Anti-Corruption kingpins disappointed in the Akufo-Addo government

One of the two anti-corruption kingpins, have expressed their state of unhappiness under the Akufo-Addo government with one moving further to suggest he would prefer change in the leadership of the country on the basis of lack of accountability to the citizens.

On Sunday, December 6, 2020, Dr. Steve Manteaw, Chairman of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, who in the last few days has been, questioning the continuous stay in office by the Akufo-Addo government simply on issues of accountability, in Facebook declared “If Agyapa had gone through, oil revenues would have been next”.

The remark is the second subtle attack on the managers of the country by Dr Steve Manteaw, who has been at the forefront of most civil society organizations fighting corruption and demanding greater transparency in the management of the country’s resources and the revenues accruing from them to the state for development.

The president of IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe on Saturday, December 5, 2020, also confessed that a part of him feels sorry for what they [Pressure Groups] did to John Dramani Mahama, when he was in office.

He said observing the happenings under the Akufo-Addo government particularly the lose fight against corruption, it seems he and other civil society organizations lambasted former President John Mahama unfairly and immeasurably.

Both Dr. Manteaw, Franklin Cudjoe, Ben Boakye, Kofi Bentil, Bright Simons and others have, been part of some an alliance of 25 civil society organizations which has mounted a fierce resistance against the attempt by the Akufo-Addo government to collateralized Ghana’s gold revenues under the name Agyapa Royalties deal from Asaase Royalties.

The Dr. Manteaw-led group, including Ghana Integrity Initiative, Transparency International’s national chapter civil demanded to know details of the transaction, the advisors, recruitment of staff and the selection directors among others insisting the deal was shrouded in opacity.

Franklin Cudjoe, expressed his regrets on CITI TV’s ‘The Big Issue’ programme, when he was one of the panelists discussing the topic, Allegations and Counter Allegations of Corruption by the NPP and the NDC, and apologized to God, while begging Mr Mahama, to find a place in his heart to forgive him.

Read More: Election 2020: NDC breaks One-Term jinx at Asuogyaman?

“To be fair, I think that the things we said of Mahama including myself and the kind of movement we created and formed against him, including the things we said. And the things we are hearing now appear to be insignificant. A part of me feels sorry that we did all of that to the ex-president.” – he stated.

According to a visibly heartbroken Franklin Cudjoe, there is a certain sense of hypocrisy from some of his colleagues who were more active in pressure groups who are keeping quiet and are not saying anything now.

” I’ve rendered my apology to God because I think that it’s very unfortunate. Mahama’s worst records is my good friend Akufo-Addo’s good record and that doesn’t speak well at all.” – he revealed.

He further revealed that the marketing spin of the NPP works much better than the NDC, simply because of the relationship whether good or bad, the NDC didn’t have with the media while they were in power.

“The fact of the matter is that there is corruption fatigue because in the country now, I have been on record to have said President Akufo-Addo is too weak to fight corruption but to be fair, I think the things we said of ex-president Mahama including myself and the kinds of movements we created and formed including the likes of Occupy Ghana and what we stood against compared to what is happening now, there appears to be very significant rise”.

“A part of me feels sorry that we did all of that to the former president Mahama but now we seem to be cool about the issue (corruption) now. Honestly, I feel President Akufo-Addo left some of his appointees who from day one engaged in acts of corruption without doing anything about it. And there is also a certain form of hypocrisy from some of my friends who were active during Mahama’s era but seem to be quiet now but for me, I have rendered my apology to God because I think it’s unfortunate,” he intimated.

He concluded by saying that, the good thing about the NPP is that they know how to sell their campaigns and flagship programmes which seems to resonate well with quite a lot of people in the country.

Last week, Friday, December 4, in reference to unaccounted oil revenues running into over GHC 2 billion, Dr. Mantweaw in an angry mood took to Facebook to ask “why would you vote for a government that has failed to fully account for your oil revenues?”

