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Opinions of Friday, 21 September 2018

Columnist: Dr. Valerie Sawyerr

Helicopters in chamber pots: A reaction to forensic audit by ‘ghosts’

I have read all sorts of articles in the newspapers today, September 20, 2018, based on what is claimed to be a report of a so-called Cabinet Committee Responsible for the Coordination of Investigations/Forensic Audits.

The allegations? That Ghana Gas purchased helicopters from China National Aero Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), but they have never been used for the purpose of its purchase thus causing financial loss to the state of US$54,800,000.00; that the equipment for the helicopters was not delivered even though it was part of the contract price (US$5,958,366.76) and that ab initio training cost was not fully utilised for its intended purposes (US$300,000.00).

Then came the interesting part where members of the Ghana Gas board on which I served are listed in the ‘report’ and in the publications as though we have all been approached to account for the helicopters and associated matters.

• Yes, four helicopters were purchased for coastal surveillance and other related matters under the Gas Infrastructure Project as part of the CDB facility.

• Since Ghana Gas did not intend to set up an Aviation Wing, it designated the Ghana Air Force to take over and manage the helicopters, associated equipment, and required training.

• The Ghana Air Force is the agency of Government, which operates and keeps custody of the helicopters. GAF negotiated the cost and specifications of the helicopters, and dealt directly with CATIC on all technical matters.

• In September 2015, there was a public ceremony where the helicopters were handed over to the Ghana Air Force. The ceremony was covered live on air. The President was present. Most newspapers carried it.

• Speeches made on that day reflected that the helicopters would be used for surveillance and monitoring responsibilities to secure installations like gas pipelines and allied operations across the country. That they would be used to enhance maritime security, anti-piracy operations, rig-bound medical and casualty evacuation, search and rescue operations, aerial photography, riot control and traffic management, disaster management, anti-sea-bound narcotic interdiction operations.

• In May 2017, after tales of lost helicopters hit the airwaves, the NPP-appointed Management of Ghana Gas clarified that the helicopters procured for the security surveillance of the oil and gas enclave in the Western Region were stationed at the Air Force Headquarters at Burma Camp.

• Did the so-called Secretary of the Cabinet Committee not find this out in his deep sea fishing expedition? Is it that he does not even know how to ‘google’ and read, in case all other investigative processes failed him?

• Did he engage the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or the Ghana Air Force to find out where the equipment is, whether all extra equipment was delivered in accordance with the agreement, what personnel were trained? Or did he expect Ghana Gas to supervise the Air Force patrols or to train pilots?

• Is he challenging the competency of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Mantsebi Tei-Nagai, or his predecessor, Air Vice Marshall M. Samson-Oje? Or is it an attempt to malign the Chief of Defence Staff Major General Obed Akwa?

• Is the current management of Ghana Gas looking for lost helicopters? Did we take the helicopters with us when we left office? Why haven’t they searched our homes to see if the helicopters are hidden in our chamber pots?

• Was the so-called investigator aware that the board members he listed in his ‘awam’ report were not the Ghana Gas board members on January 6, 2017, just before Government changed hands? Or did a very simple thing like that escape his eager digging claws?

• Did he contact the board members that came after our board to find out if the helicopters are under their beds?

• Has he contacted the current board members to find out if the helicopters are in their wives’ and/or husbands’ closets?

This shoddy work being passed off as a Cabinet Report is disgusting, to say the least!

• How was Dua Agyeman made Secretary of a Cabinet Committee or Cabinet Sub-Committee when he is not a member of Cabinet or the Secretary to Cabinet? The Secretary to Cabinet is secretary to all Cabinet meetings, Cabinet Committee meetings or Cabinet Sub-Committee meetings. A non-cabinet member is not allowed to chair such meetings or hold the position of secretary.

• How were private firms authorized to carry out all these ‘audits’? The Auditor-General is the only one with power to audit government agencies. Before a private firm can audit a government agency the Auditor-General must grant permission officially. Did the Auditor-General grant permission for all these private firms to conduct ‘unauthorized audits’ of government agencies?

Is this the usual Akufo-Addo style of work, running roughshod over laid down rules and regulations?

• Unless it is a fake document concocted by unseen hands, how was a Cabinet document leaked so profusely that at least three NPP newspapers carried it all on the same day?

• And have journalists stopped even superficial investigative work prior to releasing stories? Do their journalistic memories not even manage to straddle a few years back when a live ceremony in September 2015 evidenced the handing over of the helicopters to the Ghana Air Force? Did any of them have any editorial suggesting their own findings in the matter?

Is Ghana safe under President Akufo-Addo? Are other sensitive and confidential cabinet documents being leaked in same manner?

The Cabinet Secretary, Madam Debrah-Karikari, must investigate this ‘azaa’ leak and put her findings in the public domain. Otherwise, she must hang her head in shame and resign with immediate effect. When the Ben Eghan(s) and Roger Ansongwini(s) were at post, we did not see such grossly incompetent lapses. This must not be seen under a female Cabinet Secretary!

As for Dua Agyeman, the least said about him the better. An elderly man who declared a personal vendetta against me during President Mills’ era because I was instructed to write to him informing him that he was not entitled to certain benefits he was vociferously claiming.

Massa, I noted all your demonic moves, skewed articles in the papers and slip-sliding permutations, but I decided to ignore you because I was an officer at the Office of the President and I deemed it proper to remain silent in the face of adversity.

I am chilling in Opposition now, so I dare you to 'try me'.

Is this the expertise you offered a sitting Government? And then you gleefully signed your name as Secretary to a Cabinet Committee. Your haste for revenge will cause you to trip.

I noted in the last paragraph your request for renewal of UNDP support and a vehicle for your own use. Is this what the UNDP is wasting its money on? Funding you while Auditor-General complains of your interference with his work? Churning out reports lacking in quality and substance?

… and there you go again, wanting this and wanting that – this time it is a car you are begging for. What is this seemingly insatiable appetite for material things? Did the chairman and members of the Cabinet Committee, if they exist, approve that you add that to the ‘report’?

Your Excellency, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, my name is Valerie Sawyerr, and my wrists are ready for your shackles!!!

… but before you send your Tsar Bomba after me, please tell me why the StarTimes arbitration procedure in London was discontinued and how they were given an enhanced contract under your supervision, while StarTimes was at the same time sponsoring the First Lady’s Foundation. I mean your wife!

… and do you remember that the Tsar Bomba blasted beyond expectation flattening villages hundreds of kilometers from ground zero, and almost consuming those who deployed it?

Our elders say that it is not all the rivers you bathe in… you must leave some to drink from!

They say I am for war, but the truth is …
I am for peace ... Shalom!