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18.08.2022 Headlines

'Rather than turning yourself into AG's interpreter, help Energy Minister to be transparent' – ACEP blasts Kofi Abrefa

By Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo
Benjamin Boakye Left and Kofi Abrefa Afena RightBenjamin Boakye [Left] and Kofi Abrefa Afena [Right]
18.08.2022 LISTEN

The Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Benjamin Boakye has taken a swipe at Communications Specialist for the Ministry of Energy, Kofi Abrefa Afena for insisting the Minister sought the legal opinion of the Attorney General (AG) relating to the relocation of the Ameri power plant yet refused to make the document public.

An RTI request by ACEP revealed that the opinion of the Attorney General was not sought by the Energy Ministry in the contract to relocate the Ameri Plant.

After citing an original proposal from the Ministry which pegged the cost of the relocation of the plant at $25.48 million, ACEP has taken an interest in the matter and requested more information from the Attorney General.

In response to an RTI request from ACEP, the Attorney General has categorically stated that its opinion was not sought on the EPC contract to use sole sourcing to relocate the Ameri Plant.

“We are unable to provide the information requested on account of the fact that the advice of the Attorney-General was not requested for the Sole sourcing of the EPC contract on the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant to Kumasi and accordingly the Attorney General did not issue an opinion on the procurement,” part of the reply to ACEP’s RTI request from the Attorney General reads.

In a latest press release from ACEP, Benjamin Boakye has asked Kofi Abrefa Afena to concentrate on helping Energy Minister Matthew Opoku Prempeh to be more transparent instead of forcefully making himself an interpreter for the AG.

“I have seen a series of publications in newspapers and online addressed to me in response to my Facebook post on the fact that the Attorney General has denied giving a legal opinion on the relocation of the Ameri power plant in response to an RTI request by ACEP. In those publications, officials of the Ministry of Energy, led by a Communication Specialist, Kofi Abrefa Afena maintain that they have a legal opinion of the Attorney General on the relocation of the Ameri plant, which they have failed to publish or make available on demand.

“At this point, Kofi, rather than turning yourself into the interpreter of the AG, help the Minister to be transparent,” the ACEP statement reads in parts.

In recent weeks, ACEP has been on the neck of the Energy Minister after it raised concern on how the cost of the relocation of the Ameri Plant from Takoradi to Kumasi has been inflated to $35.6 million, $10.2 million more than the $25.4million initially proposed by the contractor.

While ACEP continues to chase for answers, it wants the Ministry of Energy to among other things make available a copy of the request for proposals and the response to the request for proposals for the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.

The Centre also wants a copy of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) approval for the contract and all correspondences with the PPA on the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant, a breakdown of the total cost of the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant and a copy of the Valuation Report on the Sole Source Proposal for the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.

Read full statement below:

HELP THE MINISTER TO BE TRANSPARENT INSTEAD OF THE ATTEMPTS TO BE THE AG’S INTERPRETER

I have seen a series of publications in newspapers and online addressed to me in response to my Facebook post on the fact that the Attorney General has denied giving a legal opinion on the relocation of the Ameri power plant in response to an RTI request by ACEP. In those publications, officials of the Ministry of Energy, led by a Communication Specialist, Kofi Abrefa Afena maintain that they have a legal opinion of the Attorney General on the relocation of the Ameri plant, which they have failed to publish or make available on demand.

I want to put on record that before writing to the Attorney General to request his legal opinion on the relocation of the Ameri plant, ACEP wrote to the Ministry of Energy requesting the following:

  • A copy of the EPC Contract on the Relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  • A copy of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) approval for the contract and all correspondences with the PPA on the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  • A breakdown of the total cost of the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  • A copy of the request for proposals and notice of request for proposals (if any) for the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  • A copy of the tender evaluation report on the selection of the contractor, showing names and details of all the companies which bid for the EPC Contract on the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  • Confirmation of whether or not it is the same Mytilineos SA company that was engaged in the attempted novation of the Ameri Power Plant in 2018.
  • Copies of all other documents related to the EPC Contract on the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.

The Ministry declined to provide the information requested in the following response.

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Subsequently, ACEP appealed to the Minister, as the head of the entity, to demand the information denied to us by the responsible officer, including the legal opinion of the AG, in accordance with the RTI Act. Though we have yet to hear from the Minister officially, he has been commenting on the request in the media, an indication that he does not intend to be transparent about the transaction to allow critical analysis of his decisions. Instead, he wants everyone to accept what he says hook, line and sinker, a spell which doesn’t work on us.

So, Kofi, as for writing, anybody can write, but in matters of public policy debate, evidence is key: it does not satisfy any critical mind to claim the existence of anything without evidence. You cannot pretend to understand our RTI request better than the AG. The AG understood precisely what we wanted if you don’t. He provided previous opinions and contracts the Ministry of Energy sent for his review in 2018 on the Ameri Power plant. Unless you are accusing the AG of deliberately denying us the relevant information, you must give the public the document you claim to have, or we will come for it per law if you want to test the full extent of the RTI before being transparent.

