Two former ministers, Mr. Kwame Peprah (Finance), Mr. Ibrahim Adam (Food and Agriculture) and Dr. George Yankey, former Director of Legal Sector, Private and Financial Institutions of the Ministry of Finance were thrown into prison for "supposedly" causing financial loss to Ghana.
The case revolved around a US woman, Ms. Juliet Cotton, who after securing a loan of $20 million to produce rice at Aveyime in the Volta Region squandered the money. However, Mr. Peprah, Mr. Ibrahim Adam and Dr. Yankey who were involved one way or the other in helping Ms. Cotton to secure the loan but did not benefit directly from the deal, were convicted for causing Ghana to lose $20 million.
Ironically, the same NDC government under which these public officials served passed the law under with which were charged
The case generated a lot of coverage and public attention because for the first time (Correct me if I am wrong) public appointed officials were being tried for being negligent in predicting the outcome of a loan guaranteed for a foreign investor. Mr. Peprah and the other officials could not predict that Ms. Cotton after cashing the check of $20 million would squander it.
Now that Mr. Peprah and co have been thrown into prison, the verdict has sent mixed feelings among the Ghanaian populace. While some Ghanaians are obviously not happy with the verdict given by a Supreme Court judge, Mr. Justice Kwame Afreh (Supreme Court judges normally do not sit on lower court cases), others including controversial, loose cannon, press secretary, Mr. Kwabena Agyepong are happy.
My former professor, Mr. David Newton, Director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, got it right when he said in an interview with the Daily Graphic that the law on causing financial loss to the state is vague and its merits only lie in the discretion of the judge.
I am particularly interested in knowing the borderline of the law. If public officials are to be held accountable for causing financial loss to the state, what constitute the borderline? Will officials be convicted for causing Ghana to lose $5000, $1 million, $40,000 or say $500?
Assuming a bank manager of Ghana Commercial Bank approves of a loan of about 200 million cedis to a would-be investor who later defaults in payment, who gets convicted? Is it the loan defaulter or the bank manager who approved the loan?
If current Finance Minister, Mr. Osaafo-Mafo signs any loan agreement on behalf of Ghana and it is later found out that the interest rate on that loan will cause Ghana to lose a lot of money, will he be dragged to court and convicted?
Just go to the Wall Street in New York or talk to any credible investor or ask any loan processor whether it is easy to predict whether an investor or individual being given a loan would honor the repayment agreement or default in payment.
If that is easy to predict Ghanaians will remember that almost two years ago, President Kufour welcomed officials from K-Mart (USA) and granted them audience as officials in town to invest heavily in Ghana. The press gave President Kufour a lot of coverage on this event, but barely 24 hours after the fanfare, K-Mart filed for bankruptcy. End of story. What if some commitments had been made and loans guaranteed ?
Ghanaians have not forgotten that in preparation for the fuzzy IFC loan that fell apart, Mr. Osaafo-Mafo and Mr. J. H. Mensah, Senior prefect and brother-in-law of President Kufour and their entourage made several trips outside Ghana, at the expense of Ghana, to work out the deal. Ironically Ghana paid for these trips.
Since it has now been established that IFC is not a credible company, is President Kufour going to drag Mr. Osaafo-Mafo and his own brother-in-law to the fast tract court? All the money spent on that fuzzy deal must repaid by Osaafo-Mafo and J.H. Mensah. The two misled the whole country including the president himself, yet ever since the deal went bad Kufour has left this two cronies or crooks off the hook.
President Kufour has since his inauguration as president made more than 50 trips abroad to seek the illusive investments that is meant to turn Ghana's economy around. These trips have at times taken Kufour to struggling Third World countries, some of which Ghana is far ahead in terms of social, political and economic development.
President Kufour is known to travel with a large entourage,.. They sleep in top hotels, eat at the best and expensive restaurants and get big daily allowance of $200 or more. Someone should quantify the huge expenses that these foreign trips have brought to Ghana. Sadly none of these trips have yet yielded any significant investment to Ghana. This is the biggest financial loss (You can call it waste) to Ghana.
Now will it be fair that after Kufour leaves office (He is not staying forever) someone can drag him to court and convict him for causing financial loss to Ghana? Remember what President Chiluba did to President Kaunda. He never thought that the very things that he did to Kaunda will ever come back to haunt him. Chiluba is now being prosecuted for causing financial loss to Zambia.
As we speak now it is being alleged that Ghana has spent $69,000 (about ¢586,500,000) (Source: Chronicle) for the treatment abroad of the Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey. Mr. Adjetey is being paid for his services as the speaker of parliament, therefore if he is sick Ghana should not be responsible for his medical bills . Anything about Ala Adjetey runs into millions of cedis. Remember the Benz car that cost $90,000? That money could have been used in providing improved medical care for a whole community in one of the disadvantaged and deprived communities in the country.
Again, it was under the watch of the former Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Edward Osei-Kwaku that Ghana contracted a Yugoslavian coach for the Black Stars. After pocketing more than $70,000 the Yugoslavian coach vanished into thin air. Is Osei-Kwaku in jail for not knowing in advance that the Yugoslavian coach will vanish or he is a free man? Time will tell.
This law under which Mr. Peprah and others were imprisoned is a bad law. The earlier it is repealed or expunged from the law books the better. Kufour and his administration should not be happy with this kind of law because in the very near future it will be used by someone to put them in the cooler too.
The law as it stands now has the potential of robbing Ghana of good public officials. I do not think any Ghanaian would agree to serve as a public official knowing very well that one day he/she can be dragged to court and prosecuted if a contract or deal he/she signed on behalf of the country goes bad. This law would scare good qualified Ghanaians from serving the country. It will simply kill initiative on the part of public officials and make them ineffective. Believe me many public officials would be afraid to perform for fear of repercussion from whatever they do. In the end Ghana would be the loser.
The president should use his good judgment and get Peprah and others out of jail. It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that these officials who acted in their official capacities did not benefit either directly or indirectly from the loan. And Mr. Agyepong should stop preaching that the imprisonment of the three , has sent a clear message to public officials that they could no longer take the sweat and toil of the people for granted.
Mark my words. These loose statements by Mr. Agyepong will come back to burn him one day. This is because those who live in glass houses should be wary of throwing stones.
What needs to be done to prevent such future occurrences, is to strengthen the intelligence network so that Ghana would be provided with critical investigation into the background of all would be investors.
It is only then that fraudsters like Juliet Cotton could be prevented from marching to the seat of government to parade themselves as investors only to embarrass the government and Ghanaians in public in general .
President Kufour should also do more by putting in place other mechanisms that will save Ghana from losing money in future deals signed on behalf of the country. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.