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General News of Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Source: The Catalyst Newspaper

Afriyie-Ankrah Advised To Sue Loose-Talking Yankah

Many people are urging Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, a minister of state at the presidency, to drag Prof. Kwesi Yankah to court to prove, what they call loose-talk by the president of the Central University Collage (CUC), who has made wild claims that the former minister of youth and sports and other colleagues of his at the presidency are corrupt.
According to them, it is about time the former youth and sports minister (…show some teeth and begin to bite by suing the Prof. Yankahs of this world who think they can continue to hide under the cloak of intellectualism and engage in the evil act of tarnishing the image of innocent people for political expediency.
The Catalyst has received an avalanche of phone calls in this regard. Most of those who called this paper expressed their anger at the “loose-talk” by the varsity don, who they had expected to have done better in his speech by exhibiting intellectualism rather than “…talking like a participant in debate by folks at a palm wine bar under a tree at the village square.”
Prof. Yankah, who was the main speaker at a recent Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) forum on corruption, did not mince words in pointing to Hon. Afriyie-Ankrah as a corrupt minister of state who is seeking refuge at the presidency after acting as the leader of what he termed “the Brazil gangsters,” who plundered state resources during Ghana’s participation in the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
“The Presidency is perceived to have become a comfortable refuge for officials suspected to have been involved in corruption and are under investigation,” Yankah said the IEA programme.
Our callers, who have identified The Catalyst as the only media house that has taken it upon itself to publish the facts about the Brazil saga, told the paper that they are now tired of listening to such “loose-talk” from people in society ho should have known better. They have expressed their total disappointment about the fact that even people of Prof. Yankah’s pedigree could decide to “…throw caution to the wind and decide to engage in such street talk when it is their duty as intellectuals in academia to educate the public on what the facts are and not be seen to be vigorously engaged in this kind of partisan propaganda.”
“Who doesn’t know that Hon Afriyie-Ankrah was reassigned to the Presidency as a Minister of State in the midst of a well-coordinated and sustained campaign of calumny and vilification was set in motion against him so as for him to make way for the investigation instituted by the President into the wild claims following his leading the Black Stars to the Brazil World Cup?” one of the sentiments expressed indicated.
The sentiments also wondered as to what kind of academic exercise the known diehard NPP professor was engaged in when he referred to Hon. Afriyie-Ankrah and his team as “Brazil gangsters,” a claim that has no factual basis whatsoever.
According to them, even though he has issued a statement that they deem to be an appropriate response to the “loose-talking” professor’s tantrums, they will not be fully satisfied until the hard working minister takes a legal action against him.

Below is the full minister’s full statement:

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA-Ghana) invited me to participate in a CORRUPTION CONFERENCE under the theme “purging the nation of corruption: demanding accountability from public institutions” which was held on Tuesday, 28th April, 2015. The conference was expected to elicit proposals for strengthening public institutions to give them teeth. In addition to reviewing the institutions, it sought to make proposals for demanding accountability from heads of these institutions. Rather unfortunately, I could not be physically present at this conference due to other official assignments; I however sent a representative to make my input available to the IEA. It was at this gathering of stakeholders that Prof. Kwesi Yankah delivered a keynote address which in part was subsequently reported by Joy Fm under the heading “Presidency a Safe Haven for Corruption – Prof. Kwesi Yankah.
Ordinarily, I would have continued in my self-imposed silence and refuse to respond to the rather erroneous comments made by the academician and President of the Central University College, Prof. Yankah who happened to be the Dean of Students at the University of Ghana at the time I entered the premiere university. In my moments of silence for the past nine (9) months, I have personally suffered abuse, naked insults and misrepresentations from all kinds of pundits, faceless and identifiable social media activists and commentator who have fed the public with nothing but deliberate distorted facts and outright falsehood. I did not expect a respected keynote speaker at an anti-corruption conference to also liaise his speech with innuendos and anecdotes without any factual basis.

After the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, I purposely decided to remain silent for very good reasons and allow the Presidential Commission to unearth the truth about the numerous but mostly ludicrous allegations that heralded the tournament. Silence they say is golden, and I steadfastly held on to that principle not to publicly speak about the events in Brazil, because despite my genuine intentions, efforts and energy that was invested in the preparations to the tournament, which saw the Black Stars walloping their Egyptian counterparts by 6 goals to 1 in Kumasi, and our subsequent qualification coupled with the high expectations of the vibrant football lovers of the country, Ghana was disappointed in the World Cup. Ghanaians were justified in displaying the palpable anger which followed our abysmal performance. I later apologized and accepted responsibility for the inability of the team to progress beyond the first round.
However, accepting responsibility for the team’s poor showing does not, and can never mean that I was culpable of any malfeasance. I availed myself before the Justice Senyo Dzamefe Commission and rendered a blatantly truthful account of my stewardship in both the public and in camera hearings. It has been my hope that the Commission’s report will contain nothing less than the exposition of the facts for the benefit of the public who were obviously mislead by the overabundance of fabricated and fictional stories. It is against this background that Prof. Kwesi Yankah’s statement provoked the breaking of my silence.

