You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2018 09 23Article 687021

Opinions of Sunday, 23 September 2018

Columnist: Michael Creg Afful

'Evil dwarfs' at BOST: Will George Mensah Okley conquer them?

I have been wondering whether there are evil dwarfs that have their permanent abode at the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST) such that, when they feel like striking, they do so by possessing some staff and antagonists to use the media to fight the nation's strategic national oil company.

As I continue wondering, I think, just maybe, that it is about time the new Managing Director, George Mensah Okley, sought divine intervention to purge the hearts of workers of BOST to enable him to have the peace of mind to work to position the company to become the leading oil company in the sub-region, as was the desire of his predecessors.

You may not understand my preposition now, but as we move along, you would appreciate why there is the need for divine intervention at BOST. This article is intended to delve into both the past and present happenings at BOST, and by the time the last page flips to a closure, you would concur with me on the need for the divine intervention.

I have been trying to refresh my memory on what took me to the head office of BOST for the first time, and, however hard I try, my memory fails me. But, I think my maiden visit to the venue had something to do with the workers' agitation.

Good...the first day I entered the Accra Plains, near the Kpone Barrier, Kpone-Katamanso District, was when the Junior Staff of BOST organized a press conference to level serious allegations of corrupt practices against the then Board Chairman, Alhaji Huudu Yahaya.

The Junior Staff Union, led by its Chairman, one Bernard Owusu, via the media, lashed Alhaji Huudu Yahaya, the former 1st Vice Chairman of the current opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). Because he could not survive that tirade and bombardment, in no time, he was shown the exit.

The then Managing Director of BOST, Dr. Yaw Akoto, was also not spared: he was also thrown out. And despite the number of corrupt practices the two were said to have engaged in, neither of them was investigated and prosecuted by a competent court of judicature for the public to believe that they did all the wrongs they were accused of.

US$74million rot under Huudu Yahaya

Interestingly, when John Dramani Mahama won the 2012 Presidential elections and after being in office for one year, he quickly relieved the then Managing Director of his post and brought in his darling boy, Kingsley Kwame Awuah Darko, to head BOST and appointed Kakra Essamuah, as its Board Chairman.

But, after being in office for few months, we started hearing of some agitations at BOST. This time around, it was not the junior staff but rather a section of the senior staff. The agitations were as a result of staff retrenchment the Awuah Darko's management was undertaking. Unhappy about the exercise, the workers started leaking information into the media, which, they believed, could incriminate Mr. Darko. In their opinion, the retrenchment exercise was a calculated attempt to sack competent staff and replace them with his cronies so he could continue to engage in corrupt practices.

In a bid to absolve himself of blame, Kwame Awuah Darko organized a press conference, which was heavily attended, to respond to the various allegations by the section of the workers in the media. In that media encounter, the embattled Managing Director of BOST confirmed reports of fraud, impropriety, arm-twisting and extortion at the strategic national asset, resulting in a massive financial loss of GH¢74.41 million in just four years. However, he indicated that the financial loss did not occur under his stewardship, though it was still in the era of the Mills-Mahama administration with Huudu Yahaya as Board Chairman and Dr Yaw Akoto, as Managing Director.

He explained that it was as a result of the gross mismanagement and arm-twisting under the same NDC government, that he signed an agreement with TSL, a Ghanaian subsidiary of Nigerian-owned firm for it to operate, maintain and manage BOST’s petroleum terminals in the country for a year, at a total cost of about US$7.2 million.

He told journalists that BOST, in 2010, made a loss of more than GH¢3.8 million, more than GH¢14.2 million in 2011, over GH¢10.85 million in 2012 and GH¢45.56 million in 2013, all totalling over GH¢74.41 million.

According to Awuah Darko, who took over the baton of BOST in October 2013, the company made a profit of GH¢8.1 million in 2014, when TSL was contracted. He, however, failed to disclose the amount BOST paid to TSL for a proper and informed balance sheet of profit and loss to be drawn on the accounts of the state-owned company. Fighting credibility battle and in a subtle attempt to allegedly divert attention from serious allegations of mismanagement and political victimization levelled against him, Awuah Darko reportedly leaked a damning report of a Ministerial Committee to the media, to expose the impropriety of his predecessor and former Board Chairman, Huudu Yahaya.