Dr Manteaw, had posted “Many have been asking me about the missing oil money. Here are the details: 2017= GHC 400,914,441; 2018= GHC 251,377,870.01; 2019 = GHC 1,479,896,300.00. Total amount of oil money the government has been unable to account for = GHC2, 132,188,611.01.

The issue generated so much heat for the Akufo-Addo government immediately issued a statement seeking to provide some responses to Dr. Manteaw and also asked Ghanaians to ignore him, however, the explanation given by the Ministry of Finance met doubts from him.

According to him, “much as the information provided is useful, they will need to be subjected to verification and strict proof, and to this end, project-by-project expenditure details would be required”.

He said he wished that every year was an election year because he had raised these issues years ago, but never got any feedback from the Akufo-Addo government compared to the government before it.

“….I regret that it has taken a Facebook post to elicit some partial information on the management and use of Ghana’s petroleum revenues, something that should have been done as a matter of routine. Much as the information provided is useful, they will need to be subjected to verification and strict proof, and to this end, project-by-project expenditure details would be required.”

The Ministry of Finance, had dismissed his claim saying “The alleged missing amount reported by Dr. Manteaw on Facebook, is significantly different from the amount of GH¢1,479,896,299.86 reported by PIAC as the unutilised Annual Budget Funding Arrangement (ABFA) balance in their 2019 Annual Report (pages 13,15,and 20), and published on its website on 23rd June 2020”.

“We have noted that Dr. Manteaw erroneously presents the cumulative unutilised ABFA balances for 2017/18/19 of GH¢1,479.90 million as the closing balance for 2019 alone, then adds the 2017/18 closing balances of GH¢400.91 and GH¢251.38 thus inflating the cumulative ABFA closing balances by an additional GH¢652.29 million, bringing his cumulative closing balance to GH¢2,132.19 million as reported in his Facebook post.

“The above balances were unutilised at the end of each year when the books were closed mainly because of delays in submission of Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs) by MDAs for payment. These were then settled in the subsequent year.”

Regarding the amounts unutilised at the end of 2017/2018, the Ministry said “The sum of the unutilised (closing) balance of GH¢652.29 million for 2017/2018, were subsequently transferred to the Road Fund Secretariat, under the Ministry of Roads and Highways and utilised in line with the provisions of the Petroleum Revenue Management (PRM) Act, 2011 (Act 815), as amended, to reduce the Fund’s indebtedness to road contractors and creditor banks.

“The 2019 unutilised (closing) ABFA balance of GH¢827.60 million, on the other hand, was utilised in 2020 to partially meet the funding shortfall of GH¢2,679.99 million from the approved 2020 ABFA Budget of GH¢4,336.18 million caused by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a supply glut which then impacted negatively on crude oil prices globally.

“From the explanation provided above which was hitherto conveyed unambiguously in our letter No. ESRD/EPU/30/06/20 to PIAC (copy attached), and also at the meeting of the Finance Committee of Parliament on the 2019 PIAC report, it is misleading to suggest that an amount of GH¢2,132,188,611.01 of oil revenues is missing from the books.

“Indeed, Ghana’s PRMA, touted as one of the best petroleum management laws in the world, provides the requisite controls in addition to our PFM laws and regulations to ensure that our oil resources are properly and efficiently utilised and accounted for.”

But responding to the reaction from the Ministry of Finance, Dr Mantsew said in a statement that “This is indeed, not the usual mode for official communication, but developments following my Facebook post of Thursday, 3rd December, suggest that, it’s the most effective, and since the official government response to my post was widely circulated through the same medium, I will stick to the new normal in dealing with the vexed issues.