First of all, there is no doubt that Prof. Kwesi Yankah is an “eminent educationist” with valuable experience. I remember vividly how his articles which were published inThe Mirror, were a source of constant nourishment to the aptitude of many university students. Without any effort, I can easily overlook comments by political detractors, over sensational media practioners and sentimental social commentators who twist and embellish the events surrounding the Brazil World Cup saga. On the contrary, when an astute Professor and President of an institution of higher learning speaks at such a conference with both local and international distinguished participants and makes remarks without recourse to the relevant facts, but feeds into the usual rumour mongering and speculative anecdotes – then there is the need to set the records straight unapologetically! Again, under normal circumstances, I will hesitate to respond to such a towering academic figure whose experience in the lecture hall far exceeds mine. Conversely, that is the more reason why he has a greater responsibility to speak to the bare facts and not the dramatic narratives that has become the norm rather than the exception.
Clearly, Prof. Kwesi Yankah took refuge in inexactitudes when he stated in part that “when appointees are cited for embezzlement and corruption, no machinery is set in motion for investigation, prosecution or indictment” and further lamented with apparent reference to me, that “the Presidency is perceived to have become a comfortable refuge for officials suspected to have been involved in corruption and are under investigation” He argues further that there is “shelving in the Presidency of several reports on probes and investigations in which public appointees have been fingered for corruption, embezzlement and procurement deals.”

Now, let me put these misleading comments into proper perspective:
1. I have NEVER and DID NOT engage in any act of embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds in and outside the Brazil World Cup saga. I rendered full accounts of my stewardship to the relevant authorities with respect to both the funds allocated to the team by government and the funds which I together with my team solicited through an innovative corporate sponsorship drive.
2. For the first time in the history of Ghana’s preparation for the World Cup, there was no seed money due to budgetary constraints. I, together with the organizers, devised creative means to raise more than Four and Half Million Ghana Cedis (GHC 4,500,000) to send supporters to Brazil.
3. All the accounts I presented to the World Cup Presidential Commission were subjected to a FORENSIC AUDIT by the internationally acclaimed audit firm, Ernst & Young and I am absolutely confident that I never did anything untoward.
4. As a matter of fact, I presented evidence to show and I still insist that out of the USD $ 9,417,024.87 which I received from government for the World Cup expenses of the Black Stars, I left a whopping Four Million, Four Hundred and Forty-Four Thousand, Fifty Nine Dollars and Fifty Nine Cents (USD $ 4,444,053.59) in the Ministry’s account as at the time I exited. There is no contrary claim to this fact.
5. Let me put on record that the cash that was flown from Ghana to Brazil (appearance fee) was part of the approved budget estimates. That single unfortunate incident was needlessly triggered by player agitations and entrenched insistence of cash payment before the next match as opposed to the original plan of electronic payments. Besides, it is impossible for me to unilaterally move money from the Bank of Ghana, load it onto an aircraft, fly into Brazil and get all the necessary clearance. Every decision taken in that matter was after due consultations with relevant state authorities.
6. As the Youth and Sports Minister, I personally set up a committee, under the directive and full backing of H.E. President John Mahama to investigate the numerous allegations and suspicion of wrong doing in the then GYEEDA with a lot of political will. Today, there are officials standing trial and monies being refunded to the State and wasteful contracts abrogated.
7. Before serving in the Youth and Sports Ministry, I was a Deputy Minister for four (4) continuous years and not a single act or suspicion of corruption was ever raised about my conduct.
It goes without saying that reassignments and reshuffling of Ministers of State is the prerogative of the President of the Republic. To the extent that I am not culpable in any malfeasance, I cannot be said to be enjoying some “comfortable refuge” at the Presidency. Such unmeasured remarks rather undermine government efforts of dealing with corruption.

One would have thought that a “distinguished Professor” such as Kwesi Yankah, will be more meticulous in his research before speaking at such an august gathering. Well, in the absence of a well-researched speech, a number of questions beg for answers:
• Is Professor Yankah aware of the FORENSIC AUDITS of the accounts I presented?
• Is he aware that I left almost half of the funds allocated for the World Cup in the Ministry’s account?
• Is he aware that we had to work so hard to raise funds from Corporate Ghana to send supporters’ to Brazil?
• Does Prof. Yankah know that as the sector Minister, with the full support of the President, I stood my grounds and ensured that the GYEEDA investigations were conducted to their logical conclusions?
It is very possible that Prof. Kwesi Yankah may be oblivious to all these FACTS. If that is the case, then I am afraid he did me a lot of injustice. Is it also possible that Prof. Yankah was fully aware of all these developments yet he rather chose to play to the gallery with such comments? With all due respect and without any reservations, there is every indication that Prof. Yankah erred in his remarks directed at me. I take his comments in my stride just like the many indiscreet commentaries that have emanated from many other people.
It is extremely regrettable and disappointing that combating corruption has been unfairly reduced to the heavy use of conjecture without any genuine effort to recognize the efforts of government officials. It is even more worrying to find respectable people in academia such as Prof. Kwesi Yankah who have whether by design or coincidence, fallen to this rather obstructive terrain. This kind of conduct and attitude where every politician is labelled as corrupt and it is further embellished by some anti-graft campaigners so it sticks for a desired effect is counterproductive and a disincentive to fighting corruption.
The fight against corruption is a collective goal which demands partnership between government and civil society groups and not outright condemnation. We owe a duty to our nation and generations unborn to ruthlessly weed out corruption. I strongly believe we are more than capable of winning this war provided we can focus and consolidate the gains we have made while discounting the unnecessary suspicion of every government official or politician as being corrupt.

(Minister of State at the Presidency)