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Opinions of Saturday, 4 February 2012

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

EOCO Interim Report, Is Ghana ruled by Illiterates?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

I have had the opportunity of downloading and reading the sixteen-page Interim Report of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), on the Woyomegate. I must apologise to readers for the title of this article that may appear to be abusive and insulting. I was very saddened by the contents of the report, especially how the scarce resources of the country are just being wasted by the very leaders who are supposed to ensure the judicious application of such resources. The incompetency, negligence and abrogation of duty by ministers and civil servants are simply unbelievable. How on earth a single individual managed to claim such huge sum of money from the state without any iota proof that he is entitled to them made me sick. I am not a lawyer but with my knowledge in UK Employment Law and International Humanitarian Law, I am baffled that the Attorney General and Minister at the time who is a qualified lawyer could not determine that Woyome had no business to make a claim. The Attorney General should have caused the arrest of Mr Woyome when he made his claim against the State. Why?

In page zero of the EOCO report, the advertisement put out by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports for Expression of Interest for the “Provision of Consulting, Contracting and Financial Services for CAN 2008 Ghana” which appeared in the Daily Graphic of January 6 2005 clearly specified requests from “qualified firms and joint ventures” Woyome is not a firm neither is he a joint venture, let alone qualified.

Again, on page one of the same report, the list of twelve organisations that were shortlisted to put in bids for consideration did not include any firm or joint venture by the name, Wyome. The eight organisations that finally put in bids for consideration (as listed in pages one and two of the report also did not include a firm or a joint venture with the same name, Woyome and last but not the least, the six organisations who were finally selected to put in final bids (as listed on pages two and three) did not include the name, Woyome. So on what basis did Woyme sue the state is a mystery? These should have been the basis for the state to have rejected Woyome’s claim from day one. From the available information in the report, it is abundantly clear that Woyome either worked for Waterville or was a representative of Waterville that had a legitimate claim against the state for wrongful termination of award of contract and work carried out by them under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the Ministry of Sports.

It is also inexplicable how Waterville rightly put in a claim against the state for wrongful termination of award of contract and breach of the earlier MOU and was paid €11,935,706.55 out of a total claim of €21,569,946.71 during the NPP administration and yet made a second claim for €25,000,000 under NDC administration that was fully paid, instead of the state paying the outstanding amount of €9,634.240.16 plus interest. What was the basis of Waterville’s second claim and why did the state not challenge it since they had made a claim on the same matter under the previous government as contained in page five of the report?

It appears that Waterville realised that the new government officials were novices and they could easily make another claim so they tried their luck and they were successful. The state should have gone back to study the first claim Waterville made under the previous administration to find out what the claim was for. I suspect if the state had done that, officials would have realised that Waterville’s claim was not different from the earlier claim and therefore had no legal basis. This could also suggest that, some state officials might have colluded with Waterville to make a second claim.

It is again ironic that an official from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning advised the Attorney General and Minister for Justice to pay the Woyome claim. What were the lawyers and experts at the Attorney General’s Department for? It is strange that after the state official who advised the payment to Woyome had confirmed that though €1,106,470,587 was arranged by Waterville but only €746,117,646 was meant for the CAN projects, he went ahead and recommended payment of 2% on the total sum and not the part meant for the projects in Ghana. So instead of €1,282.235.30 Ghana ended up paying €22,129,411.74 as contained in page ten of the report.

It appears there was no one within the AG’s Department or Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning who took the responsibility to ensure that the state got value for money. Could this state official have been paid for making this strange recommendation?

As contained in pages ten and eleven, I cannot imagine that a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning could write and sign a letter to the AG to advise the payment of a such an important claim against the state without the knowledge of the Minister or his Deputies. What is really happening in Ghana and who is in control, the politicians or civil servants? The fact is, it’s free for all and no one is actually in control.

I am shocked and amazed by EOCO stating in page twelve of the report that His Excellency, the President intervened on two occasions to stop the payments to Woyome because EOCO did not mention the source of this information in their report. This unsupported intervention by the President is not only bizarre but also makes the President weak and appear not to be in control of his appointees. Again, because the President was on record to have said that he knew nothing about the payments. What was EOCO’s intention for including this in the report?

I do not understand why NPP boycotted EOCO. It’s clear from the report that the NPP administration did not follow the Public Procurement Act by awarding a contract to a Chinese company that was handpicked by Ex-President without going through the tender process as required by law. It is also clear that NPP government illegally terminated contract or MOU with Waterville. However, Waterville was paid compensation, though there was an outstanding amount as at the time administration left office. What was NPP afraid of? Were they embarrassed by breaking the law or what?

My conclusion after reading the EOCO report is that neither the President nor his two appointees who were responsible for the Woyomegate were control of what was happening in their respective ministries. They behaved as illiterates on this matter leading to gargantuan financial loss to the state. Woyome had no business with the state and had no legal basis to claim compensation against the state let alone be paid. The two civil servants were either part of Woyome’s grand scheme or were saboteurs. Woyome could not have acted alone. At worst he was assisted by negligence or connivance by all who were involved. In fact, some actions may be sabotage. The President knew about the payment but was not in control

I recommend the following: Woyome should be arrested and charged for fraud, bribery and influencing state officials; Woyome should refund all the money he has received with interest; Both the then AG and the Finance Minister should be charged for causing financial loss to the state; The second claim by Waterville could be illegal and should be investigated for further action by the state, since it could be double claim. If established that it was double claim, the state should charge them for fraud and recover the amount with interest. The two civil servants should be investigated and charged for gross misconduct, accepting bribe and causing financial loss to the state; The President and his ministers should take responsibilities; Politicians should exercise proper oversight over civil servants to avoid sabotage;

This is not good for NDC because the two ministers behave as if they cannot read and write. There were documentary evidence to stop Woyome from duping the state, yet they failed to read and act on them. What a sad day for Ghana?

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK