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17.03.2005 General News

Accra International Conference Centre Under Pressure

By Graphic

UNLESS one is Spacefon with lots of promotion money to spend; or one is a radio station with millions of airtime cedis to barter away; or one is a promoter with no eye on profits, one must not think about organising a weekend event at the Accra International Conference Centre.

The first probability is that the one will not get the place at all, and that is a fact that many event organisers have learnt, especially since the National Theatre announced that it was closing for refurbishment for the next eleven months.

Officials at the Conference Centre told this reporter last Monday that a lot of prospective organisers who have come to make booking enquiries at the Centre had been turned away because the Centre has been “fully booked”.

On further probing, however, the official referred this reporter to see the Director of Estates and General Services Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr K. K. Alabo who had “the answers to all your questions”.

It turned out, however, that Mr Alabo had begun his annual leave and since he had not handed over yet to his next in command, no one could speak to the seemingly simple question of why the Conference Centre has become such a “restricted” facility at weekends.

It was confirmed within the corridors of the ministry, however, that last year the ministry of Foreign Affairs and Global Media Alliance company entered into a two-year contract during which Global Media will use the Centre for the screening of films all weekends. The contract is due for re-negotiation at the end of the first year this month.

The contract has been described as a normal business practice. One entertainment promoter told this writer that such a long-lease tenancy is good for both landlord and tenant.

“For the landlord, the practice provides a good bulk sum for the maintenance of the facility as well as capital for other endeavours”, he said. “For the tenant, he is guaranteed uninterrupted operation for the period agreed.”

It appears though that whatever bulk sum the Ministry has made from the contract has not been put to maintaining facilities at the Centre. Until a couple of weeks ago, the faulty air-conditioning system and a leaking roof were the subject of news on tele vision.

Last December, following the inability of Kojo Antwi to book the Conference Centre for his regular 24th Night Show, Showbiz found that one of the reasons for the no-show was that “a company which had booked all weekends in the year normally asks for considerations that are about thrice the going rate for the use of the Centre”.

That accusation has been repeated by other promoters and artists who say they have attempted to book the Centre on weekends. They claim that they found the “compensation” that they are supposed to make rather unreasonable.

In total, the promoters claim, they were expected to pay the 18 million cedis for the use of the Centre and also provide compensation which amounts to about twice that much.

“If I went ahead to make that booking, it means that I have to put the extra on my tickets thus raising the price to about ¢400,000 and thereby losing a lot of patrons”, one lady said.

But Mr Albert Mensah, the Project Manager of Global Media Alliance told this reporter on Tuesday that the claims of the promoters were not true and that they have been doing business “above board”.

Mr Mensah said that the contract between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Global Media Alliance does not permit them to sublet the Centre. He said that on the few occasions that they agreed to step aside for others to use the Centre, they had entered into a collaboration with the event organisers.

“We are in business”, Mr Mensah said. “We have our bills to pay and therefore no one should expect us to just give away our tenancy like that and make losses”.

What Mr Mensah said what they do, as collaboration with promoters is to discount their cinema ticket prices so that patrons to a particular show could use their ticket to see a movie of their choice later.

With the closure of the National Theatre and the unavailability of the Conference Centre for big-time shows, organisers and patrons have had two options — either to suspend show plans or make do with smaller venues.

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