May 19, Palaver -- With the revelation by the President's eldest son, Chief John Addo Kufuor, that he is the owner of “Hotel Kufuor”, and the further revelation by his Media Consultant, Mr. Charles Sam, that Chief Kufuor bought the hotel at the instance of his father the President, it now becomes clear why Ministers and appointees of the NPP Government, in the short period that they have been in office, have so brazenly sold state assets and properties to themselves, their cronies and NPP loyalists without the slightest twinge of compunction.
One such sale of state properties involved the assets of the defunct GNTC, sold to NPP loyalists by the then Minister of Trade and Industry Dr. Kofi Konadu Apraku, NPP MP for Offinso North.
Under questioning by our Editor, Mr. Jojo Bruce-Quansah, he referred our Editor to his then Deputy, Mr. Osei-Adjei, NPP MP for Ejisu-Juaben, now Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Information available to the 'Ghana Palaver' in 2003 suggested very shady deals, bordering perilously close on corruption in the manner in which Dr. Apraku and his Deputy dealt with the GNTC properties.
The properties included the Head Office, known as 'Ghana House', the official residence of the Executive Chairman of the Corporation, the Corporation's Guest House in Kumasi and more than 100 GNTC houses and residential properties countrywide.
The two stories that follow were first published in our issue Vol. 10 No. 6 of Tuesday, October 28 – Thursday, October 30, 2005. “NPP corruption continues unabated ——BIG DEALS IN GNTC DIVESTITURES! 'Ghana House' was rehabilitated at costs running into tens, if not hundreds, of billions of cedis by the Osei Kumah 'Winding Up Committee'.
Without advertisement and without tender, 'Ghana House' which remains the property of the Ghana Government, has been handed over to the consultancy firm of Hon. Felix Owusu-Agyepong, NPP MP for Akim Swedru and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, to manage.
According to our information, nobody knows how Mr. Owusu-Agyepong's consultancy group was selected over and above all others.
Nobody knows the terms and conditions under which this expensive state asset was handed over to the Minister's consultancy firm.
Nobody seems to know anything about the consultancy contract, if any, signed between the Ministry of Trade and the firm.
Everything is shrouded in secrecy, but there are strong smells of corruption, conflict of interest and insider dealing in the air.
The 'Ghana House' property is valued in the hundreds of billions of cedis, so the management consultancy contract must be bringing in a hefty bit of income to Mr. Owusu-Agyepong. Kumasi Guest House Ghana Palaver's information is that the Kumasi Guest House has been rehabilitated at a cost of ¢500 million.
Our further information is that the money for the rehabilitation was taken out of the monies that were left in the accounts of the 'GNTC Winding Up Committee', and that the then Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. K. K. Konadu simply 'took the money'.
“He did not receive any authorisation or approval, he seemed not to be aware that such monies could only be disbursed by the Minister of Finance or on his authorisation; he simply 'took' the money, because he was Minister”, said one irate staff of the Ministry of Trade and Industry who spoke on condition of anonymity. Accra Residence of GNTC Chief Executive The Accra residence of the Chief Executive of the erstwhile GNTC is now the official residence of Dr. K. K. Apraku. It is not known who approved for Dr. Apraku to move into that residence as his residence, or whether he had any such approval at all.
Normally, such a residence would fall into the pool of Government bungalows, which are allocated by the Ministry of Works and Housing.
The residence has also allegedly been rehabilitated at the cost of ¢1 billion. That money, we are informed, was also 'taken' from the – you guessed it – the accounts of the 'GNTC Winding Up Committee' left behind by the NDC Government.
The scenario for 'taking' the money was allegedly the same as for the Kumasi Guest House – no authorisation, no approval. Dr. Apraku 'took' the money because he was the Minister.
The question that some agitated former workers of the GNTC are asking is, “How come Dr. Apraku is still encumbering those two properties when he is no longer the Minister of Trade and Industry?” The 'Winding Up Committee' Account Some other workers of the erstwhile GNTC are asking questions about what has happened to the monies that were left in the accounts of the 'GNTC Winding Up Committee' chaired by Mr. Osei Kumah.
Popularly known behind his back as 'Mr. P.O.P., Osei Kumah is known to have made sure that there was a hefty balance left in the account.
The former workers are demanding a forensic audit of the Account to determine the use to which it has been put. APRAKU REACTS TO GNTC DIVEATITURE DEAL In answer to how the divestiture of some GNTC buildings was carried out, he [Dr. Kofi Konadu Apraku] stated:
“WHEN we came into office, there was this GNTC Winding Up Committee, which was initially being chaired by Mr. Osei Kuma.
“When we came, we did restructuring of all the Committee. They had already completed the Ghana House and every contract had been given out. The work was absolutely completed, all they needed to do was to hand over the keys. I appointed Mr. Osei Adjei, the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry to be in-charge of all GNTC properties, every aspect of GNTC including the accounts.
“Mr. Osei Adjei himself was not a signatory to the account, but was in charge, he was the Chairman of the Winding Up Committee.
