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28.10.2005 General News

When Corruption Reigns ...

By Palaver
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Palaver, Oct. 28 -- We understand Government spokes persons are perplexed that the Transparency International 2005 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) scored for Ghana an abysmal 3.5 points out of 10, down from last year's 3.6, and placed Ghana in the 65th position worldwide.

We understand in their confusion, both President Kufuor and the NPP spin-doctors are now claiming that after all the CPI is a perception only and does not relate to reality.

We understand also that they are denying that while in opposition, they used the CPI as a major plank in their criticism of the NDC as a corrupt Government.

But the latter is not what we want to talk about. That is for history to judge them. We want to talk about how real the perception of corruption is, and how that perception has been created and fuelled by President Kufuor's own utterances and his acts and omissions. Sahara Energy Resources Ltd. Very early in his administration, the Sahara Oil scandal broke. A group of NPP bigwigs and their Nigerian counterparts got together and formed the Sahara Energy resources Co. Ltd, manoeuvred the traditional suppliers of Ghana's crude oil purchases, Vitol Co. Ltd, out of the business, and commenced supply arrangements with TOR under conditions that were most non-transparent and suspicious. Indeed some say it bordered on corruption. The call for an investigation was nationwide.

At a Press Conference held at the Castle, President Kufuor told the amazed journalists that as for him, all he wanted was crude oil for Ghana. How the oil got to Ghana was not his business. Yet each Sahara transaction earned Sahara a cool US$ 2.5 million or thereabouts.

In Kumasi, President Kufuor told another group of journalists that for as long as he remained President; the Sahara oil deal would never be investigated.

Dr. Charles Yves Wereko-Brobby

Enter Dr. Charles Yves 'Tarzan' Wereko-Brobby as Chief Executive of the VRA (Volts River Authority). The scandals that rocked his tenure as Chief Executive will reverberate for a very long time to come.

He got the VRA to lease a national electricity back-up power plant called the 'Strategic Reserve Plant (SRP) at Tema at a cost of US$6 million against all advice, aid monthly rental for it until the cost of the Plant come to US$32 million, but the SRP never worked. Finally, the 5 units of the SRP were dismantled and returned to their owners.

Under Tarzan's administration, about ¢14 billion (US$1.7million) in alleged penalties was paid for not lifting crude oil on schedule by the VRA when the VRA had not been invoiced for payment. VRA insiders are certain that the whole transaction was a sham.

There was irregular contract execution between Nigeria's Sahara Energy Resources Ltd and the VRA over unjustified contract payments in which Sahara demanded US$ 5.5 million from the VRA for missing a laycan.

Besides spending US$700,000 on publicity and advertisement alone within a one-year period, VRA under Dr. Wereko-Brobby also allegedly paid ¢300 million to a local Public Relations firm just to produce VRA's in-house newsletter which over the years had been produced by regular Public Relations staff of the Authority.

VRA Board members were given perks and bonuses of ¢9.2 million per member per month amounting to ¢72 million per member in 2002.

Dr. Wereko-Brobby allegedly inexplicably changed a VRA contract award for Quorum Company Ltd. from ¢51 million to US$51,000, in addition to donating luxury cars to certain paramount chiefs which the latter quickly returned when the workers threatened 'aluta'.

When the NDC Minority in Parliament could not stand it any more, they called for a Parliamentary probe. An NPP MP deliberately called for the probe to extend backward to 1985. The probe has since stalled. Alhaji Moctar Musa Bamba Then came Alhaji Moctar Musa Bamba, ex-MP for Wenchi East and ex-Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs. He co-floated a company called 'Emirates Investments Ltd' that fraudulently used Presidential letterheads and forged ministerial signatures to guarantee private loans. The Company also presented a fraudulent Canadian bank draft for US$93,000 to a Ghanaian bank and managed to encash over US$30,000 out of it. It was also involved in a junk bond visa scam.

Alhaji Moctar Bamba sponsored six NPP activists to Austria using fraudulently obtained visas and attempted to follow up with 19 more. He was also involved in several fraudulent auction sales of state vehicles. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Minister of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital, allegedly attempted to divert ¢3.6 billion of the May 9, 2001 Stadium Disaster Fund using Kofi Wayo's foreign bank account. He was also mentioned in the serious malfeasance connected with the 2001 Castle and ministerial bungalows rehabilitation contracts in which he was recommended to refund ¢150 million to the state. He was again reportedly involved in several underhand dealings that ended up in the Mormon Church's acquisition of prime land at Ridge for their West African Headquarters. Pre-Mix Fuel Deals Over six NPP Ministers and MPs have at various times been named in connection with fraudulent pre-mix fuel deals, and the accusations have been made by an NPP member of the National Pre-Mix Allocation Committee. They have included Eddie Martey Akita, ex-Minister of State for Fisheries, Robert Ayi-Bonte, ex-Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Pre-mix Fuel, Isaac Edumadze, Central Regional minister, and Mr. Sophia Horner-Sam, Deputy Western Regional Minister. Parliamentary Vetting In early 2005, three Ministers appeared before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee. There was direct evidence of corruption and amassing wealth against two of them. Dr. Richard Anane, Minister of Road Transport, was accused of infidelity and living beyond his means, and making expenditure over and above his known and declared income by transferring US$100,000 to his concubine in the USA.