Kofi, note that without the cooperation of the Ministry of Energy and the apparent lack of respect for the RTI law, we have put out facts on the transaction. Your assumptions that we are out to make the Minister a liar is your imagination; if we did, it would be pages unending. We have been interested in transparency, anticorruption, and Value for Money (VFM). But, unfortunately, the Minister simply will not cooperate on that. I must admit, however, that some falsities from the Minister have been collateralised without looking at his person in putting out the facts on the transaction.

  1. We proved that the Ministry was the contracting party, not VRA, as the Minister continues to insist. We proved that the Minister only wrote to VRA for LCs to back the transaction when he, for reasons known to him, suspected that the Finance Ministry would not provide the guarantees for the relocation of the plant. We showed that the Minister approved $35.6 million, $10.2 million more than the $25.4million initially proposed by the contractor. After writing to VRA for the LCs, note that the Minister went to Parliament and denied the figures he had gotten PPA approval for.

In an uncoordinated defence, the Ministry officially responded to ACEP in the media to state that the additional $10.2 million was for water supply and emissions control systems. By the way, these are not expensive investments for simple cycle aero-derivative turbines that use limited amount of water. The last time VRA bought an Emissions Control system, it was about $250,000. Granting this additional scope is in addition to a borehole for water supply, the increased cost of $10 million is high. This official response contradicts the Minister’s media comments a day before the response that the extra cost was due to VRA’s request for an office building.

  • GRIDCo’s report requesting generation in the middle belt for grid stability informed the decision. The Ministry’s anchor on the 10-year-old Gridco document to justify the relocation is as terrible as the VFM concerns. The power sector has not been static for the past decade. A lot has happened, but the Ministry is willing to ignore them to justify a transaction. 10years ago, Bui was not on the grid, the 330kv BSPs in Kumasi and Kintampo and the 330kv line from Kumasi to the north were unavailable.

I honestly do not know how else I can get people like you to understand that the energy sector negatively impacts the economy of Ghana than the Russia and Ukraine war. The government hopes to get $3 billion from the IMF for a three-year program. The power sector will generate more than $2.5 billion debt in 2022. In that context, the most optimal decisions are required. There is no problem in Ghana today without a supporting document. The job of the Minister is to have the capacity to stress-test decisions. GRIDCo itself proposed an immediate fix for the power instability in the middle belt through investments in Static Var Compensators (SVCs) in its 2022 tariff proposal, which cost cheaper than the $71.6 being used to relocate the plant.

  • VRA staff are not capable of managing the plant- This is a falsehood that has been exposed beyond measure. The power system depends significantly on plants run by Ghanaian staff at VRA. These plants are more complex than the Ameri plants. The Minister has been petitioned by the VRA staff on this. However, he insists that the workers cannot operate the plant operated by Ghanaian casual workers for the period under Ameri. It is also a fact that VRA staff were trained per the agreement approved by Parliament. I don’t know the motivation for insisting that the training was not done when the Chief Director of the Ministry wrote to remind Ameri of the obligation before VRA seconded the staff. Additionally, VRA engineers were responsible for monitoring the plant to ensure that the plant was maintained according to OEM standards. They were not watchmen; they had the capacity to understand the maintenance culture of the plant that would be owned by Ghana at the end of the 5-year contract period.

  • VRA staff blasted the T3 plant. To deepen the falsehood on VRA’s capacity to operate the plant, the Minister has been telling the media that VRA staff blew up the T3 plant. This is not just unfair but unbelievable for the sector minister who should command accurate information on the sector. At least google has some information on the T3 plant, which was constructed by an EPC contract. The plant was blasted because the EPC contractor experimented with light crude oil instead of the recommended use of lighter fuels such as kerosene or gas. At the time of the explosion, the contractors were still in charge of the plant. There must be accurate record keeping at the Ministry.

At this point, Kofi, rather than turning yourself into the interpreter of the AG, helps the Minister to be transparent. However, as indicated in our RTI request, we still need the following:

  1. A copy of the request for proposals and the response to the request for proposals (if any) for the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  2. A copy of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) approval for the contract and all correspondences with the PPA on the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  3. A breakdown of the total cost of the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant.
  4. A copy of the Valuation Report on the Sole Source Proposal for the relocation of the Ameri Power Plant
  5. Any other document relating to the procurement: EIA, Feasibility studies etc.

Transparency is not a words’ game but a manifestation of deeds. The Attorney General has shown good faith in deeds by responding to ACEP’s request and providing information to satisfy the same. Anybody who cannot provide information in the interest of transparency should hold their peace. The shadow responses through state-employed individuals will not be allowed to bloom.

Benjamin Boakye

Executive Director

Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP)

Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo
Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo

Journalist

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