…As NPP Makes Trumped-Up Charges Actionable
Despite the seeming lopsidedness of the allegations by the Philip Addison Committee that the erstwhile Mahama government had unduly overpaid some $150million in a 2015 contract to provide 300MW of emergency power, the NPP government has kick-started a hounding.
Yesterday, the house of former Power Minister, Dr. Kwabena Donkor, was raided by operatives from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) ostensibly to forage for evidence on the deal.
In what is seen as a fanciful sortie, the CID operatives stormed the house of the former Power Minister in the early hours of the day and made away with his laptop and pen drives.
Dr. Kwabena Donkor has since confirmed to the media that the CID operatives had flashed a search warrant and then explained that the search was in connection with the deal that the government had brokered with Africa & Middle East Resources Investment (AMERI) Group in 2015.
Circumstances surrounding the invasion have left impressions that it was very well calculated by the government: Dr. Kwabena Donkor confirms that there had not been any prior notification to him, while the invasion had also happened on the D-day of the 5th anniversary of the death of the late President Mills.
The invasion made actionable a lopsided allegation that the government has refused to give opportunity to members of the previous administration to respond to.
Peddled by the scandal-prone Philip Addison Committee that had been instituted by the Energy Minister, in March, to investigate the deal, the allegation is that the erstwhile government had overpaid AMERI by $150million in the 2015 deal to provide 300MW of emergency power to ease a debilitating power crisis in the country.
On February 10, 2015 government had entered into a contract to rent 300MW of emergency from the Dubai-based AMERI Group after severe public pressure to fix a debilitating energy crisis that came to be notoriously known as ‘dum-sor.’
AMERI was to build the power plant, own and operate it for 5 years, before finally transferring it to the government of Ghana, all at a total cost of $510million.
The Group had been sole-sourced because of the urgent need to arrest ‘dum-sor’, and the contract had been penciled after a meeting between then President Mahama and the Crown Prince of Dubai.
In keeping with law, the AMERI deal was duly placed before Parliament and secured parliamentary approval on 20th March, 2015. However, despite joining in approving the contract, the NPP, which was then the Minority in Parliament, later turned round to say it had been misled to approve the deal.
The NPP’s u-turn on the issue seemed to have been informed by a Norwegian newspaper report which had claimed that the deal was over-priced, leading to a bandwagon of protest by pro-NPP media, even though the full house of Ghana’s Parliament had approved the deal.
Following a change in government, Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, tasked a 17-member committee chaired by popular lawyer belonging the ruling NPP, Philip Addison, to investigate the deal.
The Addison Committee soon got embroiled in a conflict of interest scandal, as it emerged that a trip to Dubai to investigate AMERI, had been sponsored by the same AMERI, which had, among others, paid for committee members’ first class air tickets, hosted them in a five-star hotel and then paid them per diem.
A brother of the Energy Minister, Emmanuel Agyarko, was also known to have followed the committee to Dubai on the supposed investigative quest that turned out to be a virtual jollification for the committee members.
An ensuing nasty blowback soon saw the Addison Committee announce a recommendation to government to renegotiate the AMERI contract, claiming it had been overblown by $150million. The recommendation by the Addison Committee was however seen as a reverse-psychology to mollify the conflict of interest scandal that had fallen out of the flirt with AMERI in Dubai.
According to the committee, even though AMERI secured the deal to produce the emergency power to Ghana at a bill of $510million, the contractor, PPR, which actually built and financed the plant, had charged $360million.
But former head of Communications at the Ministry of Petroleum, Edward Bawa, has since explained that the extra $150 million was a commission that was included in the original Bills of Quantity submitted to undertake the service by AMERI – before Parliament passed the agreement.
According to Mr. Bawa, “AMERI is not a charity organization” and that it had charged for services that it had rendered to the country.
In the wake of the exchanges, former Power Minister, Kwabena Donkor, had lamented that the Addison Committee had refused to invite him to respond to the issues involving the AMERI deal, saying it was a development that defied natural justice.
Due to the lack of opportunity to defend his decision as the minister, who led Ghana to procure the AMERI deal, Dr. Donkor took the initiative to hold a press conference to highlight the lopsidedness of the Addison Committee’s verdict.
“The committee did not find it necessary to either invite the then minister in charge or his deputy to provide relevant information that will help its work. Neither myself as the then sector Minister who piloted this agreement through parliament nor my deputy was invited by this committee and yet against the rules of natural justice, the committee goes ahead to allege fraud.
“Who should bear the allegation of fraud? The agreement went through cabinet, the Committee on Mines and Energy recommended by consensus to plenary and was passed by parliament. Was parliament party to this fraud? Is the plant not running and operational? Does it not have the cheapest tariff of all the thermal plans in the country? First of all, there was no fraud. The committee cannot use the relationship between the development and the contractors as the basis of fraud.”
Strangely, the NPP government had gone on to announce that it was inviting AMERI back to the negotiation table and that if AMERI had refused to renegotiate the contract, the government would then treat the matter as fraud.
Dr. Kwabena Donkor had wondered, “If there was fraud, why wouldn’t the committee recommend straight away the termination of the contract and take criminal action, but why recommend that you are inviting them back to the table for negotiations. And only if they don’t agree, then you will introduce fraud?”
The Akufo-Addo government never invited Dr. Kwabena Donkor or his deputy to speak to the AMERI contract issue. Rather, out of the blue in the early hours of yesterday morning, some four CID operatives stormed his home to carry away pendrives and a laptop.
There had been no notification whatsoever before the CID carried out the invasion, even though Dr. Donkor was not known to preparing to flee the country.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/ Fiifi Samuels