23.03.2005 Business & Finance

We Won’t Toy With Selection Of Partners

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THE government has given the assurance that it will be circumspect in its attempt to select a company to undertake the rehabilitation and management of the country's railway sector.

The Minister of Harbours and Railways, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, said considering the amount of money involved in the proposed project, it could not afford to pay the price of dealing with a non-existent company.

Prof Ameyaw-Akumfi said so far the checks conducted on the background of the company had not revealed any fraud, adding that “the team assembled to engage United Rail in the negotiations was competent enough to detect any shady deals”.

Addressing a news conference in Accra yesterday, the minister said United Rail was registered as a company under the Companies code and had genuine contacts and addresses which could easily be verified.

“United Rail Company Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Rail International registered in the United Kingdom as a company with the number 05066976,” he said.

The minister also mentioned that “the shareholding structure of the company was Trackbed Limited (UK), 50 per cent and Holdtrade Limited of UK, 50 per cent and added that the latter was already involved in the rehabilitation of portions of the Western rail line in the country.

The government last week assembled a team, led by the minister and other legal luminaries, to engage the team from United Rail in negotiations.

But after a week, United Rail's team requested an adjournment to enable it to consult with its partners in the UK to thrash out some demands made by the government side.

Sources close to the team said the issues had to do with the company's investment plan, among other very technical matters.

Asked about it, the minister confirmed that the Ghanaian team prevailed on United Rail to come clear on its investment plan and also set a proper timetable for the whole project.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi, said “Holdtrade and associates have been an active partner with many railways in Africa for over 20 years and had good knowledge of the current operations of the Ghana Railway Company (GRC) in terms of its strengths, weaknesses and potential.”

He said over the last 10 years, the company had partnered the GRC in its major projects, such as the rehabilitation of Henschel locomotives under World Bank funding, the supply of 90 mineral wagons under GRC finance, the rehabilitation of 36 coaches with German funding, undertaking of track maintenance and upgrading and locomotive maintenance, both under GRC funding.

“This intimate knowledge of GRC on a technical level from permanent way to rolling stock gave Holdtrade a major informational advantage over other companies,” Prof Ameyaw-Akumfi said.

On the part of Trackbed, he said it was a holding company involved in the financing of large international projects, with emphasis on Africa.

He said Trackbed had a large investment in mining, timber and agricultural interests in Africa and was, therefore, in a position to furnish United Rail with both the practical aspects and the expertise in running large operations.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi said the government had added another dimension to the negotiations as it had requested to own equity share in the company, United Rail.

He explained that the move was aimed at ensuring that the company did not run out of funds as the government would assist in finding loans and grants to be approved by Parliament to get the project running.

The minister, however, indicated that “should they fail to meet our demands, we will not hesitate to end the talks and begin another process ”.

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