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General News of Sunday, 23 December 2018

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Why buy Oslo property with $12m loan? – Mona Quartey shakes her head

Former Deputy Finance minister Mona Quartey cannot wrap her head around a government plan to buy a property in Norway to be used as an embassy at a cost of $12 million.

The finance professional has insisted government could surely save more money by getting another property for far less to be used for the same purpose.

Her comments following six unending days of the controversy of the planned purchase which the opposition in Parliament believes is overpriced.

Leading this charge, Minority spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has said he has evidence to show the property was only a year ago worth $3.5 million.

He has pointed to a Norwegian newspaper which he said described the proposed sale to the government at $12 million as “unethical”.

But more justifications have poured in following over-pricing concerns by the opposition.

Communications minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has indicated the property is a huge bargain at $12m because available market valuation puts the price as high as $100 million.

She has discounted Okudzeto’s claim that the building was valued at $3.5 million only a year ago.

According to documents from the Foreign Affairs ministry, an independent valuation done by Norwegian valuers put the price at $12 million in 2016.

The building, she said, has undergone “substantial renovation”, appreciating in value so that at the time of another valuation in 2018, the technical value was $54m.

The land value was put at $40m by Norwegian valuers, she said, explaining that unlike Ghana’s unregulated property market, the value of properties in Norway is determined by professional valuers not owners of the properties.

She expressed frustration that the Minority would take a “bare newspaper assertion” over the report of professional values on the said property.

“What is the basis of this newspapers claim that it was overpriced?...At which point do we say the property is overpriced?”, the outspoken MP charged on influential news analysis show, Newsfile Saturday on Multi TV.

But Mona Quartey said assuming without admitting the property was not overpriced, it is still “indefensible” for government to go in for the property at such a cost.

Government is using a $50 million loan facility from Societe Generale Ghana (formerly SG-SSB) to finance the rehabilitation of Ghana’s missions abroad. That loan was contracted in August 2016 while Mona Quartey was deputy Finance minister in the erstwhile John Mahama administration.

The Oslo property alone is taking about 25% of the loan facility, a cost which she insisted is “not unacceptable”. “Why would you take 25% of a credit facility to buy a mission?” she was beside herself on Newsfile.

Ursula Owusu countered that the decision was informed by “location, location, location”.

The Communications minister argued that Norway is emerging as an important economic partner to government as both countries are into commercial petroleum production.

Government needs to have an embassy in the capital, befitting the importance of its economic diplomacy with the Scandinavian country. Certainly government cannot get a property in Norwegian slumps, she said.

Mona Quartey said she agrees with the justification for siting an embassy in Olso but “do you have to buy a property at $12m because of these things?”

The colossal amount still ringing in her ears.