“First, I very much welcome the speed with which the Ministry of Finance responded to my Facebook post on the unaccounted for ABFA. It makes some of us wish every year was an election year. In 2018, when the issue of unspent ABFA was first raised by PIAC the government ignored it. Letters to the Minister, requiring explanation of the missing GH¢400 million from the accounts it presented to PIAC went unanswered, until the Committee held a meeting with editors and senior journalists at Ho, to discuss the matter. The next day, the newspapers were flooded with screaming headlines on the subject. Only then did the Ministry find it necessary to respond, assuring PIAC and the public that the money was not missing and that it was being kept in the Ministry’s Treasury Main Account.

“Even then, the response raised further concerns, prompting the Committee to seek further clarifications. In a letter dated 4th October 2018, the Committee pointed out to the Minister, that his response raised concern as to the propriety of subjecting petroleum revenues to the Public Financial Management Act, when the intent and purpose of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act is to treat petroleum revenues differently from the generality of public finances, ostensibly because of their exhaustibility. The PIAC’s position was that, putting unspent amounts into other accounts other than the Petroleum Holding Fund from where the money was disbursed creates a difficulty for PIAC in tracking its management and use, as PIAC’s mandate does not extend to those accounts.

The Committee in this same letter, demanded further clarifications as to: • Why the planned projects to be financed with the ABFA amount in question were not ready, and if the list of proposed projects could be provided; • Whether or not these projects were re-budgeted for in the 2018 Budget Statement; • If the Ministry could provide evidence that, indeed, the unspent amount is available in the Treasury Main Account, i.e. if the projects were not re-budgeted for in the 2018 budget statement. As I write, the Ministry of Finance is yet to respond to this letter. Indeed, the Ministry’s lack of responsiveness to the Committee’s request for information and clarifications has been unparalleled in the last three to four years, compelling PIAC to produce its 2019 Annual and 2020 Semi-annual Reports two months late, and without ABFA expenditure data.

“Accountability practitioners will agree with me, that it does not make for proper accountability to submit revenue data without the accompanying expenditure, and yet it appears the Ministry considers this as normal. What is even more concerning was the attempt by the Ministry to mislead the Committee, when in its Report for 2018, it sought to create the impression that the GH¢400 million that was unaccounted for in 2017 was embedded in its account for the period. When this was challenged by the Committee, the Ministry had to humbly admit it, as an error, with a pledge to account for it in the 2019 budget. Indeed in 2019 the unspent amount for 2017 and 2018, totalling GHC652.29 million was brought forward. I therefore accept that the amount of ABFA that remained unaccounted for as at 2019, is GHC1.48 billion. I recall that in 2014 there was a budgeted but unspent ABFA amount of GH¢666 million, and that this was swept by the Bank of Ghana. It is therefore very curious why similar budgeted but unspent ABFA will be treated differently between 2017 and 2019.

“The Ministry cites a letter written to PIAC in July 2020 on the matter of the unexplained amount. In the said letter, with reference number ESRD/EPU/30/06/20, the Ministry response to PIAC, with regards to the unutilised and unaccounted for GH¢1.48 billion ABFA balance as at the end of 2019 was: • The total reported unutilised ABFA balances of GH¢1,479.90 million, includes 2018 and 2019 closing balances of GH¢652.29 million, and GH¢827.60 million, respectively. The balances were as a result of the delays in submission of IPCs by the MDAs. • The 2018 closing balance of GH¢652.29 million was transferred to the Road Fund Secretariat, under the Ministry of Roads and Highways and subsequently utilised to reduce the Secretariat’s indebtedness to road contractors/creditor banks and to avoid payment of interest on delayed payments • The 2019 closing balance of GH¢827.60 million, on the other hand, was utilised in 2020 to meet the funding shortfall from the approved 2020 ABFA Budget of GH¢4,336.18 million caused by a slump in global oil demand due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a supply glut which impacted negatively on oil prices on the international market. • The utilised ABFA balances will be reported in the mid-year review of the 2020 Budget and subsequent petroleum reports.