The Ministerial Committee of Inquiry, chaired by Clotilde Agbenoto, was set up on June 18, 2013, by the then Minister for Energy and Petroleum, Emmanuel Kofi-Armah Buah, to investigate allegations of fraud, impropriety, arm-twisting and extortion at the Accra Plains and Kumasi Depots of BOST.

However, the report was shelved for almost two years by the Minister, until it was leaked to sections of the media, following agitations by BOST workers against their MD Awuah Darko over what they had described as mismanagement of the company.

Tensions continued at BOST until Awuah Darko's governing NDC lost political power to the then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), now steering the state vessel.

Awuah Darko's rot

Now, when the NPP took over power in 2017, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central Constituency in the Central Region, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, popularly known as 'Akompreko', launched an onslaught on the former MD of BOST, Kwame Awuah Darko, for allegedly engaging in financial malfeasance.

He never spared Awuah Darko anytime he had the opportunity to speak on radio especially, Oman FM, Adom FM, as well as Asempa FM. And as usual of him, Kennedy Agyapong provided documentary evidence of how BOST, under the tenure of Awuah Darko, transferred US$ 40.5 million into Chief of Staff’s Sundries Account during the tenure of the former President Mahama, under dubious circumstances.

To demonstrate his anger at the fire-brand NPP legislator for directing his attacks at him, Kingsley Kwame Awuah-Darko has sued Kennedy Agyapong for peddling what he considered to be defamatory comments against him and is demanding GHC5 million in general damages for defamation. He also sued Multimedia’s Asempa FM, as well as Kennedy Agyapong’s Madina-based Oman FM, for using their platforms to tarnish his reputation.

Was Awuah Darko right in going to court to clear himself of any wrongdoing? The answer is yes because it is his constitutional right to seek redress at the court if he feels his rights are being trampled upon. Since the case is before a competent court of judicature, I would not want to comment further or I am cited for contempt.

But, one thing I am happy about is how the Assin Central law maker has maintained his focus in fighting wrongdoing and abuse of public office by those who had the opportunity to serve the country, or are still serving, despite the threats of legal battles against him.

Now, let me flip the page to Awuah Darko's predecessor, Alfred Obeng Boateng, who is a lawyer and a Degree holder in BSc in Geological Engineering from the University of Ghana and LLM in International Commercial Law, with specialization in Oil and Gas, was appointed in January 2017 by his Excellency Akufo-Addo to head BOST.

However, after being in office for some 18 months, President Akufo-Addo showed him the exit and replaced him with George Mensah Okley, who, until his appointment, was the Director in charge of Upstream at the Ministry of Energy.

Although reasons for Alfred Obeng Boateng’s dismissal was not made public, it is not clear whether there was anything he did wrong, apart from the sale of the five million litres contaminated fuel saga which is a public knowledge.

Blackmail

Alfred Obeng Boateng was reduced to 'twapea' by Duncan Amoah, the Executive Secretary of the Chamber of Petroleum Consumers (COPEC), Ghana, who ran his mouth amok on the former, as though he was the connoisseur of knowledge in the energy sector. Even when the National Security, with the committee composed by the former Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, had cleared Alfred Obeng Boateng of blame, Mr Amoah, unabatingly, attacked Mr Boateng in the media.

It would interest readers to learn that Duncan Amoah, some time ago, invited Alfred Obeng Boateng to a meeting at Golden Hotel in Accra and in that meeting, Mr Amoah introduced the CEO or the MD of J.K Horgle, one of the Bulk Distribution Companies (BDCs) to his guest, and pleaded with him to consider him by making sure that J.K Horgle received consignment (fuel) from BOST, so that the company could, in turn, sort him out. That way, he (Duncan) would stop being a thorn in the flesh of Alfred Obeng.

As if that was not enough, Duncan Amoah made several unreasonable demands from Alfred Obeng Boateng, including making a purported arrangement so that Mr Alfred and other government officials could make a trip to Israel to meet some investors. But as smart as Alfred Obeng Boateng was, he pulled out upon realizing that Duncan Amoah was leading him into trouble.

Disappointed by the turn of events, Duncan Amoah then turned around and orchestrated the controversial five million litres of contaminated fuel, by using his cohorts and criminal-minded guys at BOST to blackmail the then Managing Director Alfred Obeng Boateng. He later cooked a cock and bull story against Alfred Obeng Boateng that he had threatened him and went ahead to lodge a complaint with the Tema Regional Police Command. I listened to him on Accra FM on Monday, September 17, 2018, making another claim that some 600,000 litres of contaminated fuel had evaporated from the Accra Plains Depot of BOST. I was expecting Duncan Amoah, who is making himself appear as if he were the only citizen who cares more about Ghana, to talk about the latest development at BOST, which involves the payment of US$3million to Springfield Energy Limited.

