By; Efo Korku Mawutor
The Audit Committee of the Ghana Institute of Journalism Students Representative Council (GIJSRC) is asking the General Assembly (GA) to sanction a probe into the expenditure of the recent past SRC leadership.
After investigating receipts and records available to them, the committee says it has discovered some illegal withdrawals and expenses made by the recent past Joseph Agbezuke-led SRC Executive.
At a GA sitting last Monday, the Audit Committee, led by Abdulai Sakaa, presented an audit of all expenditure carried out by the office of the GIJ-SRC Financial Secretary from 1st April 2021 to 15th June 2021.
In the report, the committee asserts that they found some misappropriation of students’ funds by the recent past SRC Executive.
“In the committee’s probe of the bank records of the SRC during our work, we discovered some amounts of money that were withdrawn from the coffers by the immediate past administration that we believe were unsanctioned by General Assembly,” the committee stated in point 8 of their observations.
The Committee insisted that all monies in the SRC coffers currently were entirely generated from the payment of SRC dues by students from 21st February 2020, and that some “suspicious” withdrawals were made by the previous administration for which they recommend sanctioning of further probing by the General Assembly.
“We highly recommend that General Assembly sanctions a thorough investigation into the SRC coffers from January 2019 to June 2021. This will help us understand what led to the current administration’s inheritance of GHC GHC222,241,” the Committee advised.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The current Nii Lante-led administration took office on Monday, April 5, 2021, after an online election organised by an Interim Committee mandated by the students and supervised by the office of the current Dean of Students (DoS), Mrs. Rhodalene Amartey.
This was necessary because vacuum was created in the leadership of the GIJSRC from March 2020, when schools were closed down for COVID19 reasons.
In October 2020, when a Vetting Committee was put together by the then SRC President and under the auspices of the then Acting Dean, Mr. David Apawu.
The Vetting panel was to interview and appoint students to fill executive slots in the SRC.
Within the period, however, the previous SRC Executive, whose mandate should have ended in May 2020, were still custodians of students’ affairs, including the SRC Coffers.
On 4th November, 2020, the scheduled date for the vetting, some aspirants pulled out of the process citing secrecy and illegality of the Vetting Committee.
Despite their pulling out, the vetting went on as planned and culminated in Alimatu Quaye and others being appointed to the SRC office.
Some critics at the time, including the then Defendant General of the General Assembly, Divine Dei-Tutu, considered this an illegality and a move to cover up corruption and mismanagement of funds by the Joseph Agbezuke-led administration.
As of 2nd February 2021, months after assuming office, the then appointed Financial Secretary, Ishmael Awudi, is quoted in a campus digital newspaper, YTimes, to have said that he and the president were yet to access to the SRC account.
One of the main difficulties at the time was that the Joseph Agbezuke-led SRC had made the office of the Dean of students a signatory to the accounts without approval from the General Assembly.
GIJ Management released a communique on 12 February, 2021, through the office of the current DoS, stating that the appointed SRC Executive were “alien to the SRC Constitution and in any case did not follow the procedure for the selection of student leaders as stipulated in the SRC Constitution.”
Management went on to instruct the DoS, Mrs. Armatey, to form an Interim Committee to organise elections for new SRC executive. That was done.
The Interim Committee organised the elections from 4th to 5th April, 2021 and declared the current SRC Executive duly elected.
Apparently, there was no handing over from the previous SRC leadership to the current one.
Current Financial Secretary, Abdus Samad Larry, stated in an exclusive interview that all attempts to get the previous administration to attend a handing over ceremony proved futile.
“They were called to come over and officially hand over the accounts but they failed to show up. Finally, it took a letter from the Rector to the bank for us to be granted access,” he said.
Immediate past president, Joseph Agbezuke, declined to speak to the matter, stating that the committee should have written to him requesting clarifications for any loophole in the accounts of the SRC from his days in office.
Chairperson of the Audit Committee, however, says his outfit could not approach the past leadership because it was out of their jurisdiction.
“That is why we have recommended GA to probe the matter further. If GA sanctions the committee to do the investigation, we will do so and let the students of GIJ know the truth because we believe they deserve the truth,” he said in an interview.
In her last report to GA on 11th July 2020, the former Financial Secretary, Joana Dagla, stated that a surplus in excess of GHC50,000.00 was in the SRC coffers.
Her report stated, “Madam Speaker the House, [Emefa Dziwornu, was speaker then] the above documents entail all expenses made and approved by the General Assembly with the unapproved 2nd Semester budget. The total Balance remaining is GH₵51,940.84.”
But latest information from sources within the SRC reveal that as at 10th June 2020, the credit balance of the student coffers stood at GHC275.12.
The Audit Committee has insisted that a probe is necessary and urgent.
Deep throat sources in the SRC Executive maintain that bank statement of the student account reveal more embezzlement than the audit committee has reported to the General Assembly.
The sources say some withdrawals were made by people other than the SRC executives who were signatories to the account.
Current speaker of the GA, Abdul-Rahim Naa Ninche, is definite that an investigation will be launched and anyone found culpable of spending student money illegally will be dealt with according to the constitution of the GIJSRC.
“We have taken note of the report. However, we want the principles of natural justice to work. So, we would have to hear from those who have been indicted in the report of the Audit Committee. In subsequent days, leadership of GA will outline steps taken to work with the recommendations of the committee,” he intoned.
Being that he was vociferous on investigating and prosecuting allegations of embezzlement and financial misappropriation by student leaders prior to his appointment as speaker, one wonders whether his action will affirm his long-held position on such matters or whether he will chicken out at the last minute.
-The writer, Efo Korku Mawutor, is a final year student of GIJ and an ardent student activist.