“As far as anything else is about that account, or the divestiture and the repairs, I have no knowledge except that Mr. Osei Adjei briefs me but I never handled anything,” he said, adding:,
“When he took over GNTC Winding Up Committee chairmanship, the account has always being managed from the Ministry so the signatories were not changed as far as I am concerned. The same process they go in to get money, the authorization process remained intact, it was followed every single step all the way”. Pressed on to give specific answers to questions, raised in recent publications, Dr. Apraku said:
“I had wanted you to speak to Mr. Osei Adjei because I have nothing to do with any of this, but he has travelled and will be back Tuesday (today).
“Mr. Osei Adjei had wanted to talk to you (Ghana Palaver) to tell you that I, Dr. Apraku had nothing to do with the GNTC, my name should not even be associated with this, but being that I am the Minister, let me explain to you what I know.
“There is no truth that I took these properties you are talking of”. Some recent publications had indicated that Dr. Apraku has had a hand in the sales of the properties.
He said “thank God, luckily, we went through a process. We went to Cabinet and I can give you the Cabinet approval, it is with the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Cabinet requested that the two properties be assigned to the Ministry as the Ministry's official Guest House, where our officers can stay in when they come from the regions and the one in Accra be given to the Minister to stay there as the official residence.
“Cabinet gave approval for that and the records are there. Not just that, Cabinet also approved for the GNTC Ghana House to be rented. The option at the time was either we should sell it outright or we should rent it out.
The decision of Cabinet was that we should rent it for the next two-years to see whether or not it will be profitable before we take a decision as to whether to dispose of it. That again was a Cabinet decision and not Dr. Apraku's decision”.
On the other issues, Dr. Apraku maintained that: “The other properties of GNTC to be divested, the Ministry does not divest any more than any Ministry in this country. If a Minister has a government asset that he or she is in-charge of, such as Coca Cola, as we (the Ministers) are the link between Coca Cola and the government. We don't divest. If we believe government asset under our Ministry needs to be divested, we will send the request to Cabinet that such an asset needs to be divested.
“When Cabinet approve, it does not come to the Ministry again, it goes straight to the Divestiture Implementation Committee. They will hire their consultant, they will do whatever it takes for the asset to be divested when it is completed, they, (the Divestiture Implementation Committee) will notify us that this person has purchased the Asset so you sign the transfer of property.
“We don't even see that person. We have nothing absolutely to do with the process of who is the consultant or who is the buyer, so that is the background information.
“As far as the rental of the GNTC building is concerned, I want you to talk to Mr. Osei Adjei, because as far as I am concerned, he advertised, he went through a selection process and selected.
“In fact, when he selected Mr. Felix Owusu Agyepong, because he happened to be a member of our government, I wrote and you can check for the memo, that they should make sure that the appointment is going through the proper procedure.
They took it to the Attorney-General's Office to verify if there will be any conflict of interest.
The A-G's office prepared the contract and gave it to the Deputy Minister, Osei Adjei who signed it.
I, Dr. Apraku had nothing to do with that at all”.
On other properties, Dr. Apraku said, the house in Kumasi, was approved by Cabinet for the use by the Ministry of Trade as a Guest House, where members of staff coming for meetings can spend the night.
“The house is available for use by staff of the Ministry, it is not the prerogative of the Minister and the repairs as far as I am concerned from what Osei Adjei told me, was even less than ¢200 million. The building was completely devastated when they started working on it. Everything on the building had to be replaced the roof, the wall and the building itself.
“But I can tell you that the process of selection of who will do the job was done by Osei Adjei and our Director of Finance, Mr. Bekoe, who is the signatory to the GNTC account.
“Dr. Apraku does not sign anything. I have no access to the money at all. I am not a signatory to the account. I don't do anything, once they have gone through their process, Mr. Bekoe signs and I believe the Deputy Minister also signs.
“So the GNTC properties are exclusively the responsibility of the Deputy Minister.
“Anything I know is by way of briefing as a Minister, I require briefing on matters affecting my Ministry”. He insisted that he is not bothered by details.
“I have always told them to go through a process that can be defended”, he said, adding:
“So when they selected Felix Owusu Agyepong, I asked that I want to make sure that the selection process will not be faulted.
“But believe me, this was discussed extensively to make sure that nobody can challenge that decision to the point that the Attorney-General's office drafted their lease agreement. This is information that is publicly available, you can go to the A-G's office and demand you want to know about this lease agreement, who prepared it, was it prepared by Dr. Apraku?
Dr. Apraku has nothing to do with the divestiture of GNTC assets, he maintained:
He denied all the allegations against him, saying: “These days, it has become fashionable, Dr. Apraku has this, Apraku has done this. I don't mind anymore, because I know it's a way they want to destroy me.
“If you know Apraku and my family life, you will know that Apraku does not belong to this life the writer is alleging. People don't know me they create their own assumptions because if they do this, they can destroy my reputation.
'People who know Dr. Apraku know this and it is not Apraku and this is not going to change me. I won't go around with small girls. People know me to be a very solid family man. I don't indulge in this.
“I cannot as a Minister go to a Guest House where my staff are with a woman who is not my wife, what would they think about me. I have too much respect for myself to engage in this.
“Seriously, I don't know what has become of this country that people go about to destroy someone.
“But to be honest with you, if you want to write about the GNTC and if with all respect you want to be honest about it, go to the Deputy Minister, I honestly have nothing to do with all the allegations”.