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21.02.2006 Business & Finance

DIC in talks over GCD after years in distress

By Chronicle
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After several years of workers' agitation and demonstration over the state of probably the country's most distressed mine, Ghana Consolidated Diamond (GCD), joy may be returning to Akwatia as Presidential press secretary, Kwabena Agyepong, has hinted at new moves to see to the successful divestiture of the company to a successful investor.

He intimated that Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) was in close talks with some strategic investors, whose identities he would not disclose, but who could turn the fortunes of the distressed company, which has been sitting on the divestiture list for some years now.

Mr. Agyepong was responding to a question asked him by The Chronicle at the Castle last week.

He indicated that the Board of the DIC was scheduled to meet the said investors to deliberate on their status as potential investors who have expressed interest in the divestiture of the company.

He stressed that this is an opportunity for the DIC to take a critical look at the various offers coming in.

Until deliberations between the two groups reach a conclusion, he noted, he would not be in a position to predict its outcome.

To him, it was too early to preempt whatever deliberations are going on, emphasizing that everything would be made public if the deal went through successfully, as expected.

In any case, he noted that the DIC would consider the best offer, which would suit the interests and expectations of the country, considering it as a strategic national asset.

Several concerns had earlier been raised about the divestiture process, considering the extent of dilapidation and the distress nature of the company and its operations, coupled with the protection of individual interests by some government officials.

There are still growing expressions of disappointment and dissatisfaction among the staff and workers of the company, following a series of concerns raised by the Senior Staff Association (SSA) over the past four years, in which they called for the head of the company's Board Chairman, Mr. Joseph Godson Amamoo, a man who prides himself on being a prison mate of the president.

They accused him of hijacking the company and its day-to-day administration, as if he were the Managing Director, who was supposed to be in charge of operations.

Mr. Amamoo was said to have also taken over the marketing of the company's diamond; an action that observers grappled to understand, considering the already distressed and dilapidated nature of the company.

It would be recalled that in one of such petitions to the Chief of Staff in 2002, the SSA expressed grave concern over the sudden take-over of the marketing of the company's diamond by the Board Chairman, contrary to regulations that the Precious Mineral Marketing Company (PMMC) supervise the sale of diamonds.

They also complained bitterly about his occupation of the Birim Lodge, the company's official residence, alongside his using an office originally meant for the MD of the company at its head office, located at Roman Ridge in Accra.

Information has it that, just upon assumption of power, the NPP government set up the Board under the chairmanship of Mr. Amamoo, which tasked its membership to see to the successful divestiture of the company to a competent investor within six months.

It was believed that this could turn the fortunes of the once vibrant mining concessionary, now wallowing in tatters.

However, six years down the line, the company's divestiture is still in limbo.

Information gathered by the paper indicates that some high ranking members of government, hiding behind front men, have invested heavily in the concession's tributer (galamsey), which they are strenuously fighting, hence the inability of government and the Board to divest the company.

Indications are that if divested, the operations of the tributers would be permanently abrogated, obviously leading to the collapse of their investments.

An insider hinted the paper that for fear of losing their heavy investments, the officials involved are resisting the divesture process, which the workers believe is the only means for a breather for the dilapidated company.

Information also has it that the company owes its workers well over ¢2billion, including Provident Fund, traveling fund, Credit Union Association and Union dues, which should have been paid into the various accounts.

Management is reported to have told the staff that any increment in their salaries would lead to the company's collapse, and therefore there has not been any salary increment over the past four years.

A visit by the paper to the concession at Akwatia revealed very slow activity, with most of the machines lying virtually dormant, and operations virtually halted.