Palaver -- A damning report by a Ghana Ports and Harbours (GPHA) insider intercepted by your authoritative 'Ghana Palaver' makes it crystal clear that President Kufuor's nephew, Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah, whom he appointed as the Director-General of the GPHA on his coming into office, is preparing the PNDC/NDC nurtured blue chip Company for eventual collapse and divestiture a la Ghana Airways.
Even before he starts his treatise, the author of the piece entitled "GPHA is infested with Corruption, Favouritism and Nepotism" draws his conclusion: "President Kufuor will do this country a great service if he removes him (his nephew Ben Owusu-Mensah) from GPHA in the same manner that he brought him in (does this remind you, dear reader of a gentleman called Charles Yves Wereko-Brobby at VRA?)
To begin with, Ben Owusu-Mensah is identified as the former Regional IMO (International Maritime Organisation) representative who also doubled as a consultant under the name BENOM Consult that used to consult for the GPHA. He is also identified as a former Manager in the defunct Black Star Line Limited at the time of its collapse.
After going into the details of the state of the GPHA (then GPA) as at 1981 and the various restructuring and rehabilitation processes that the PNDC and NDC Governments had to go through before bringing the GPHA to its present state of physical, technological and financial health, the report then comes to the core and 'gravamen' of the issue.
Using a unique writing style that mixes statements of fact with questions and answers and comments, the author then makes the following damning point.
Dismissal of Acting Director-General
Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah removed the Director of Tema Port and Acting Director-General by first interdicting him and then setting up a Committee to probe him without just cause.
Fraudulent Port Cargo Operations Privatisation
Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah opened up private sector participation in port cargo operations without public tender and with a clear absence of transparency.
Quay 2 Extension Works Contract
Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah was invited to London with others to discuss the Interbeton/Bathgate proposal to develop and operate Quay 2 and was thus unduly influenced in his decision to award the contract to the Interbeton/Bathgate Group.
There were serious irregularities in the tender, evaluation and award of the contract to Interbeton for the Quay 2 extension works.
At bid opening for the Quay 2 extension works contract, the opening bid was only US$23,105,671.00, but for inexplicable reasons, this swelled to over US$40 million for which there was no value for money audit and which was awarded to Interbeton for non-transparent reasons.
Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah engaged in a form of "insider trading" to favour Interbeton in the Quay 2 extension works contract, and there was no serious technical scrutiny of the Interbeton offer.
Supervision of Dredging Works
Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah terminated the original consultants to the project, RRI, a private competitor, and appointed his foreign principals, Portoconsults, to provide consulting services for the supervision of the dredging works.
There was direct conflict of interest in his appointment of his principals as the consultants for the project.
Implementation of Personal Financial Agenda
Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah transferred the two well-trained lawyers from the Headquarters to the Tema and Takoradi Ports to become administrative managers and appointed external lawyers for the Port. The two lawyers, expensively trained at GPHA expense in the UK, subsequently resigned.
Subsequent to the resignation of the two lawyers, he employed two new lawyers to fill their former positions, which he had described as unnecessary.
He removed the Fishing Harbour Manager for allegedly allowing the ex-President to use the harbour to import arms to stage the coup and so could not be trusted.
He sent the trained Corporate Planner to Burkina Faso to market the ports for suspected pro-NDC sympathies.
Staffing in the Authority
Most jobs, including procurement and works contracts, go to either his close pals or relatives or who has the biggest purse.
Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah dismissed the top estate and engineering managers without justifiable cause.
He used the excuse of suspected NDC Party affiliation to get rid of many of the well-trained professionals in the Authority.
GPHA Board Members
The Board members cannot take action against Mr. Ben Owusu-Mensah because some of them have their hands soaked with GPHA money by gaining jobs in GPHA for mechanical maintenance, air travel tickets, requisition of tracks of port land, engineering works and foreign travel.
The Director-General's connection with the Ministry and the Castle is known to be stronger than even the sector Minister himself.
The full text of the Report will be serialised beginning from the next issue of this paper.
ROT AT IRS
...As Kufuor's niece refuses to "proceed on retirement"
More evidence of "wilfully causing financial loss to the state" continues to be uncovered in the public services as J. A. Kufuor's beleaguered and tottering Presidency comes to an ignominious end.
Grumbling staff of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have revealed to the 'Ghana Palaver' that the newly established Large Taxpayers Unit (LTU) office was supposed to be located in the former Black Star Line Building at Osu, the grandiose structure that stands on the Osu street running parallel to the street on which is located the NDC Campaign Centre, the operational Headquarters of the NDC's Presidential candidate, Professor John Evans Atta-Mills.
Atta-Mills was the Commissioner, IRS, until 1996 when he resigned to contest as President Jerry John Rawlings' running mate on the ticket of the NDC in that year's Presidential elections.
The Black Star Line Building, the former Headquarters of the state shipping line, we are told, has been renovated by the IRS at a cost of about ¢7.5 billion, yet it has been standing as a "white elephant" (no irony intended) ever since its completion.
Meanwhile, the staff of the LTU are still located at the "Heritage Building" behind the British Council. According to the irate staff of the IRS, the monthly rent for the "Heritage Building" is in the thousands of dollars.
"Who is really causing financial loss to the state", the worried staff of the IRS asked.
In a related development, 'Ghana Palaver' has learnt that the niece of President Kufuor, Mrs. Janet Opoku-Acheampong, who is the current Commissioner, is due to retire in December 2004.
As is the practice with the NPP administration, expressed in the crudest of manners when the two lady members of the Electoral Commission - Mrs. Solomon and Mrs. Cole - reached the retiring age, the Chief of Staff by now should have written to remind her of her impending retirement.
'Ghana Palaver' has learnt, however, that Mrs. Opoku-Acheampong has warned that nobody should write to inform her of the fact of her impending retirement, her expectation being that in the unlikely event of the NPP winning the December elections, she will be continued in office on contract by her uncle, President Kufuor.
It will be recalled that two months to the date of retirement of Mrs. Solomon and Mrs. Cole, members of the Electoral Commission, when the registration of voters was due to begin in three weeks' time, Chief of Staff Kwadwo Mpiani wrote to inform them of their impending retirement and to thank them for their services to the state. The President immediately announced replacements for them.
Both Mrs Solomon and Mrs. Cole are Gas. However, the Auditor-General, Edward Dua-Agyeman, an Ashanti who is almost 4 years above the compulsory retiring age of 60, was not only appointed on contract when he was over age, but must have had his contract renewed twice by President Kufuor, else the President would have breached the provisions of the Audit Service Act relating to contract appointments