Isaac Edumadze, the Central Regional Minister, was accused of amassing wealth. In the latter case, the NPP MP for Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa, Hon. P. C. Appiah-Ofori, procured over 12 witnesses who were ready to testify against the Minister.

President Kufuor went ahead and swore them and the third Minister, Sheikh I. C. Quaye, who had made suspicious claims to certain academic qualifications, into office. His reason was that Parliament had approved them. Forensic Audits Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, as Finance Minister, used a World Bank facility to pay amounts ranging from US$300,000 to US$1 million to the two audit firms engaged in 'bogus and fraudulent' forensic audits of the NDC era namely Baffuor Awuah and Associates and Osei Kwabena and Associates. IFC, CNTCI and all that The same Yaw Osafo-Maafo led a Government team that attempted to borrow US$1 billion from a 'phantom IFC' company, and later tried a similar deal with another phantom company, CNTCI, for US$300 million. Professor Kassim Kassanga Professor Kassim Kassanga, as Minister of Lands and Forestry, utilised ¢3 billion of Forest Plantation Development Fund money without reference to the Board of the Fund and dissipated it in a failed mango seedling import venture. Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Ekumfi Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Ekumfi, Minister of Railways, Ports and Harbours, is running helter skelter trying to establish the bona fides of United Rail Company, a sham UK-based company with whom the Minister has been engaged in negotiations to divest the Ghana Railway Co. Ltd. to. This, after he had played a key role in the abortive US$300 million CNTCI scam loan venture. Visa Scams At the last count, about ten NPP MPs were involved in shameful visa scam deals. Insurance Fraud An NPP MP attempted to defraud an insurance company by hiding his brand new vehicle and swapping it for an accident car and trying to claim a higher insurance payment therefore. DCEs Corruption More than thirty NPP DCEs have been cited in one corrupt deal or another. Hotel Kufuor Then to top it all came the matter of the 'Golden Tree Hotel', christened 'Hotel Kufuor by the media. The President's son claims he has bought the Hotel. The President's former Special Adviser claims that President Kufuor bought the Hotel, using his son as a front man, and that she, the Special Adviser, negotiated the deal. She even claims to have borne twins for the President out of a romantic liaison the two of them had.

"Bring me the evidence"

In all these allegations, President Kufuor's mantra has been 'bring me the evidence. I will not investigate newspaper allegations of corruption'. The "waa, waa" Speech But what perhaps provided the greatest evidence for the reality of the perception of corruption was President Kufuor's own speech delivered at the NPP Congress in December 2003. Hear him:

"Corruption is as old as manâ”â”corruption is with man from Adam's time. When we talk of corruption, we talk of degree”â”I will not go and stand on the airwaves and say I called Mr. A, B or C because we heard this and that, we won't do it. We do that to destroy the Government that you have put in place and Ghana will not be better served by talking without a sense of responsibility and circumspection ——this is why we set up the Accountability Committee in the Castle just to put a stop, but everyday we are confronted with temptation.

Holding political office is very difficult, very tempting. Whatever it is you want in the world would be presented to you. If it is money we want ——we will make the money 'waa' everywhere. They bring to you "waa, waa, waa, but we learn to say no, hold back. That is fighting corruption".

Clearly Mr. President was advising his people that they could be corrupt, but they should make sure they are not caught.

We beg to disagree, Mr. President, but if fighting corruption is to learn to say, 'no, hold back', then the fight against corruption never really began, and it is no surprise that there is such a pervasive perception of corruption in the Kufuor administration.

"Let your perception of corruption remain in your head"

If one thought that the Cape Coast 'waa. waa' speech was bad enough, then worse was to come. On 9th August 2005, the President met the Press at the Castle, Osu. Raymond Archer of the "Enquirer" newspaper asked the following question:

Mr. President, if elections were held today, and corruption was the only issue——do you think you will win the elections?'

The following is an extract from President Kufuor's answer:

"That I may not have the face you like should not make you to continue to lambaste me with 'I perceive him as corrupt" or say "He came in with this suit so he is corrupt' or 'How did he get this suit' and that sort of thing. If you are determined to go that way, then be prepared to prove that Kufuor is committing some wrong or stealing or pick pocketing or whatever. If you cannot prove, then please, hold your guns. Let your perception of corruption remain in your head.

When we do wrong, yes criticise us, try to correct us or expose us when you are very sure of your facts. If you are not sure, please let your perception remain in your head' Proof of Corruption No. Mr. President, once again we beg to disagree. How many times have people not been prepared to prove and Mr. President has not signalled for the necessary investigation bodies to listen to the proof?

The Enquirer's Raymond Archer himself was prepared to prove when he made allegations against Alhaji Moctar Musa Bamba.

Papa Kofi Mbir, NPP member of the National Pre-Mix Allocation Committee, provided actual proof of corruption in pre-mix deals by way of invoices, names, dates and other details when he made his allegations against the more than 5 Ministers and MPs earlier referred to.