Is Duncan Amoah only interested in issues involving Alfred Obeng Boateng? Is he now in bed with the current Managing Director of BOST, and so he would not comment on the issue? Or he has suddenly gone deaf and so cannot hear what is happening at BOST currently? Those who claim to be leading civil society groups must be seen to be demonstrating honesty, fairness and above all, integrity for us to believe them. Unfortunately, Duncan Amoah has not demonstrated any of these values.

Since the new Managing Director of BOST, George Okley, assumed office, I have visited him once, nonetheless, we could not engage each other because he was scheduled for a meeting at the Jubilee House. But one thing I kept telling him was to institute prayer in the company because I knew there are evil dwarfs at BOST, who always drag MDs into trouble and turn around to release missiles to the media to fire at the MDs. Now, monitoring the current media war against George Okley, need I will be surprised, when the man who went all out to peddle falsehood about Alfred Obeng Boateng, still finds his way at BOST, by visiting the place on a regular basis as if he were a staff?

Why would I be surprised when one of the evil dwarfs, who was moved to head Business Services under Alfred Obeng Boateng, had been brought back to be the head of Finance and, subsequently, misleading George Okley to authorize payment of US$3million to Springfield Energy Limited? Mr Okley should remember I told him to be prayerful and watchful!

US$3 million doled out to Springfield Energy

After the Inquisitor newspaper had published a story with the banner headline: 'SCANDAL ROCKS BOST BOSS -SPRAYS CASH ON SPRINGFIELD ENERGY', I read the response from BOST and also the petition submitted to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) by MP for Bongo, Edward Bawa, asking the Commission to investigate the case.

In part, the MP's petition suggested that BOST's external lawyers asked the company not to pay Springfield the remaining interest of GHc5 million because they did not deserve it.

For the sake of readers, I, hereby, reproduce what the MP, Edward Bawa, claimed to be the exact words of the supposed external lawyers of BOST: "We have not revised our view that Springfield Energy is smartly trying to blow hot and cold at the same time.

“We, therefore, stand by our professional advice given earlier that BOST should not cave in to the blackmail of Springfield to hand them underserved millions of dollars from the public purse.

“The modus operandi of Springfield is not new. It has been so since the inception of this case. Let Springfield boldly go to the court, prove their case in accordance with the law and let the court deliver its judgment.

“BOST will then have the option of satisfying the judgment, or if it is unhappy, challenge the judgment higher up.

“That way, it would be seen that BOST stood its grounds and fought a good battle to protect the public purse. That way, nobody can accuse all those involved in the case of creating, looting and sharing. This is our position on the matter."

I must confess that this is the first time I have come to believe Edward Bawa on an issue. I was tempted to believe that the purported words of BOST external lawyers were a figment of Bawa's imagination but upon my independent checks, I discovered that, indeed, those were the words of the external lawyers.

It will interest the public to note that the internal lawyers at BOST and John Kojo Arkorful, who is the Head of Finance, are aware of the caution by the external lawyers not to pay the remaining US$5 million, yet somebody misled the current MD to authorize the payment.

If our hard working President Akufo-Addo is, indeed, determined to fight corruption and demonstrated in his appointment of the Special Prosecutor, then, he must equally be moved by the current happenings at BOST and make sure that its management is overhauled to make way for new crop of people to assume their position.

Heads must roll

The continuous stay in office of the current management would not end well with the country. John Kojo Arkorful and co are a major problem, as far as the progress of BOST is concerned. There are competent people in the country who could help George Mensah Okley to bring the transformation government is expecting at BOST. We cannot allow certain crop of people, who are only interested in what will come to them, to continue to milk the company when we need money to provide hospitals, schools, roads and other social amenities to deprived communities.

I cannot conclude this article without making a passionate appeal to His Excellency the President to call his party people to order. This is because there are some who think the President has kept them warming the bench for far too long, and so to get the President to do a substitution, they will undermine appointees so that when the President sacks them, they, the bench-warmers would get the position or their favourites to also taste power.