Chronicle Investigations have revealed that three container loads of chairs, which were imported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 1999 when Mr. E. T. Mensah was the sector minister, for the furnishing of the Accra and Kumasi sports stadia, have been lying idle at the Tema Port for three years and have attracted duty up to about ¢2 billion.
Chronicle sources within the Audit Service who spoke on conditions of anonymity disclosed that the new Auditor General stumbled over the neglected containers during his audit of the stadium rehabilitation project.
According to the sources, the Auditor General has already drawn the attention of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to the matter and issued a fiat to the ministry to clear the consignment fast in order to stop the accrual of further duty.
By midday yesterday, a team of auditors from the Auditor General's Department were expected to move to the Tema Harbour on a verification tour and to open the three containers for inspection.
Yesterday's inspection is to be followed by counting of the chairs to ascertain whether the order as stated in the contract had been supplied.
This reporter, who posed as a staff of the Auditor General's Department, yesterday managed to extract confirmation from MAERSK Ghana Limited, a Tema-based cargo company which has custody of the containers.
The manager of MAERSK Customer Services, Ruth Brenya, at least told our undercover investigator (not in an interview) that they had received a letter the day before from the Auditor General's Department requesting to inspect the containers.
Inside sources explained to the Chronicle that in the course of auditing the accounts of the stadium renovation project, the Auditor General found that the ministry had not taken delivery of the total consignment of chairs they ordered for the project as stated in the contract.
Further probing by the Auditor General, according to sources, unearthed the existence of the three container loads of chairs going waste at the port and attracting high duty by the tick of the clock.
Figures provided to the paper put the cost of the total consignment at about $700,000. It is said that only half of the consignment was supplied while the three container loads are expected to complete the consignment.
Sources close to the Auditor General also told Chronicle that the department would also be on the look-out to check if the contents of the three containers represent the total consignment to be supplied.
Two types of seats, according to Chronicle sources, were imported - the first type cost about $16.00 per chair while the second type, which is deemed to be of better quality cost about $37.75 per chair.
When the Ministry of Youth and Sports was contacted, the soft-spoken minister, Edward Osei Kwaku, confirmed the story, saying that the Auditor General drew his attention to the existence of the three containers and the associated cost.
"This was brought to my attention by the Auditor General's Department," he admitted, adding that his ministry would expedite action on the clearing of the containers in order to stop the continued piling of the debt.
Mr. Osei Kwaku said that the chairs, after being cleared, would be added to those at the Accra and Kumasi stadia in preparation to host the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana.
Intelligence information received by the paper, late yesterday afternoon, indicated a team of auditors, plus another squad from Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority (GPHA) and officials of MAERSK Ghana Limited went to the port to open the containers.
Their only difficulty was that the three containers were stacked in debris of containers like forgotten rubbish.