The Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen has confessed that at least nine expatriate businessmen in the “cash-for-seat’ saga paid some monies to the Ministry, but none of them paid $100,000.00 in order to sit at the Presidential table as alleged.
According to him, the number of persons on the expatriate businessmen list who made contributions prior to the event were seven with two others making further payments after the event.
Mr Kyerematen made the confession when he appeared, together with his two Deputies, Carlos Ahenkorah, who spearheaded the entire event, and Robert Ahoka-Lindsay, before the five-member committee probing the scandal last Friday in Accra.
The Ameyaw Cheremeh Committee set up by the Speaker of Parliament is probing the allegation of “cash-for-seat” and extortion of money from expatriates during the Ghana Expatriates Business Awards (GEBA) in December, last year.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry is alleged to have charged expatriate business people up to $100,000.00 for access to President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the GEBA awards.
Sounding very pensive over probing questions posed by members of the Parliamentary adhoc committee investigating the matter, the Trade Minister explained that he personally sat at the table on the day of the event and that, “17 persons, including His Excellency the President” in total, were at the presidential high table on the night of the programme.
“Mr Chairman, for the avoidance of doubt, none of the persons mentioned made a contribution of $100,000 prior to the event,” he stressed.
Disputing the allegation that some expatriate businessmen paid some monies to sit in close proximity to the President, Mr Kyerematen said, “There were representatives of organisations who did not make any monetary contributions before and after the event. There were three of them; these were individuals who were seated at the high table but made no contribution either before or after the event”.
When probed further by the committee if he could confirm emphatically that no one who sat at the high table paid a penny, the Trade Minister said, “ Mr. Chairman, I know that there was one individual who was seated on the high table who has come out publicly to confirm that he paid GHS 13,000.”
He said: “Until now, I have not heard or seen any individuals make a specific allegation in respect of extortion or levy. But I have made my submission and hopefully, we will come to the end of the matter.”
Mr Alan Kyerematen, who said he took full responsibility though he was not personally involved, further stated that the Ministry could not be accused of official indiscretion for accepting voluntary contributions and sponsorship to organise an event for which receipts were issued.
He was also evasive in answering some questions regarding where the monies collected from the expatriate businessmen were deposited.
In reaction to further questions posed by Hon. James Klutse Avdezi, a Member of the Committee who is also Deputy Minority Leader, if he could tell the committee what sort of money was collected using government authorized receipt booklet, Mr Kyerematen became evasive with his answers, arguing that, though he could not admit it was money being held in trust or a component of consolidated funds, the money was simply paid into the Ministry’s existing account.
After failing to tell the Committee what the Ministry was collecting the money in “Room 308” for, the Trade Minister was quick to caution that the allegation of the Government extorting monies from the expatriate businessmen has a big potential to dent the external reputation of Ghana and could repel foreign investors.
“Since the allegation broke out we have had to endure a controversy that has the potential of making very significant damage to our international reputation,” he stated.
Mr Kyerematen however expressed the hope that the Committee’s investigation would come to a final determination of the matter.
Although the Office of the President has cleared the Trade Ministry of wrongdoing in the organisation of the event, the Minority, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are of the view that levying and collecting various sums of money from expatriate business people to sit close to President Akufo Addo and later to have a private dinner with him, is not in keeping with the values of integrity and sincerity.
Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa,who appeared before the committee, said, charging expatriate businessmen as much as $100,000 to sit by President Nana Akufo-Addo at the awards event, could not be justified in any way.
According to him, there is everything wrong with that unacceptable arrangement, arguing that, “the fundamental issue has to do with whether it is appropriate, whether it is moral, whether it is ethical, whether it is legal for access to our President His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to be offered to the highest bidder.”
“It is my contention that you cannot sell the prestige of the Office of the President, you cannot say that you are organising an award and that if you pay $100,000 or $75,000 you will be guaranteed access to the president first by sitting by him and secondly by having an exclusive private dinner with the president.
“It is my considered view that there is everything wrong with this arrangement, it is not appropriate, it cannot be justified in anyway,” he told the committee on Thursday last week.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba