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General News of Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Source: citinewsroom.com

Ayorkor Botchwey summoned by Foreign Affairs C’ttee over Norway Chancery deal

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has been invited to appear before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee to address concerns over the acquisition of some properties to serve ad a Chancery and Ambassador’s Residence for Ghana’s mission in Norway.

The Committee stated that while the Ministry had provided the documents it requested on renovations to be undertaken on some of its missions, certain concerns with the information provided for the country’s Norwegian mission necessitated the presence of the Minister before the Committee.

The Minister was also asked to provide documents on the valuation and location of the said properties as well as a contract for their purchase.

“The Committee has raised some concerns relating to the acquisition of properties amounting to $16.5 million for the Mission in Oslo. To enable members appreciate the nature and form of these purchases, it would be appreciated if the Ministry could furnish the Committee with the following documents relating to the proposed property for the Mission in Oslo; valuation report of the properties, the ownership of the property and the exact location, purchase of agreement/contract of purchase.”

“The Committee at your earliest convenience wants to meet you for a thorough biefing on purchases and activities of the Mission in Oslo.”

Despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ earlier denial that it had signed an agreement for the procurement of the Chancery and Ambassador’s Residence in Norway, the documents presented to the Committee indicate that the $16 million disbursements were set to be made for the facility before the end of the year.

The Ministry in a statement said although it has expressed interest in some properties in Norway, it is yet to enter into an agreement with the owners of the properties, contrary to claims by the minority in Parliament.

The documents, sighted by citinewsroom.com, however show that while disbursements had already been made from the $50 million loan facility secured for the renovation of some missions, the release of funds for others, including the Oslo mission, had been held back, pending the completion of “due diligence procedures.”

The allocations also include two separate payments of 3, 024,706 and 5,875, 294 to be made in 2018 and 2019 respectively, for the purchase of a Chancery in Geneva and $4,542, 595 for Consultancy, Design and Variations.

Minority raise red flag

The Minority in Parliament, led by its Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, leveled claims of cost inflation against the ministry over the conversion of a 100-year-old 6-bedroom house in Oslo Norway, into Ghana’s new mission in Norway.

Ablakwa alleged that the property was bought by a certain woman for $2.9 million in 2014 and sold to an unknown buyer for $3.5 million in August 2017, and so it was surprising that the ministry in a presentation to the Foreign Affairs committee said it was purchasing the same building for $12.2 million in 2018.

He, therefore, urged the Speaker, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, to admit a document he presented to back his claims of an inflated contract, but the Speaker ruled that the evidence is not admissible because the documents are not verifiable.

The sector minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, denied the allegations on the floor of Parliament, saying the Ministry had already backtracked on that particular property and was looking elsewhere.

Sam George, Ayorkor Botchwey in ‘near fight’

There was also a near altercation in the foyer of Parliament on Monday, between the Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Sam George, and the Foreign Affairs Ministe over the matter.

Citi News’ Duke Mensah Opoku reported the Foreign Affairs Minister was addressing some Minority MPs ostensibly explaining the Ministry’s budgeted expenditure on the Chancery when she heard Sam George making catcalls and taking a video record of her engagement with Okudzeto Ablakwa and some minority MPs.

The Minister was however held back by her security detail and the Chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Frank Annoh Dompreh, averting a possible physical challenge. She was heard hurling insults at Sam George, who was also heard saying that he was going to seek audience with the Speaker.