As Ghana’s National Security probes the mass visa fraud scandal in which fifty people were deported by Australian authorities for posing as journalists on assignment to cover the 21st Commonwealth Games, a new window into the scandal has began opening.
It is hinting into place that some members of the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) were complicit in the move by the impersonators to steal into Australia as journalists.
SWAG members had apparently fronted for visas for the fake journalists and charged them money in return. Some are said to have received as much Ghc23, 000 in exchange for arrangement for the fake journalists to travel to Australia in their name.
In a Facebook post, Michael Quaye, an experienced journalist with national broadsheet, Daily Graphic, revealed that some culpable SWAG members had “sold their slots” after acquiring accreditations for the Commonwealth Games.
Mr. Quaye who is a leading advocate for a probe into the scandal from SWAG’s end implied that the sellout journalists had acquired their accreditations from the Ghana Olympic Committee and then later sold them out to the fake journalists.
In the same post, he also indicated that some of the Sports journalists had allowed themselves to be impersonated with the active connivance of the SWAG Secretariat which had given out accreditations allotted to real reporters to the fake ones.
Apparently, in the build up to the Commonwealth Games which have since ended, some practicing Sports journalists had applied to the GOC for accreditation, but after getting the accreditation, had not traveled.
Some of these journalists, who had applied as SWAG members, had then sold out their accreditations while others had just collaborated with the SWAG Secretariat to transfer their accreditations to impersonators who were willing to pay money.
The GOC’s website indicates that as many as 70 reporters had gone through accreditation even though other information suggests that up to 90 people were involved.
The number includes six impersonators who mentioned ‘SWAG’ as their place of work.
It also includes six applicants each from the Ghana News Agency (GNA) and the Ghanaian Times newspaper.
Michael Quaye has since demanded that SWAG conducts an internal investigation into the possible complicity of its members in the scandal. His call had been preceded by similar calls by Erasmus Kwaw, onetime head of communication at the GOC, and freelancer Sammy Heywood Okine.
Mr. Okine has been particularly incensed by newspaper reports that he was one of the deportees from Australia even though he says he never traveled to Australia. Interestingly, the calls have been cleverly ignored by the SWAG Secretariat which appears to want to keep things under wraps.
The silence of SWAG has since incensed members, including experienced journalist, Ekow Asmah, who says he is appalled by the refusal of the SWAG executives to convene an emergency meeting to table an internal investigation.
“Nobody is willing to buy into my suggestion,” Mr. Asmah said. “I’m rather getting insults and threats.
“They are saying we should focus on the forthcoming SWAG Awards and leave the investigations to the government to handle. With the kind of attitude they keep showing…I’m much convinced that somebody is hiding something.”
However, the pressure on the Secretariat keeps growing with Daily Graphic’s Michael Quaye waging a relentless war on social media as an incorrigible voice in the wilderness.
Recently, in response to Mr. Quaye’s campaign, the SWAG Secretariat issued a half-hearted statement that somehow got published by only one newspaper. The statement all but just acknowledged the scandal which has become a major source of embarrassment to Ghana.
SWAG’s silence has become deafening because all other stakeholders, including the more prominent Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) have issued statements clearly condemning the scandal and distancing themselves from it.
Already, President Akufo-Addo has suspended Deputy Sports Minister, Pius Enam Hadzide and the Acting Director General of the National Sports Authority (NSA) Robert Safo Mensah.
Two officials of the GOC, Hussein Addy and Christine Ashley have since also been suspended after they were said to have had a certain level of involvement in the acquisition of visas by fake journalists who have since admitted the impersonations.
The investigations had been started by the Criminal Investigations of the Ghana Police Service which had invited home from Australia, while the games were still going on, top men of the GOC to help with investigations.
They include, President of the Committee, Ben Nunoo Mensah, the Board Chairman of the National Sports Authority, Kwadwo Baah Agyeman and the Chef-de-Maison for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Mohammed Sahnoon.
They were said to have aided the fake journalists to acquire the visas and accreditations.
The CID has since turned over the investigations to National Security