Former Rector of the University for Professional Studies (UPSA), Professor Joshua Alabi, has said that the Auditor General was “lied” to in concluding an audit report that he (Prof. Alabi) had paid former President John Mahama’s lawyer, Tony Lithur’s law firm huge sums for no work done.
According to the former Rector who is a leading NDC guru, Lithur Brew and Company worked for the GH¢300,000 which the UPSA paid under his tenure, and said that bizarrely the purpose of an audit was not to “catch thieves,” but to “perfect systems.”
In the Auditor General’s latest report of public boards, corporations and statutory institution, Prof. Alabi has been directed to refund with interest an amount of ¢263,670 paid as legal fees to a private legal firm Lithur Brew and Company, for no work done at UPSA.
According to the report, out of an amount of ¢2,302,369.67 released to some officers of UPSA to transact official business on behalf of the university, only ¢353,279.43 was accounted for with the necessary supporting documents, leaving a difference of ¢1,949,090.24 to be accounted for.
The report said that UPSA signed a retainer agreement on March 16, 2014 and paid an amount of ¢263,670 to Lithur Brew and Company as a retainer fee, but there was no evidence of the provision of any legal services to the university.
The report also said that Lithur Brew and Company was appointed through sole-sourcing without recourse to the provisions of the Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 914).
“It is also not true that Mr. Lithur didn’t represent the school in any legal issue. No! There were a lot of legal issues that we referred to Mr. Lithur, where he went to court on our behalf,” he told ‘Joy FM’ in Accra on Friday.
“In fact, I got to know it from ‘Joy FM’ this afternoon. It had never come to my attention. I was shocked and surprised that such a report could come out. The purpose of the audit is to perfect systems, the idea is not to go and catch thieves,” he said.
“When you go with the mindset to go and catch thieves, you may do shoddy work as they have just done. From what you people (Joy FM) sent to me, it is stated that we just picked a lawyer. It went through the Governing Council of UPSA.”
He said the UPSA had a previous legal external advisor before he took over, and that when his term expired, a new legal advisor was picked through the council, saying, “So it is not like Joshua Alabi just picked somebody and placed him there.”
“Tony Lithur did work for the school. When you people sent this to me, I called him and he was shocked. He had also not heard anything like that; so he is also going to go through these files to challenge whatever they said.”
Prof. Alabi said that Mr. Lithur was contacted several times to be of legal service to the UPSA, as a retainer alongside the court appearances the law firm made on behalf of the university.
Justifying the retainer issues, the former rector said, “When we talk of retainers, sometimes they need education. You can ask any legal firm anywhere; ‘retainer’ means you can be called at anytime to advise the organization; so it is not only a matter of going to court to talk on behalf of the organization, but at any point in time, when the organization needs legal advice, you are called upon to come and advise the organization, and that is what we call retainer. A retainer has its fee during the period.”
Prof. Alabi said that he had not been officially served with a notice requesting a refund, and described the directives of the Auditor General as unfair since they never consulted him for his explanation before the report was published.
“They didn’t reach out to me, and I called Mr. Lithur; and he said that they had not reached out to him either, and they just published,” he said.
He said that when he was asked if he was ready to refund the money as directed, he had asked, “Refund what? When we paid the thing to Tony Lithur, and he worked for it, maybe when we left, people might have adduced evidence but then Tony Lithur had all his documents there.”
“He worked and there were numerous occasions where we invited Tony Lithur to come to the school to give us legal advice. If you ask any legal firm, there is an amount you pay for a retainer. So it is not a matter of only going to court as a legal adviser, but there are a lot of things you do. So you can’t say ‘for no work done.’ How can you talk like that? He didn’t consult me, he didn’t consult Tony Lithur,” he added.
He said, “I don’t know who he consulted in the school during my absence; and the person gave that lie, and they published it.”
Prof. Alabi admitted that the company was appointed through sole-sourcing as indicated in the report, but justified this saying, “the actions of the council are not illegal.”
He then said the UPSA, during his time in office, engaged in sole-sourcing and in assumption that “I believe they are still doing them.”
“It is not legally wrong to pick a lawyer through sole sourcing. The report mentions ‘sole sourcing;’ and the sole sourcing is true. Through the governing council of the university, we did the sole sourcing for a lawyer, and sole sourcing is legally not wrong; the auditors have made a mistake; and we have to correct them. We have to use the media again to correct them, through our own internal and external research,” he said.
Call For Audit
Prof. Alabi said that before he left office, he had made attempts to get the auditors to audit the accounts of UPSA, but claimed they “gave funny excuses.”
“You see when I was in UPSA, before I left, I wrote to the auditors to come and audit me before I leave. This idea of auditing people after they have left, and of people coming into positions, and, whether intentionally or unintentionally not being able to defend what the previous people did, and you putting it out there, for me, I disagree.
“So when I was leaving, on numerous occasions, I wrote to them telling them that I was leaving, and wanted them to come and audit my books before I left,” he said, adding that “they never came. Funny, funny excuses; then four years later, you hear them say that, “you employed somebody for no work done.”
“I think when people work like that and tarnish people’s images there must be something against them too. There must be some compensation for those they have destroyed. It is equally very important,” he said.