$1.5bn AAL debt: My letter is not contract – Atta Akyea
7/3/2012 12:01:13 PM -
The NPP Member of Parliament for Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Akyea says it is ridiculous and 'infantile' for any member of the President Mills-led administration to suggest that a letter he authored on behalf of his client, African Automobile Limited (AAL), in 2003, meant there was a written and signed contract between the two parties and that the company deserved the whooping $1.5billion it is purportedly claiming as compensation.
'It is insulting to our good governance set-up that a letter from a Lawyer should be accepted as the gospel truth and that the government should swallow it hook, line and sinker', he underscored.
In an exclusive interview with The New Crusading GUIDE yesterday after his said letter had been read copiously on Joy FM's news analysis programme Newsfile last Saturday by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a Deputy Information Minister, Mr. Akyea stated 'the government has now become the Lawyer for the company. From the posture and propaganda of Hon. Ablakwa, it is clear that he has been hired by African Automobile Limited to champion its course'
He further accused the Deputy Minister of working against the interest of the people of Ghana. 'Instead of him to find out concrete facts to defend the government, he has been converted because he speaks as if he is the Attorney for the company and that is very weird'.
Touching on the substantive matter of the existence of a contract, Hon. Atta Akyea emphasized that 'There was no signed contract properly speaking; and I only made inference of contract by conduct'.
'A letter from a Lawyer is a claim; what we call a demand notice and it doesn't end there. The one who the letter has been addressed to needs to interrogate the claims and make the appropriate response', he clarified.
'Any serious government would subject the legitimacy of such claims to scrutiny, seek legal interpretation and advice, and challenge it in court', he posited.
On the question of the legitimacy of the $1.5billion Mr. Ablakwa says AAL is demanding from the State, he stated 'I did not put any quantum of amount in the said letter and so I am amazingly surprised that they are talking about this amount'.
He answered in the negative when asked whether he had been contacted by any investigative body as the author of that letter. He also wondered why the government had chosen not to talk to any of the past government officials who dealt with AAL relative to the importation of the vehicles.
'Instead, the government is in an indecent haste to deal with them (AAL) alone', he underscored.
He also indicated his lack of knowledge of any court action by AAL against the State relative to the importation of the controversial Gallopers. The Deputy Information Minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa contended on Joy Fm's Newsfile that AAL went to Court on the matter in 2004.
According to a Daily Graphic publication last week, the company, was said to have imported the Galloper vehicles which were ordered by the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 1999 and delivered in 2001 for distribution to District Assemblies but were abandoned by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) when it took power in 2001.
The NPP said there was no contract between government and AAL covering the importation of the vehicles and that the vehicles did not meet the specifications for Ghanaian roads as that time, amongst others.
According to Mr. Ablakwah, after the NPP's actions had led to rise in cost, the NPP turned around to accuse the NDC government of paying debts which they claimed were unjustified.
Mr. Ablakwa revealed that government had engaged aal in a dialogue with the aim of beating down their $1.5 billion claim on the 86 abandoned vehicles.
According to him, settlement negotiation with AAL is currently deadlocked. He added that the matter coming into the public domain was a result of the transparency in the governance system of the NDC.
Meanwhile, a former Deputy Minister of Local Government during the Kufuor regime, Maxwell Kofi Jumah, last week accused Mr. Ablakwa and the NDC government of deliberately conniving with the company (ATL) to steal from the ordinary Ghanaian.
The former Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, said though at the time the issue popped up during the Kufuor regime, he was not a Minister, upon assuming work at the Ministry, he later read more about it. 'I read more on the Gallopers but found no Agreement between the company and government'.
'The late Baah Wiredu was the first Minister at the Local Government Ministry and the first challenge he faced was this issue. At the time Baah Wiredu saw that the former Minister, Kwamena Ahwoi had arranged with the company to furnish the various Assemblies with vehicles but there was no Agreement to that effect. ..Though there was no Agreement, the deal would have been brokered but Baah Wiredu saw that the vehicles (Gallopers) were bad and lacked the agreed specifications so he asked them to do the right thing. We never heard from the company till the Mills government came into office', Kofi Jumah recalled.
Kofi Jumah further asserted that the way Mr. Ablakwa was defending AAL on the 'so called' judgment debt could suggest there was some level of connivance to defraud the State.
He stressed that the erstwhile Kufuor-led administration realized that the deal was bad so 'I am wondering why such a bad deal can attract the so-called debt. What work did they do?'
Mr. Jumah debunked claims that the Kufuor Administration took delivery of some of the vehicles before rejecting the others, saying; 'anybody who says we took even one of the vehicles, then I don't know what is wrong with that person because we rejected all of them. We rather asked the company to take the Gallopers and furnish us with the agreed ones but we didn't hear from them again till now. It is very glaring that this is fraud'.
He therefore called for the arrest and prosecution of the owners of the company for attempting to defraud the State. 'It is even the company that should pay the said amount for taking part of the money and doing a shoddy job'.
He admonished Government not to do any out of court settlement with AAL because it will amount to willfully causing financial loss to the state.
'What is out of court settlement? It is a bogus venture because it is those people (AAL) who are trying to rob us so why negotiate with them. It is even amazing to hear the amount has accrued up to $1.5bn. It is simply fraudulent', Mr. Jumah bellowed.