division of GRA.

"The Authority would like to state for the record that it accords the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) the respect and the dignity that the OSP carries.

"GRA continually looks for every opportunity to improve on revenue as well as block any leakage.

"To this end, GRA is studying the outcomes of the report in detail and will not hesitate to ensure that per its mandate all processes and procedures that are identified to lead to loss of revenue or have the potential to lead to loss of revenue are blocked.

"In this regard the Authority wishes to state that the comments made by the Commissioner of the Customs Division, Col Kwadwo Damoah Rtd. at the Customs Management Retreat on Wednesday 10th August 2022 on the outcomes of the investigation were made in his personal capacity and do not convey the opinion of the Board and Management of GRA.

"GRA wishes to assure the general public that prior to the release of the OSP’s report, it had taken steps to streamline and improve on the processes of accurately determining values of imported items and products.

"With the inauguration of the new GRA Board of Directors in August 2021, the Authority took firm steps to deal with practices or procedures that had the potential of reducing or not giving maximum value to transactions at importation. One of such measures was to give a directive in December 2021 that with immediate effect no discounts or rebates are given on items or products at importation and to cancel all existing approved discounts."

It added that GRA is ensuring that all unreasonable exercise of discretionary power which will result in the loss of revenue will be prevented.

GRA uses this opportunity to assure all stakeholders of GRA and the general public that GRA has taken steps to ensure that all allegations of impropriety on the part of any of its staff are promptly and decisively investigated and that all cases of tax evasion or other acts that are contrary to the Laws governing the Authority will be dealt with, it added.

Related: Special Prosecutor recovers GH¢1.074 million from Council of State member's company, Labianca

The OSP has recovered GH¢1.074 million from Labianca, owned by Ms Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, who is a an elected member of the Council of State representing the Western Region.

The amount the OSP has recovered represents a shortfall in import duties the frozen foods company paid to the state.

In an investigative report by the OSP, Ms Asomah-Hinneh was accused of influence-peddling by allegedly using her position as a member of the Council of State and member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to get a favourable decision from the Customs Division for her company [Labianca].

Influence peddling

Influence-peddling or trading of influence is a form of corruption in which a person uses his or her position or political influence to gain unmerited favours.

The OSP faulted a Deputy Commissioner of Customs in charge of Operations, Joseph Adu Kyei, for issuing what it described as unlawful customs
advance ruling which reduced the benchmark values of the frozen foods imported by Labianca Limited, thereby reducing the company's tax obligations to the state.

"The OSP finds that there is strong evidence to suggest that Mr Kyei's decision to issue a customs advance ruling for the applicant was procured
through influence peddling or trading of influence by Ms Asomah-Hinneh by employing her position as a member of the Council of State and member of the Board of Directors of the GPHA, the report, signed by the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, stated.

The investigative report, dated August 3, 2022, is titled: "Report of Investigation into Alleged Commission of Corruption and Corruption Related Offences involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

Col Damoah's reaction

But addressing Senior Customs officers at a retreat in Kumasi Wednesday, Colonel Damoah said the Special Prosecutor had attempted to indict himself and the Deputy Commissioner of Operations of the GRA in that investigative report.

He said the report about the Labianca Company Limited was a calculated attempt to dent his reputation and will fail. 

Colonel Damoah also asserted that the Special Prosecutor's investigation was "hollow and actuated by malice".

"Anybody who has read that report very well, would know that basis of that and luckily for me, God is always on my side. Before that report came, that person had made statement to some people who had come (to tell me that), he was going to publish something that will discredit me and he will do that and I even sent people to go and tell him that he's a small boy and I am older than him. I have lived a meaningful life and if he attempts to destroy me, it won't be easy for him".

"People have tried it, I have survived and this one too I will survive," Colonel Damoah said to a rapturous applause by the Senior Customs Officers who had gathered at the function in Kumasi.

According to him, the claims are being made by a disgruntled former staff of the GRA.

Read also: 'He's a smallboy, I am older than him' - Customs boss to Special Prosecutor

Col. Kwadwo Damoah alleged that the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng had targeted him because he blocked one Mr Akurugu from being seconded to the OSP.

He added that he was ready for prosecution and as long as he remained Commissioner, he will ensure his officers are protected against intimidation.

"He (Special Prosecutor) calls me to his office in relation to LaBianca and at the end of it he talks to me about this same matter and I say yes it is not the Commissioner General (of GRA), I wrote it, go and check and I have my reasons, he will not be released to you, he will be in customs and then behind me he goes to resign, he is given the position of Commissioner of Police and he is now with your office and he goes to make allegations that Mr Adu Kyei and myself we hate him and they will deal with us, so that is it, that is the basis of that publication...

Below is a copy of the GRA statement

REACTION TO REPORT OF THE OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR’S INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGED COMMISSION OF CORRUPTION AND CORRUPTION RELATED OFFENCES INVOLVING LABIANCA GROUP OF COMPANIES AND THE CUSTOMS DIVISION OF GRA

The Board and Management of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has followed media discussions and reactions following the release of the Report of the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into alleged commission of corruption and corruption related offences involving Labianca Group of companies and the Customs Division of GRA.

The Authority would like to state for the record that it accords the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) the respect and the dignity that the OSP carries.

GRA continually looks for every opportunity to improve on revenue as well as block any leakage.

To this end, GRA is studying the outcomes of the report in detail and will not hesitate to ensure that per its mandate all processes and procedures that are identified to lead to loss of revenue or have the potential to lead to loss of revenue are blocked.

In this regard the Authority wishes to state that the comments made by the Commissioner of the Customs Division, Col Kwadwo Damoah Rtd. at the Customs Management Retreat on Wednesday 10th August 2022 on the outcomes of the investigation were made in his personal capacity and do not convey the opinion of the Board and Management of GRA.

GRA wishes to assure the general public that prior to the release of the OSP’s report, it had taken steps to streamline and improve on the processes of accurately determining values of imported items and products. With the inauguration of the new GRA Board of Directors in August 2021, the Authority took firm steps to deal with practices or procedures that had the potential of reducing or not giving maximum value to transactions at importation. One of such measures was to give a directive in December 2021 that with immediate effect no discounts or rebates are given on items or products at importation and to cancel all existing approved discounts.

As stated above, GRA is ensuring that all unreasonable exercise of discretionary power which will result in the loss of revenue will be prevented.

GRA uses this opportunity to assure all stakeholders of GRA and the general public that GRA has taken steps to ensure that all allegations of impropriety on the part of any of its staff are promptly and decisively investigated and that all cases of tax evasion or other acts that are contrary to the Laws governing the Authority will be dealt with.

Thank you.
SIGNED
AMMISHADDAI OWUSU-AMOAH (REV. DR.) COMMISSIONER-GENERAL

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