Thursday, 12 November 2020

Botched Agyapa Deal: CSOs, Minority and others deserve national commendation

Dr Steve Manteaw, addressing journalist
on behalf of Alliance of CSOs. Credit Joynews 

By Adnan Adams Mohammed

Once again, collective action by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and advocacy efforts by other national and international voices have saved the nation from a well-planned 'state capture'. 

But for the timely intervention of civil society, the Agyapa gold royalties’ deal would have occasioned a situation where millions of dollars accruing from Ghana’s gold royalties would have ended in the hands of a few powerful political elites and private individuals to the disadvantage of the ordinary Ghanaian citizens. This has been the pre-occupation of the Alliance of CSOs working on Extractives, Anticorruption and Good governance and its partners.

The Alliance of CSOs made up of a 25-member coalition of CSOs and policy think-tanks united against the Agyapa deal in its current structure. On Wednesday, November 11, 2020, the Alliance released a press statement in response to the Office of the Special prosecutor’s corruption risk assessment report on the controversial Agyapa gold royalties’ deal.

At the press conference held at the Mensvic Hotel in response to the OSP's report and subsequent comments by the President and the Finance Minister, the Alliance called for "the entire set of Agyapa transactions to be rolled back and the transaction agreements abrogated."

The Alliance believe "Parliament cannot repair the defects." This position of the Alliance appears to be informed by several expert analysis of the subject matter by member institutions of the Alliance, as well as international non-governmental organizations like the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).

In a recent blog on Agyapa, NRGI analyzed the risks and rewards in the Agyapa deal, proffering eight useful points for consideration by government and civil society actors in shaping the Agyapa deal to the best interest of the people of Ghana.    

The Alliance has in the past released two press statements, generally calling for the deal to be halted to allow for broader national consensus. The Alliance’s two earlier press releases and follow-up advocacy work attracted international attention – including the international media, foreign missions and the investor community.

The strong national advocacy of the Alliance of CSOs moved the Ministry of Finance to temporarily halt the implementation of the deal in September to give room to meet the CSOs after their first series of press conferences and engagement which had even scheduled a second press conference the very day, the Ministry of Finance invited the CSOs for a meeting, which was against the ministry's initial posturing of 'not ready to listen to anyone syndrome'.

It was also the Alliance’s work that occasioned the Office of Special Prosecutor (OSP) to invoke its statutory powers to halt the deal to allow space for 'corruption risk assessment, the report of which assessment is what the Alliance now seeks to respond to. The underlying philosophy of the Alliance’s campaign has been to ensure a good Agyapa and other extractives sector deals that would ultimately benefit the people of Ghana.

Martin Amidu, Special Prosecutor

The OSP's report on Agyapa released a fortnight ago highlighted serious irregularities with the deal, transactions that pose a high risk of corruption, and transactions that plainly breach the Public Procurement and Financial Management Acts. In this report, Martin Amidu, the Special Prosecutor reveals a “stinky, rotten and a well-calculated attempt of state capture, breach of procurements regulations, conflict of interest, abuse of public office by the Finance Minister to benefit his private company, cronyism advantage among others”.

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta and Gabby Otchere Darko

The release of the 'damning and indicting' report against the Finance Minister, Majority in Parliament, Office of the President, private companies and individuals like Gabby Otchere Darko's law firm pushed the President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo to direct the deal to be halted temporarily and the transaction documents constituting the deal relayed in Parliament for broader deliberation and consensus-building. The president additionally requested Parliament to reconsider the deal only after the December 2020 elections.

But, Many feel the President’s statement is inappropriate and inundated with bad motive such that, in the event that, the President and his party NPP wins the elections for his second and last term, then they might revisit the implementation of the deal in its exact same structure. The largest minority party in Parliament, the NDC, has indicated they would completely abandon the deal if they win the December elections. 

 

 

The opposition NDC, yesterday, held a press conference in Accra addressed by their General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, who called on the government to retrieve all monies 'already wrongly' paid some entities and individuals within a two-weeks ultimatum, failure of which of the party together with other stakeholders organized a big demonstration in the first week of December, 2020.

 

Hon Asiedu Nketia retorted that, "the OSP has found, that the Mandate Agreement under which billions of cedis have been paid to companies like Databank, which is owned by the President’s cousin and Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta; African Legal Associates, which is owned by another cousin of President Akufo Addo, Gabby Otchere Darko and their foreign partners, are illegal and therefore null and void." He then posited that, "What Ghanaians must be interested in at this stage, are the steps the Akufo Addo government is taking to retrieve the illegal payments that they have made to these companies. This is because, you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. If the agreements under which these companies were made are null and void, then so are the payments made thereto, hence must be refunded to the State."

 

"The Corruption Risk Assessment conducted on the “Agyapa” scandal by the Special Prosecutor confirms our long-held position that the whole Agyapa deal is daylight robbery. As found by the OSP, the transaction processes and Mandate Agreement violated the Public Procurement Act, the Financial Management Act, and the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, hence null and void. As a matter of fact, the processes leading to the transaction agreements and Mandate Agreement were shady, opaque and fraught with procurement rigging, stonewalling, fraud, statutory and constitutional breaches. The valuation of our gold royalties and transaction agreements that President Akufo Addo and his corrupt New Patriotic Party approved was a ripoff and an affront to the sovereignty of our dear nation", the NDC General Secretary read.

 

Mr Benjamin Boakye, Executive Director of ACEP, a key member in the coordination of the Alliance of CSOs, in his remark on the efforts of the CSOs so far intimated that, he is glad the OSP's report has vindicated their main objective for the collective actions of the CSOs, which was calling on the government to allow further consultations to ensure transparency and amend some parts of the fiscal terms in the deal.

 

 

 

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