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General News | Apr 30, 2004

Fallout of ¢380bn swindle - GOV’T IN A FIX

Chronicle

Despite having been swindled to the tune of ¢380 billion, The Chronicle has learnt from reliable sources that both the government and COCOBOD are in a dilemma as to whether to abrogate the investment pact it signed with Hamester to run the West Africa Mills Company (WAMCO) or not.

The Chronicle gathered that whilst COCOBOD was yearning to get its 23 million euros that had been seized illegally by Hamester, the government was also treading cautiously in her dealings with Hamester to avoid creating a wrong impression to potential investors about Ghana.

Investigations established that the government had started putting her house in order before deciding on the fate of Hamester as an investor that controls 60% shares in WAMCO. Already a section of the WAMCO workers had started calling on the government to publicly declare her position on the matter.

The Chronicle leant that the President Kufuor-led government had already re-constituted the WAMCO board of directors but the latter is still finding it difficult to meet as regularly as possible because of Hamester's attitude. Hamester has four members serving on the seven-member board.

The remaining three members serving on the board were those appointed by the government who do not have the power to convene a meeting and take a major decision like what is currently going on in the company without the consent or approval of Hamester, who is a majority shareholder though the chairman of the board is appointed by the government.

The Chronicle investigations established that even though the collective bargaining agreement signed between Hamester and WAMCO workers expired on January 31, this year but nothing has been done about it because the interim management committee does not have the mandate to negotiate a new collective agreement without the knowledge and approval of Hamester, the majority shareholder.

It was gathered that officers of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) had already met the current interim management on the issue but no final decision had yet been taken because of the Hamester factor.

Some of the WAMCO workers who spoke to The Chronicle said the present management had cancelled the loan facility they used to enjoy. They also revealed that the production unit of WAMCO One had been shut down. It was the fear of the workers that they might be laid off as fallout from the Hamester dealings with the government and COCOBOD.

Mr. K. N. Clement, head of the current management team, in an interview he granted this reporter about two weeks ago, said though the production unit of WAMCO One had been shut down for purely economic reasons, his management had no intention of laying off any worker.

He said management had even planned to shift some of the workers to work at WAMCO Two pending the re-opening of the WAMCO One production unit. Clement also explained to The Chronicle that his management cancelled the loan facility the workers used to enjoy because of financial difficulties the company was going through.

The Chronicle has meanwhile leant that despite withholding the 33 million euros in the German banks which COCOBOD and the government was struggling to deal with, Hamester was still the legitimate co-owners of the company since the agreement had not been abrogated.

This means that any loss or profit made by the present management would be borne by both the government and Hamester.

Mr. Michael Holzapfel, until recently Hamester's accredited representative in Ghana, on the several occasions that he spoke to this reporter refused to disclose the reason why COCOBOD had refused to supply cocoa beans to his company when the misunderstanding between the two reached its peak in early 2003.

It has taken The Chronicle one year of intensive investigations to get to the bottom of the matter, as COCOBOD was also not prepared to talk.

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