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When the Head of Legal Affairs at Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Mrs Cynthia Dapaah-Ntow, was denied admission to the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at the Drexel University in Philadelphia, she was worried and wrote to enquire the reason.
Mrs Dapaah-Ntow had applied to study the LLM in Healthcare & Pharm Compliance for the Spring Semester of 20-21, but the admission team sent her the following response in an email:
“Thank you for applying to Drexel University. After careful consideration of your application, the Admissions Committee has determined that we are unable to offer you admission.”
Unsatisfied with the response and curious to know the reason for the denial of admission, the FDA lawyer wrote to the university to find out.
“I am passionate about the programme and would want to reapply,” she said in her letter. “I hope you will be kind enough to point to me what worked against me in my last application so I do not repeat the same in my next attempt.”
In a response sent by the Assistant Dean of Enrolment Management, Audrey Woods, on December 17, 2020, the university explained that the denial of admission had nothing to do with her academic credentials.
“We found you to be a very qualified candidate, however, it came to the attention of the admissions committee that you were under investigation for allegations of bribery which is not in line with our values and code of conduct,” the university said in an email to the FDA lawyer.
Details of the correspondence are part of court processes Mrs Dapaah-Ntow filed to support a case in which she’s seeking an injunction from the court to stop the broadcast of the television version of “The Returned Bribe” an investigative documentary by the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Estate, Manasseh Azure Awuni.
What Is The Returned Bribe Scandal?
In November 2020, Manasseh Azure Awuni released an investigative report titled “The Returned Bribe” in which the CEO of the COA FS food supplement, Prof. Samuel Ato Duncan, alleged the FDA attempted to extort money from him when his product gained popularity in the wake of the COVID-19.
In the investigative report, Mrs Cynthia Dapaah-Ntow was cited in a $200,000 bribery saga. She allegedly demanded a bribe of $100,000 for the CEO of the FDA and another $100,000 for herself.
This happened at the same period FDA, in April 2020, suspended the production license of COA FS, citing breaches in safety protocols.
The CEO of COA FS said he suspected foul play in the FDA’s approach and contacted the Head of Legal to complain and seek advice on how to handle the situation. According to him, it was at a meeting to discuss the issues that Mrs Dapaah-Ntow demanded the money.
Professor Ato Duncan returned the following day with ¢500,000 (the cedi equivalent of $100,000) for the CEO of the FDA and another ¢100,000 for the Head of Legal.
Mrs Dapaah-Ntow later called him to come back for the money because the CEO of the FDA had rejected the money.
In that phone conversation, which was recorded, Mrs Dapaah-Ntow is heard arguing with Professor Samuel Ato Duncan that the agreement was to give both the CEO of the FDA and her (the Head of Legal) $100,000 each. She said her cash of GHC100,000 was far less than the amount agreed.
“And we said okay bring her $100,000. And I asked you a specific question; [about mine] how much? Then you said the same amount,” she is heard in the audio.
“That’s what you said, Prof. We never discussed ¢100,000 at all… Because $100,000, if you were giving her that, would translate into 587 [587,000 cedis]. Is that not correct? Assuming you were giving her cedi equivalent, that’s 587 [587,000 cedis].”
Prof. Ato Duncan said he thought it was $100,000 for the CEO of the FDA and 100,000 cedis for the Head of Legal Affairs.
Asked why he gave the money knowing that it was illegal to pay a bribe, Prof. Duncan said he suspected foul play and decided to play along. He added that in the process, he was in touch with the Greater Accra Regional Director of the National Bureau of Investigations (NIB), whom he fed updates of the scheme including exchanges between him and the Cynthia Dapaah-Ntow.
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