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Mystery Deepens Over GNPC $24m Ship Cash   
 
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18-Sep-2013  
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Bilbert Hie
 
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The mystery surrounding the sale of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) oil drilling ship at $24 million has deepened following the statement by the Managing Director of Societe Generale Bank-Ghana, Gilbert Hie that his outfit has no record of the transaction.

Mr Hie yesterday told the Judgement Debt Commission that both their offices in Ghana and France did not have any record on the $19.5 million judgement debt reportedly paid to the company after the sale of the oil ship.

Ghana Government in 2001 sold GNPC’s Drill Ship Discoverer 511 at $24 million to service several debts owed by the stated-owned oil company following a series of failed agreements entered into in the 1990s.

Out of the money received from the sale of the ship, $19.5 million was said to have been paid to Societe Generale as judgement debt secured against GNPC in a London Court in 1999.

However, appearing before the sole commissioner, Justice Yaw Apau, investigating payment of judgement debts to individuals and institutions, the SG-Ghana Managing Director, Mr. Hie, said his company did not have any records relating to the payment.

According to him, Societe Generale Ghana came into existence in 2003 two years after the transaction, and therefore had no idea about the payment made in 2001.

He indicated that Societe Generale did not have an office in Ghana at the time Tsatsu Tsikata-led GNPC engaged the services of the French-based financial and transaction advisors in the early 1990s.

Mr. Hie, who was subpoenaed to produce documents on the payment, said before receiving the subpoena, he had no knowledge of the issue.

“I contacted our legal department here in Ghana to contact head office in France, unfortunately we cannot trace the documents at the legal department in Paris,” Mr. Hie told the Sole Commissioner.

Destroy Documents

According to him, as a policy of Societe Generale, all documents relating to commercial transactions are destroyed after 10 years of the transaction.

He said the case at hand was more than 10 years and therefore, it was most likely that the documents relating to it could have been destroyed.

“We keep our archives for 10 years and the rule is that we destroy them after 10 years,” Mr. Hie reiterated, giving more work for the judgement debt commission to do.

Counsel for the judgement debt Commission, Kofi Dometi Sokpor, contested the claim, insisting that by practice they should have copies of the documents in their archives.

Former Deputy Energy Minister K.T. Hammond, who led the sale of the drill ship, said $1 million was used to pay for the services of government lawyers and the remaining $3.5 million paid into state coffers.

However, Bank of Ghana told the sole commissioner that it could not trace documents relating to the transaction.

The GNPC had earlier claimed it could not find the documents but later back-tracked that they now have them in their possession and indeed the corporation was involved in the disposal of the ship.

Dark Clouds Over AAL Debt

It has become curious how vehicle dealers, Africa Automobile Limited (AAL) successfully secured judgement debts running into millions of Ghana cedis from the state, as there seems to be no records of the transaction warranting such payments.

AAL secured judgements debts in 2009 with the Attorney-General as nominal defendant, for reportedly supplying Mitsubishi vehicles and workshop services to various state institutions in the early 1990s.

However, ongoing investigations into the payment of judgement debts to organisations and individuals by Sole Commissioner, Justice Yaw Apau, have revealed that a number of the state institutions which were said to be beneficiaries of such vehicles do not have any records of transactions.

Justice Apau, a Court of Appeal Judge, has been at a lost as to how AAL as well as individuals and institutions secured judgement debts from government without supporting documents.

He bemoaned the fact that Attorney-Attorney was sued because there were claims against state agencies and nobody went forward and the court was forced to enter judgement against the state and money was paid.

“Everybody sees the state as an amorphous institution not belonging to anybody so monies just go out like that from the state coffers, we turn around and we want increment in our salaries, we want this, we want that.

“Meanwhile, we don’t see the state and its properties as something collectively owned by us. We see it as a separate entity sitting somewhere and it is sad,” Justice Apau lamented.

Lack Of Records

Defunct Technical Service Centre (TSC) of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, one of the supposed beneficiaries of vehicles from AAL, does not have documents to that effect.

Director of Internal Audit at the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Eric Osei-Afriyie, yesterday told the sole commissioner that there were no records to indicate TSC had received vehicles from AAL.

He said even though the TSC section of the ministry was now defunct, the then Director in charge of Policy, Planning, Budget, Monitory and Evaluation (PPBME) Division of the ministry was contacted and he did not recall them taking any vehicles from AAL.

“My Lord, we initially went through our records department and we couldn’t find anything on Africa Automobile so we contacted some of our directors who have been there for quite a number of years.

“We were told that Technical Services Centre was an agency under the ministry and it is no more but their building is being occupied by Water Resources Commission and we would be going there to find out if we can find the documents,” Mr. Osei-Afriyie pointed out.

Asked whether with the demise of TSC, all documents relating to the centre had also vanished, Mr Osei-Afriyie said he could not tell and pleaded for two weeks to find out.

His outfit has been given up to September 30, 2013 to locate some documents relating to the transaction.

AAL, which is currently claiming about $1.5 billion judgement debt from government for reportedly supplying rotten Hundyai Gallopers to the state, will be appearing before the sole commissioner today after a subpoena to answer queries relating to the judgement debts it received from government.

More State Agencies

Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs do not have records on the transactions and payment of judgement debts to individuals and institutions.

BNI’s Head of Finance, Godfred Agyapong told the sole commissioner on Monday that “so far as our records are concerned, we do not owe African Automobile Limited.”

He said “we did not owe them at the time they were going to court.”

Giving the background to how AAL might have initiated action against the BNI, Mr. Agyapong explained that the Bureau purchased three Pajero vehicles from a vehicle supplier in 1995, adding that “we did not have any facility agreement with them but we have some statements and correspondence that suggested that we had purchased vehicles.”

According to him, AAL submitted a statement dated 8th June 2001 indicating that the BNI was indebted to them in the areas of workshop services and supply and they asked them to come for reconciliation of the figures but the company never showed up.

“Based on our response, they sent us notes to the statement on the schedule of payment before we received a letter from the Auditor-General on the same matter on June 22, 2004.”

He then tendered in evidence all documents involving the transaction with AAL, saying “we have fully settled them. As far as we are concerned, we do not owe them.”

Asked by Dometi Kofi Sorpkor, counsel for the commission, if it was the case that BNI was owing AAL over GH¢400,000, Mr. Agyapong said that “we paid subsequently in March 2000 and it reflected in the 2001 statement.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday could not produce documents on payments of judgement debt of GHC60,052 to its former employee, James Manu.

The Chief Director at the Ministry, Jane Gasu, told the sole commissioner that they had contacted the Ghana High Commission in London where Manu was employed for more records on the matter.

The facts of the matter before the High Court for the judgement debt are that Manu joined the Ghana High Commission in London in 1973 at the accounts section and voluntarily retired in 1999 after 25 years of service.

Following the retirement, Mr. Manu was given £10,463.17 as End of Service Benefit (ESB). However, he contended that his ESB was worth more than the amount given so he sued the state at the High Court claiming £16,600 with interest.

Consequently, the state filed a defence and the plaintiff (Mr. Manu) applied for “discovery of documents” relating to the case. The court granted his application but the Attorney-General could not respond to the application within 14 days as directed by the court.

The court, therefore, struck out the A-G’s claims per its statement of defence and accordingly awarded reliefs sought by the plaintiff.

 
 
Source: Awudu Mahama, D-Guide
 
 

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