The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, has waded into the current debate on the energy crisis that has seen officials of ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDCV) trading accusations on which regime had failed the nation.
Addressing a press conference, Mr. Tsikata, known variously as financial wizard, among others, refuted assertions by the government that the previous government had invested in unproductive projects that could not improve the energy sector during their tenure.
Mr. Tsikata suggested that the government should cease the politicization of the energy crisis and find a solution to the problem adding that when Prof Evans Atta Mills held a press conference on April 4, he was just recognizing the value of non-politicization of the issue and now the country could address the national crisis.
Responding to an earlier statement made by the Minister of Energy, Mr. Kofi Adda on April 5, which was also in reaction to an earlier statement by Prof Mills on April 4, Mr. Tsikata expressed surprise over the Minister's statement that the government was informed about the crisis only last year while it is on record that in June 2002 the Energy Commission had drawn the attention of the government to an impending crisis.
Flanked by some NDC brains including Mr. Ato Ahwoi, Dr Kwame Dzigbordi Ampofo, Mr. Kwame Peprah and Hon. Doe Adjaho, he emphasized that the Minister of Energy had lied that the then Minister of Finance, Mr. Peprah got fed up with his (Tsatsu's) financial mismanagement and withdrew the state guarantee that was provided in connection with a loan of $294 million that GNPC had negotiated for from the US Export Import Bank (Eximbank) for the development of the Tano oil gas fields.
“These are statements he made categorically and they just are not true,” Mr. Tsikata said.
He insisted that Mr. Peprah did not withdraw the guarantee even at the time the International Monetary Fund (IMF) determined that if GNPC were to draw down all those funds, it would lead to a breach of conditionalities relating to government debt ceilings that the IMF had imposed on the country as part of its prgramme.
Mr. Tsikata, who is currently facing prosecution on charges related to causing financial loss to the State, continued that the then Finance Minster was so much interest in the deal that he invited him and some GNPC staff to meet the IMF in USA to discuss how the Tano Project could be executed.
He mentioned that the deal was not closed successfully before they left government and alleged that after they left office, some people told officials of World Bank that the US Eximbank funding that GNPC obtained was meant to be used for NDC political campaigning.
He said it did not make sense for Mr. Adda to continue with the assertion that the Japanese Government had given a grant for the construction of the Osagyefo barge.
“The Japanese Government's concessionary loan agreement for the Osagyefo Barge, and the transmission lines associated with it as well as the two substations was signed in 1995 before the US Eximbank loan in November 1996.
Indeed would it make sense for the Minister of Finance to withdraw a guarantee for a US Eximbank loan because he did not regard the project as viable and then go on and obtain another loan from the Japanese Government for the same project? Does it make sense? He inquired.
The 'Financial Wizard' elaborated that the link between the two projects was that the development of Tano fields was to provide the natural gas required to power the barge adding that both loans from the Japanese Government and US Eximbank were approved by parliament.
He disclosed that a team comprising staff of Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Volta River Authority, GNPC and the World bank recommended that the development of the Tano Fields should be the first gas production-utilization project in the country and would attract other interested investors for exploration and production of petroleum and natural gas.
He again intimated that the Tano Field would have fed the Osagyefo Barge and have the capacity to even power an additional 144MW power plant.
Mr. Tsikata advised that the $50 million that had been provided for relocating the Barge from Western Region to Tema could rather be used to give the Government leverage in negotiating with Tullow Oil, the new company to exploit the field, an accelerated filed development programme to enable the proven gas reserves to be used to fuel the barge.
Mr. Tsikata contended that it was very much demeaning on the part of Mr. Adda to defame GNPC knowing very well that the quality of GNPC staff had widely been acknowledged over the years in the international oil industry and more especially when the Ministry of Energy relied on them.
“Why would the minister not even refer tome by name, but only by repeating a falsehood that continues to be peddled around that former President Rawlings referred to me as “financial wizard” throughout the press conference he held.”
Mr. Tsikata said the gas required to power the 125MW Osagyefo Barge could be met form the approximately 200 billion cubic feet of gas already found in the Tano fields for a period of over 15 years and for a larger capacity of 259MW there would be add ional gas to meet the full requirement for about 8 years.
He re-emphasized that these reserves formed the basis for establishing the thermal power generation plant as had been attested to by various studies.
Addressing questions on the merits of the development of Tano Fields, he clarified that by introducing generation capacity in that side of the country, there would be a better balance in the national power grid instead of all the generation being on the eastern side of the country, and thus giving rise to significant transmission losses as power is transmitted to mainly mining activities in the west.
Touching on the West African Gas Pipeline, he said the previous government 's way forward was not to just depend on gas from the pipeline with all its uncertainties but rather also look at the need for urgent harnessing of indigenous natural gas particularly in the Tano fields and also even in the Saltpond fields.
Some other dignitaries in the NDC who attended the press conference included the Flagbearer of the party, Prof Mills, Alhahi Mohammed Mumuni, running mate of the party for the 2004 elections and former propaganda secretary Mr. Rojo Mettle-Nunoo