“However, in the recently published 2020 Semi-annual Report of PIAC, the Accountability Committee confirmed that the Ministry had not submitted the list of projects funded with this GH¢1.48 billion, despite several correspondences, and therefore could not verify nor confirm the utilisation of the amount. It must be pointed out that the transfer of unutilized amounts to the Road Fund to settle debts to contractors is a strange practice as this amount had been appropriated differently by Parliament. Again, this does not absolve the Ministry of its mandate under the PRMA to provide a project-by-project account of the use of petroleum revenue. Also, applying the 2019 closing balance of GH¢827.60 million to meet revenue shortfall is a serious abuse as the ABFA is being treated as a stabilization fund, when it is not.

“Additionally, the 2020 Semi-annual Report of PIAC stated that, an amount of US$169.51 million (GH¢976.37 million, at an exchange rate of GH¢5.76, as used by the Ministry) distributed to the ABFA in the first half of 2020, was not accounted for, in terms of its utilisation on programmes and projects, again after several correspondences with the Ministry. The Report was published without the ABFA expenditure data, making it the fourth time the Committee had to publish its Report without such data. This brings the total ABFA not fully accounted for to GH¢2.46 billion, as at the end of June 2020.

“To conclude, I regret that it has taken a Facebook post to elicit some partial information on the management and use of Ghana’s petroleum revenues, something that should have been done as a matter of routine. Much as the information provided is useful, they will need to be subjected to verification and strict proof, and to this end, project-by-project expenditure details would be required.”

In the case of Agyapa, which President Nana Akufo-Addo has asked his Finance Minister who was accused of conflict of interests and bid-rigging in the deal with the use of the his private company Databank, to return to Parliament, and Dr. Manteaw is not alone in fighting this position by the President, which has caused the country’s Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, his job.

The Special Prosecutor had resigned citing differences with the President, over how the report which made the damning findings against the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta and Gabby Ochere-Darko; two of the President’s cousins, should be handled.

Mr Amidu had insisted on making his corruption risk assessment on the deal public but the President wanted it covered up, afraid it was going to dent his government and collapsed his government.

Agyapa and other cases of corruption in the Akufo-Addo, led Mr Amidu to describe the President as the “Mother Serpent of Corruption”.

But Amidu and Dr. Manteaw are not the only ones against Agyapa, the Based in Berlin, Transparency International which is helping to combat global corruption with civil societal anti-corruption measures to prevent criminal activities arising from corruption has also joined in the condemnation of the deal.

In a November statement it issued, the global body asked Ghana’s lawmakers to reject the controversial deal that would sell most of Ghana’s future gold royalties to a Jersey-based company.

The appeal followed a scathing report from the Special Prosecutor which reportedly highlights grave irregularities, conflicts of interest, nepotism and other breaches of law by the executive branch in setting up the proposed deal.

Under the plan, Ghana is set to sell almost 76 percent of the royalties generated from 16 large gold mines to Agyapa Royalties Limited – a special purpose vehicle company registered in the British Crown dependency of Jersey. Forty-nine percent of Agyapa Royalties shares are to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The Special Prosecutor found that the sale of royalties to a company based in a known tax haven and a secrecy jurisdiction carries risks of money laundering and generating illicit financial flows.

Since August, civil society in Ghana has been warning that, should the deal go forward, Africa’s largest gold producing nation would lose revenue from vital national assets. The government has until the end of the year to finalise the deal, underscoring the urgency for parliamentary action.

Anti-Corruption kingpins disappointed in the Akufo-Addo government
Nana Akufo-Addo, Dr. Steve Manteaw and Franklin Cudjoe

The arrangement previously rushed through parliamentary approval despite a walk-out by the opposition, is now being returned to the legislature. Civil society urges the Parliament to reject the deal and its transaction agreements completely.

The civil society alliance also called on the Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute breaches of law to establish accountabilities.

“The abrogation of the Agyapa transaction should lay the grounds for a more open and consultative process for options and solutions to getting the best value for our mineral resources,” the joint civil society address concludes.

Source: The heraldghana

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