JAK, zero tolerance and the C120b currency contract
Ghana’s president John Kufuor is caught in a fix. His concept of “Zero Tolerance for Corruption, Indiscipline and Nepotism (ZOTCIN) seems to be cracking, concerning credible reports of lack of transparency and alleged irregularities in the award of a 10million pounds (now ¢120billion) contract to print the Ghanaian currency, the cedi. The Bank of Ghana has confirmed reports that ¢10, 000 and ¢20,000 notes would be printed. The private Daily Dispatch reports that the New Patriotic Party administration has been mute over the genuine concerns being expressed over this ¢120 billion.
“The way the Kufuor administration has been behaving on this issue reminds me of what my late mother told me on the best way to keep mute. Put water in your mouth, she advised, adding noting that once you open your mouth, the water will spill over you. Nevertheless, as part of the media’s role we promised to raise this issue till Ghanaians get answers.” The paper maintains that the president is in a dilemma. “He can stop the currency being executed by De La Rue and risk being taken to court or Ghana being accused (wrongly) of not honouring contracts. The other option is to terminate the contract, risk the country being taken to court and then investigating to find all those involved in the alleged non-transparent award of the currency printing contract. JAK should not spare the zero tolerance rod on all those found guilty”, the paper suggests. The May 20 2002 edition of the Dispatch carried a story headed, “tension in government over currency printing contract.” It was about some highly placed members of the NPP who felt a bit disappointed about the inability of JAK to deal decisively with the issues. When the president heard about certain irregularities in the award of contract, he ordered an enquiry. But many wonder that in spite of genuine concerns, the award has gone ahead. “Bank of Ghana sources confirmed that award of the 10million pounds contract to a British company, De La Rue, to print existing currency denomination - ¢1,000, ¢2,000, ¢5,000, and new denominations of ¢10,000 and ¢20000 notes. Other companies whose bids were from Europe – France, Germany and Netherlands. The other companies, another senior BOG official confirmed, were up in arms over certain irregularities they felt made the bidding field uneven. Some of the points of disagreement that the currency used in the bid-pounds sterling favoured the British company. There were suggestions of a neutral currency the United States dollar as there have been calls of bias if the Euro currency had been used. The use of the sterling meant they had to take insurance policies raising their costs. All the companies bidding, another BoG source disclosed, were required to use generic name for some of the details on the currency for which De La Rue had the patents. Another serious flaw was the manner in which the bids were opened. They were reportedly not opened at the same time in the presence of all the bidders, rather on different occasions. The Daily Dispatch, which claims knowledge of those, involved in issue but declined to reveal their identities.