With less than two weeks to the general elections slated for December 7, the political integrity of Professor John Evans Atta Mills, National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential candidate, has been called to serious questions, with allegations that he was economical with the truth when he led a demonstration against the recent privatisation of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone.
This follows a revelation made by a pressure group calling itself 'The Independents', to the effect that the professor does not practice what he says he believes in.
The Independents have sponsored several paid adverts in the print media, and punctured holes into the former president's political morality and overall honesty, particularly when it comes to the capability of the Ghanaian entrepreneur.
The group had revealed that contrary to the claims on several political platforms that he had faith in the Ghanaian managing his own companies, the professor was actually behind the sale of hundreds of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to foreign investors and as well supervised the collapse of others during his term as Vice President of the country and Chairman of the Economic Management Team.
The tall list of companies in the advert included the Tema Dry Dock and Ghana Films, which were sold to some Malaysians, Abosso Glass Factory, to Togolese, and the Ghana Industrial Holdings Corporation (GIHOC) and all its subsidiaries, doled out to the cronies of NDC.
Also in the list were the Ghana Cement (Ghacem), Ashanti Gold Fields, Ghana Oil Palm Development, West Africa Mills Company, Ghana National Trading Corporation (GNTC) outlets, Tema Food Complex, State Fishing Corporation and Tema Textiles Limited (TTL).
Others were the Asutuare/Komenda Sugar Factories, State Farms, Paper Conversion, Star Hotel, Tomos Assembly Plant, Pomadze Poultry Farms, Black Star Line and State Construction Corporation (SCC).
Juxtaposed with the tall list of sold companies was a large photograph of Professor Mill when he joined a group of demonstrators some three months ago in the wake of news that government wanted to dispose of its shares in Ghana Telecom.
Even though the supposedly non-partisan demonstration was organised by the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) on the premise that state properties should never be sold, the NDC flagbearer played an instrumental role in it and hit the streets with the 'boys'.
He was caught by the sharp lenses of a camera wielding a placard with the inscription “Ghanaians Are Capable Of Managing Ghanaian Companies”.
This, The Independents contended, amounts to dishonesty since the professor was the Vice President and also head of the Economic Management Team when many of the listed companies were sold to foreigners.
“Ghana is looking for men of integrity, honesty and with the very basics of political morality. Does Professor Mills Qualify?” the group asked rhetorically.
The NDC leader had consistently frowned at the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) government whenever there was a suggestion of selling a non-performing state company or asking strategic foreign investors to intervene, as was the case of Ghana Telecom.
His critics have argued that after presiding over the country's Economic Management Team from 1997-2001, Prof Mills virtually led the economy into doldrums and supervised the inflation rate to its record high of nearly 50 percent.
The last time he had such a flak was when he stated at an NDC press conference that loans the country contracted in his days attracted smaller interests than those under the NPP government, and went ahead to describe the current situation as sinister.
“What is more sinister is the fact that the loans being contracted currently are of higher interest rates than in the past,” he stated.
This prompted the then Finance Minister, the late Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, to wade in and caution him to stop misleading the good people of Ghana.
Presenting a head-load of documents to the media to set the records straight, he said in 1991, Professor Mills' PNDC/NDC government signed a $240,000 loan agreement from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for the improvement of facilities at the Dimples Inn in Accra at an interest rate of 12.5 percent.
He further referred to a South Trust Bank of Alabama loan signed in 1997 for the purchase of farm equipment, and which attracted an interest of 12 percent.
These, he said, could not be compared to the NPP's loans such as the Sekondi-Takoradi Water Supply loan - 5.97 percent; Weija Dam Remedial Works - 5.97 percent; Elmina Fishing Harbour - 4.08 percent; and the $292m Bui Hydroelectric Project - 6.13 percent.
He appealed to politicians to desist from misleading the people simply because they want to score political points.
Hon. Baah-Wiredu was compelled to catalogue other 'bizarre' NDC contracts, including the $19.36m Takoradi Thermal Plant loan of 1995 from the Commonwealth Development Corporation - 11.7 percent; two Lines of Credit to NIB (1985) from African Development Bank – 11 percent each; $9.467m rehabilitation of Mampong-Ejura road - 9.25 percent, and the Government of France $4.646m Novotel-II loan of 10.74 percent.
Interestingly, the professor failed to challenge the revelations of the former Minister until he passed away a couple of months ago.
It is not clear if he will be able to disentangle himself from the net of The Independents this time around.
By Bennett Akuaku