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Opinions of Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Columnist: Ablorh, Raymond

GIBA Scandal – The Role of Freedom Communications and GEBANN

Raymond Ablorh

In our effort to strengthen transparency, accountability and responsiveness in Ghana’s democratic experiment, what this rich but poor nation needs is not merely a vociferous media, but, a sustainable one, which is capable of effectively and efficiently playing the fourth estate role without defects.

Such a media would assertively promote transparency and accountability on its landscape by dutifully holding its own duty bearers and representative bodies accountable at all times. Sadly, this is not the case in Ghana. And, the revelations in the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) 2012 Audit Report, tell how docile members of the association have been.

GIBA did not hold Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2013 and none of the over 150 dues paying independent radio and TV station members were concerned enough to know the content of their 2012 Audit Report. They cared very little about how their own resources were managed. How could they be bothered about the GHC 1 Million media development allocation? No wonder, but, for the efforts of the Media Foundation for West Africa, the appropriation of that money would not have been an issue.

Were the media sincerely perturbed about the GHC 1 Million supposed media development fund, how could they be silent when the GIBA 2012 Audit Report reveals the largest broadcasters representative body paid over GHC 2 Million informally to a company which rendered no identifiable services to it. As the report reveals, GIBA does not even need the services of a middle man to get election broadcast contracts from the Electoral Commission of Ghana.

According to the audit report on management, on 3rd April, 2012, GIBA paid Freedom Communications Limited GHC 360, 000 with Cheque Number 0001746 with no invoice raised, no memo initiating the payment and no receipts from Freedom Communications. The next day, 4th April, they paid another 342, 000 with Cheque Number 0001747 without raising invoice, initiating memo for payment and no receipts from the recipient company. Six days later, the Association paid additional GHC 330, 573.63 with Cheque Number 0001748 in the same manner.

Again, on 19th July, 2012, they paid Freedom Communications GHC 476, 600 and on 11th October, the Association paid two different Cheques (Numbers 0001344 and 0001335) totaling GHC 1,035,000.77.

GIBA management response to audit queries on these payments is between unbelievable and funny. According to management, “the details of the business relationship between GIBA and Freedom Communications Limited were thoroughly deliberated on by the Executive Council before agreeing to go along. GIBA has been benefiting from the collaboration though the business actually belongs to Freedom Communications Limited.”

What is this business that belongs to Freedom Communications Limited?

Ironically, they do not even know Freedom Communications well enough to do business with them. “We would have to carry out a search on Freedom Communications Limited and the details forwarded to our auditors,” Management stated in its response. Who are behind Freedom Communications?

Assuming these monies were paid by any government agency or public institution without formal contracts spelling out reasonable terms of engagement, would anybody in this country have any air space in their ears to hear even a cock crow at dawn?

If of a contract amount of about GHC 1.5 Million, only GHC 500, 000 went into the main project and the rest went to a another company without any invoice raised nor memo initiating the payment could we be quiet?

More interesting, investigations have revealed that Freedom Communications Limited paid some monies subsequently to GEBANN, a company owned by the Executive Director of GIBA and one member of the National Media Commission (NMC). The Executive Director of GIBA is also a Board Member of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) and that raises serious concerns.

GEBANN bank statement shows transfers of monies from Freedom Communications Limited.

Until he resigned recently, RAYMOND ABLORH was the Programmes and Research Officer of GIBA. He is a prolific Feature Writer, Media Development Advocate and an Anti-Corruption Campaigner. Presidentablorh@gmail.com