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24.05.2007 General News

NPP man blows alarm over scramble for Railways properties

By myjoyonline

A former Western Regional chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr. Francis Kobina Eghan has alleged that even though Ghana Railway Company as a business entity has not officially been sold, top NPP gurus in the Western Region were scrambling for the assets of the beleaguered company.

Mr. Hagan popularly known in Takoradi, as "Abaatan" would not mention any names but said he had the information from a credible source.

He regretted that people who were supposed to lobby the central government to bring development projects to the Western Region were themselves scrambling for the assets of the GRC, which could lead to the eventual collapse of the company that was already struggling to stand on its feet.

He has therefore called on President Kufuor and his government to immediately halt the sale of the assets that include six bungalows located in prime residential areas in both Sekondi and Takoradi.

Speaking at a news conference in Takoradi on Tuesday, Mr. Eghan said he was not surprised because as far back as 1970, one of the MPs from the Progress Party (PP), MR. A. A. Munufie, proclaimed that if he had his way, he would have scrapped the Ghana Railway Company. "One would ask if this current situation could be termed a mere coincidence or a dream come true," he said.

According to Abaatan, the bidding documents he had laid hands on revealed that the government, through the Ministry of Harbours and Railways, had contracted

Messrs Koaconsult, a company owned by Roads and Transport Minister Felix Owusu Adjapong, a presidential candidate to oversee the bidding and sale of the aforementioned bungalows through what he termed as "wonderful lease".

The bidding document, which he also made available to the press, indicates that those who will win the bid for the "long lease" of the bungalows would pay for the price through installment. A careful scrutiny of the documents further revealed that 50% of the consideration should be paid as commitment within ten days upon the receipt of the acceptance offer, 25% after the execution of the contract for the lease document and the remaining 25% on the transfer of title.

The quotation including the terms of payment should be addressed to the office of the Chief Director at the Ministry of Harbours and Railways. The bidding document further stated that Ghana Railways was not under any obligation to accept any offer, whether or not such offer represents the highest consideration proposed by any of the prospective bidders.

Mr. Francis Eghan who worked at the GRC for 26 years as traffic accountant, noted that the term surplus being cited as the reason for the long lease of the six bungalows was not convincing because, "if it is not needed now it could be of help in future".

The Chronicle newspaper said it independently discovered that the Estate Manager was the brother of the Managing Director and name sake of the MD, Mr. Quaye, and that the Board members had approved the sale of the properties.

Mr. Quaye however disclosed that they had halted the sale of the properties because the bids they received were too low.

He said the PNDC government headed by ex-president Rawlings made similar mistakes by selling the assets of the then Black Star Line after selling the ships. He said if the assets were left untouched, any future government could have easily revived the defunct company.

"The long lease of these assets is not in the interest of mother Ghana and Western Region. If the GRC does not need the bungalows now, they should rent it out to companies who are interested instead of the sale that is being termed as long lease," Abaatan added.

Abaatan said there was no political motive behind his news conference and that it was an undeniable fact that the Western rail line contributed between 80 and 90% of the total revenue of the GRC but when it came to the rehabilitation of the rail lines, the government chose to go for that of the Eastern line that had been dormant and contributing nothing in terms of revenue to the GRC.

He said to add insult to injury, the government was now going to sell the assets of the company in Takoradi which could best be explained to mean that the government had no agenda for the Western rail line.

"What NPP government has forgotten is that it was people from the Railway background that established and nurtured it as a party in the Western Region. So why should you try to destroy their department?,” he asked.

Mr. Eghan further told the pressmen that during Dr. Nkrumah's regime, the carting of cocoa and timber were the preserve of the GRC, which at the time employed over 17,000 workers. He said the haulage of such goods through rail prolonged the life span of the country's roads and also reduced accidents. Two of the companies that sustain the railways are Ghana Bauxite and Ghana Manganese Company but the Alcoa owned Ghana Bauxite have resorted to using the roads to haul their ingots to the port in Takoradi for shipment abroad.

He regretted that today that monopoly has not only been broken but also articulated trucks had completely taken over the job thus collapsing the revenue base of the once vibrant company. ''Today salaries of GRC workers are in arrears for three months because there is no money to pay them", he added.

According to Abaatan, who was flanked by some of the retired workers of the GRC, these were some of the issues they expected the government to address but not the sale of the assets of the compa¬ny.

Credit: The Chronicle