9:52, 28.Jun 2016
It was “sensible” under the circumstances, for AMERI Energy to have sponsored a trip by the 17-member Philip Addison Committee to Dubai to gather information concerning the deal signed between the firm and the government of Ghana, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Gloria Akuffo has said.
Ms Akuffo told Accra-based Citi FM in an interview on Tuesday that it was “a sensible position to take”, considering the circumstances.
She said the meeting was originally meant to have been held in Accra but due to the unavailability of one of the AMERI representatives, it was agreed that the meeting be moved to Dubai at the cost of AMERI, since, according to her, Ghana’s Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko had vowed that the Akufo-Addo government would not bear that cost.
“The position taken by the Minister was that: we are not going to bear the cost. We are not going to throw good money after bad. We have agreed that we hold the meeting here, we are trying to cut back on our losses and we will not be incurring additional debt to relocate to that place,” she explained.
“So the other party [AMERI] said: ‘We are prepared to bear the cost’. As to whether they were feted or given per diem, I do not know. I do not have anything on my desk. I do not know about these extra things being spoken about.”
The Committee, after its work, found that the $510 million deal was overpriced by $150 million and recommended it be renegotiated on grounds of fraud. The extra amount was paid as commission to Africa & Middle East Resources Investment (AMERI) Group LLC for the construction of a power plant.
In the view of the Committee, AMERI overcharged Ghana relative to what it was charged by the Turkish-registered company, PPR, which financed and executed the project. The Turkish firm had said the five-year Build Operate Own Transfer (BOOT) project was to cost a total amount of $360 million.
At a press conference by the Minority in Parliament on Tuesday, 18 April, former Deputy Finance Minister Cassiel Ato Forson said: “Information available to the public now is that some members of the committee travelled to Dubai on a first-class ticket via the Emirates Airline 787. They were hosted at a first-class hotel, their per diem were paid by AMERI and their shopping fully paid.
“What comes to us as a shock is that a three-day trip was extended to a week for reasons known to members of the committee. Strangely, the minister’s brother, who is a Member of Parliament for Ayawaso West Wuogon, who is not a member of the committee, joined the trip on the second day of their visit, also under the sponsorship of AMERI. A situation that is embarrassing, unethical and shameful.
“It is undoubtedly true that the Addison committee is a ministerial committee and, therefore, a public body. The committee was under constitutional obligation not to place itself in a situation of conflict of interest. However, as stated above, the committee brazenly breached this constitutional obligation when it accepted the above-mentioned “freebies” from a company it was tasked to investigate. Given the public embarrassment of allowing a private entity to bear the cost of the work of the committee or public body, this constitutional breach must be properly investigated and the guilty members of the committee should be appropriately sanctioned.”