General News of Monday, 28 October 2013
Source: Daily Guide
Two members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mahama Ayariga, minister for Information & Media Relations and Abraham Amaliba, a member of the governing party’s legal team are in sharp disagreements over the sale of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) drill ship for $24 million.
GNPC’s drill ship Discoverer 511 was sold by the Kufuor administration in 2001 to clear the state-owned oil company’s indebtedness of $19.5 million to multinational French bank Societe Generale.
Speaking during Joy FM and Multi TV’s current affairs programme, ‘Newsfile’ last Saturday Ayariga asserted that the Kufuor administration erred in disposing off the ship without recourse to GNPC’s board of directors.
Justice Yaw Apau, the sole commissioner investigating payment of judgment debts and compensations to institutions and individuals had expressed similar sentiments at his commission’s sitting last week.
However, Mr. Amaliba dissented, arguing that government was the 100 percent shareholder of the GNPC and therefore could take decisions for the company in the absence of the board.
The member of the NDC legal team insisted there was nothing wrong in government intervening to salvage the company but retorted with ambivalence that the whole transaction “stinks to the core.”
He wondered why the GNPC was not allowed to lead the negotiations in disposing off the ship.
Meanwhile, the 2012 presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is willing to appear before the judgment debt commission if he is invited to assist in unravelling the supposed mystery surrounding the sale of the drill ship.
Editor-In-Chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper Abdul-Malik Kweku Baako Jnr, who dropped the hint on ‘Newsfile’ as co-panellist with Ayariga, Amaliba and Nana Akomea, former NPP Communications Director, said Nana Akufo-Addo had indicated to him a few weeks ago that he was ready to appear before the sole commissioner on the controversial saga.
Mr. Baako revealed subtle and open attempts by some members of the ruling NDC to attack Nana Akufo-Addo for his role in the whole transaction with the sole aim of smearing him with corruption.
Nana Akufo-Addo who has taken a short break from politics and currently cooling off outside Ghana with his family, was the Attorney-General under whose watch a power of attorney was prepared for the then Deputy Energy Minister, K. T. Hammond, to negotiate and sell the ship to defray GNPC’s huge debts.
It would be recalled that the newly appointed boss of the embattled Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA), Kobby Acheampong entreated the judgment debt commission to invite Nana Akufo-Addo to answer for the “murkiness surrounding the sale of a drillship.”
The former deputy Interior minister who suggested the ongoing probe into the drill ship saga be made a criminal case, told Radio XYZ yesterday that “I have done my checks and I know that a lot of the documentation pertaining to this drill ship was presented to the then Attorney General, Nana Akufo-Addo. I know that for a fact.”
“These are critical things, I mean, we keep going in winding circles in this country when simple questions can be asked for people to provide simple answers…and then we can make a head way. This is a serious matter,” Mr Acheampong said.
But Mr. Baako insisted the former Deputy Energy Minister was given the power of attorney to act for and on behalf of GNPC to clear mess created under Tsatsu Tsikata, adding that it was a political decision that could be defended any day.
The Editor-In-Chief of the New Crusading Guide said contrary to claims that the NPP administration was engaged in financial malfeasance and pocketed some $3.5 million from the sale of the drill ship, it was clear from the facts available to him that the Kufuor administration rather rescued the Corporation from the financial mess it was entangled in by the NDC.
Mr. Baako maintained that when the Kufuor administration assumed power in 2001, it was faced with the near collapse of the GNPC and needed to take measures to salvage the Corporation.
According to him, as far back as 1998-1999, the Tsatsu Tsikata-led GNPC had incurred a debt of $40 million as result of a hedging contract with Societe Generale, which accrued interest and rose to $47 million by 2001.
He said Societe Generale took GNPC to court, claiming the $47 million.
Mr. Baako added that Tsikata had agreed to sell the drill ship to offset the debt incurred in the transaction.
Mr. Baako said he was sure there was enough documentation available to the judgment debt commission covering all the facts on the drill ship.
A former GNPC boss, Dr. Amos Ofori Quaah recently told the commission that he was not privy to any judgement debt claim filed by Societe Generale, neither was he a party to a drill ship transaction.
However, Mr. Baako quoted copiously from a UK High Court document dated June 6, 2001 in which GNPC was said to be indebted to Societe Generale to the tune of $40million with an additional interest.
He again quoted a July 9, 2001 document in which the Discoverer 511 drill ship was under ‘precautionary arrest’ in Oman as a result of the court battle between GNPC and Societe Generale.
Mr. Baako said these serious challenges caused the Kufuor administration to take immediate and pragmatic steps to salvage the situation.
He said K.T. Hammond was tasked to resolve the impasse between the GNPC and Societe Generale to save the country from incurring further cost.
Hammond, he further pointed out, ably negotiated with Societe Generale and reduced the debt of $47 million to $19.5 million after which the drill ship was competently valued and sold for $24 million.
Also quoting a July 16, 2001 payment order, Mr. Baako indicated the document “irrevocably and unconditionally” directed the payment of $19.5 million to Societe Generale which were monies accrued from the sale of the drill ship.
He further quoted a document, which was an order of the government of Ghana for $3.5 million to be transferred from the Ghana International Bank, UK into the government of Ghana account in New York.
“That account is available and can be audited,” he emphasised, pointing out that the judgment debt commission had the capacity to check these facts.
He said it was inappropriate for anybody to suggest that K.T. Hammond, after paying the $19.5 million, misappropriated the remaining amount0 from the sale of the drill ship.