Hon. P. C. Appiah-Ofori, NPP MP for Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa, transported over 12 witnesses from the Central Region to Parliament House to testify in support of his allegations of corruption against Isaac Edumadze.

Ms. Alexandra O'Brien, American girl friend of Dr. Richard Anane, provided all the proof in the world that Dr. Anane wired more than US$100, 000 to her in the USA after his extra-marital affair with her resulted in the birth of baby Nicholas Anane.

Radio Gold played on air an interview with the DCE for Kwahu South who was caught "in flagrante delicto', or 'fiili, fiili' in Ghanaian parlance, offering bribe to a journalist to drop a story.

The DCE for Mfantseman West not only awarded an Assembly contract to himself, but in the process of executing the contract, three workmen were killed.

An SFO report on the Tema Municipal Assembly has been permanently shelved, despite the preparedness of the NPP MP for Tema West and Deputy Majority Leader to prove that the Tema Municipal Assembly 'is one of the most corrupt Assemblies in the whole country'.

And President Kufuor's former Special Adviser-turned-lover, Giselle Yazji, has always been ready to prove her allegation against President Kufuor that it was the President who has bought 'Hotel Kufuor', using his son as a front man, and that she has twins with the President.

'Bring me the evidence'

In all these, what has President Kufuor done about having the matters investigated? Nothing, except to repeat his mantra, 'bring me the evidence'.

We would like to ask President Kufuor just a small question. Does he really expect the very ordinary man-in-the street Ghanaian, 'the man on the Nima trotro', to walk to a police station or the SFO or CHRAJ offices and lodge a complaint that 'Senior Minister J. H. Mensah has collected a bribe in order to allocate part of the HIPC funds to me', or 'Nana Akufo-Addo asked Company A. to pay him a commission on the contract for the supply of furniture to the Ghana Embassy in Greenland' or that 'Yaw Osafo-Maafo colleted ¢20 million before, putting the Y SSS on the list of Model Secondary Schools?

If the President does, then it is clear that he does not know the country that he is governing. The ordinary Ghanaian will not do that. He will spread this information, if he has it, by way of rumour, and it is the responsibility of the President, if he takes the issue of corruption seriously, to act on the rumour.

The President conveniently forgets that when allegations of corruption have been made, it behoves him as President, with the people's mandate to fight corruption, to charge the anti-corruption agencies or to set up the necessary machinery to investigate the bases for the perception of corruption as well as investigate the allegations of corruption.

The anti-corruption laws

What is worse is that President Kufuor and his men are now quick to point to the Public Procurement Act, the Internal Audit Agency Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Whistleblowers Bill as evidence of their determination to fight corruption.

But apart from the Whistleblowers Bill, these Acts are not anti-corruption pieces of legislation. They simply set up regulatory agencies and provide procedures for the performance of certain public duties. If those procedures are breached and the President does nothing, there will be a perception of corruption and actual corruption.

Corruption at the Ministry of Education?

For example last week, Minister of Education and Sports Yaw Osafo-Maafo was reported to have breached the provisions of the Public Procurement Act by signing a US$28 million books procurement agreement with Macmillan Education Limited without reference to the Public Procurement Board. The existence of the Public Procurement Act did not stop him from doing it! What has the President done about it or what does he intend to do about it?

Corruption in the Rover cars importation?

On the same day, one Michael Agyeman, Chief Executive of the Rover Company and alleged nephew of President Kufuor's Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Mpiani, admitted on air that his company won the contract to supply 40 brand new Rover cars to NPP Ministers even though the company is only 8 months old, contrary to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act. What has the President done about it or what does he intend to do about it?

Fighting Corruption

The fact is that a country is seen to be serious about fighting corruption when either the anti-corruption laws are obeyed, or where they are not obeyed the culprits are punished. In a situation where none of the alleged culprits is even investigated, let alone prosecuted or punished, then the perception of corruption will loom very large indeed.

'Everybody is talking about corruption'

Finally, President Kufuor should realize that the people with whom his people do the corruption deals are talking. The businessmen are talking. The contractors are talking. The investors are talking. Everybody is talking. They are all saying that they have to pay bribes and commissions and kickbacks before they get businesses and win contracts and before they get licenses and approvals.

And when they talk, they talk also to the people who conduct the Corruption Perception Index surveys for Transparency International. And so Ghana's abysmal score of 3.5 on the CPI is real; it is not a perception about the perception of corruption; it is the reality about the perception of corruption. If anyone has fuelled the perception of corruption in Ghana, it is President Kufuor himself. Through his deeds and his utterances, his acts and his omissions, he has made it clear that not only is he not prepared to fight corruption; but he is also prepared to condone corruption.

So instead of NPP apologists and spin-doctors blaming Transparency International for their corruption woes, they should do an assessment of what their Government has done to try to fight corruption. They will find out that the Kufuor Government has done nothing - zilch!

And when corruption reigns———corruption survey agencies are bound to find that there is a serious perception of corruption!!!

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