The Ghana Prisons Service has debunked accusations of donation diversion levelled against officers by Rev Dr Stephen Wengam, Prisons Service Council Chairman.
“The Directorate of the Prison Service would like to state unequivocally that it has not received any official report on the alleged diversion of donations at any prison facility in the country; therefore, the purported fury in the service, as reported is the media, is out of place.
“The prisons across the country have been very peaceful and this is not the true reflection of what the newspaper reported”, a statement issued by the Chief Public Relations Officer of the service, DSP Vitalis Aiyeh, said.
The statement, issued on behalf the Director-General of Prisons, said it is instructive to note that the Prisons Service has very strict Administrative Instructions concerning the handling of donations received from the general public.
DSP Aiyeh explained that officers in charge of the various prisons have books in which all donations are recorded, witnessed by a number of officers and the leadership of the inmates.
According to him, the management of these donations are transparent and not centred on an individual’s whims.
“To ensure accountability, monthly returns on these donations are prepared and forwarded to the Prisons Headquarters in Accra for documentation. Since these donations are treated as public property, and therefore held in trust for the state and applied in accordance with the Financial Administration Regulations and the Stores Administration Regulations, an audit is always carried out by external auditors as mandated by law.
“And it is exonerating to state that no external auditor has ever indicted any station for misapplying donations.
“Indeed, the welfare needs of the inmates are the sole responsibility of the state, but financial constraints have made it impossible for government to shoulder this responsibility alone, which the Prison Service has taken it upon itself to engage with the public in bringing relief to persons in custody.
“This intervention of prison officers, by way of requests for public support towards the upkeep of inmates, has greatly helped in managing the situation,” he added.
DSP Aiyeh explained that associations have also been contributing in little ways towards the basic needs of inmates, such as medications.
For example, he noted that the Prisons Ladies’ Association (PRILAS), the Prisons Officers’ Wives Association (PROWA), and the Prisons Officers’ Children Association (POCA) donate occasionally to inmates across the country, saying: “Officers are of the opinion that they deserve commendation from the Prisons Council Chairman and not condemnation”.
He explained that no prison establishment has received any letter from the Service Council warning officers to desist from the alleged act of diversion of donations meant for prisoners as being peddled by the Prisons Service Council Chairman.
“Even if that were the case, it should be the sole responsibility of the Director-General of Prisons and the Prisons Directorate to convey such information to the officers.
“If the former were the case, then the Chairman of the Prisons Service Council acted ultra virus, and therefore departed from good corporate governance practice by veering into mainstream day-to-day operations of the service, which is the sole prerogative of the Director-General,” he said.
He added that the call allegedly made by the Chairman of the Prisons Service Council that all donations should be channelled through the Service Council instead of the Prisons Administration is a needless accentuation as that has been the practice since Project ‘Efiase’ was launched in July last year.
“Administratively, it is the duty of the Prisons Administration to distribute all donations received (cash or kind) directly from the public, or indirectly through the Service Council to prisoners.
“The Service Council can only undertake such distributions jointly with the Prisons Administration, and that is what is expected.
“The Ghana Prisons Service used not to solicit for public donations to supplement inmates’ diet until 1983 when the national famine, which led to the death of some prisoners, called for direct public support to the service. The Prisons Administration has since then managed all donations received over the years without any problems.
“We are very appreciative of public support towards building a strong prison system for our dear country, and would not compromise public trust by countenancing any act by any member of our institution that will inure to the benefits of the inmates. As a human-centred institution involved in the handling of inmates, we believe in the sanctity of our engagement with the public towards improving the welfare of our fellow patriots in custody.
“To the extent that this alleged diversion is unsubstantiated, we deem it an insensitive statement, considering the efforts and sacrifices of Prison Officers in addressing inmates’ challenges, and entreat the general public to treat such baseless allegations with utmost contempt,” he said.