Ghana is to receive a total of £658,000 from the corrupt United Kingdom-based construction firm, Mabey and Johnson (M&J), as reparation for causing financial loss to the country through over-pricing of contracts and bribing public officials and politicians belonging to the National Democratic Congress (NDC), between December 1994 and August 1999.
President John Evans Atta Mills, Daily Guide learnt, has directed officials of the Ghana High Commission in London to accept the reparation awarded by the British Crown Court to the country for the corruption of NDC officials who are still part of his government.
If the government rejects the kickback however, the court directed that it should be paid to any charity selected by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Before delivering his sentence, Judge Rivlin indicated that he would direct maximum reparations to be paid to Ghana and Jamaica.
The Southwark Crown Court in London accepted the prosecutions case last Friday that top Ghanaian officials in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) received bribes of £470,792.60 and additional £750,000 which was paid into a ghost fund called Ghana Development Fund (GDF).
In total, Mabey and Johnson, which constructs steel bridges in several countries, was fined £5million after it confessed its sins and opened up its account books for scrutiny by the SFO. DAILY GUIDE learnt that some of the bribe money was paid into offshore accounts of the corrupt NDC officials.
Incidentally, the payments took place under the nose of moral high priest and apostle of probity and accountability, Jerry John Rawlings, when he was leader of the country. Daily Guides London-based correspondent, Ernest Pepra-Antwi who was present in court last Friday, reported that President Atta Mills accepted through his representatives, the amount of reparation offered, which implies that he had also accepted that the NDC officials were indeed bribed as stated in court. A company representative told DAILY GUIDE at the court soon after the ruling that they have contacted the President of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills, prior to the sentencing to discuss any reparation.
The President delegated Dr Dodoo, former Head of Civil Service and now in the Office of the President, to continue with further discussions. Dr Robert Dodoo himself was standing trial in Ghana for alleged corrupt practices over the importation of an elevator when he was Head of Civil Service.
Consequently, there was a lot of back and forth telephone conversation between London, New York and Ghana as the President was then attending the United Nations General Assembly; and finally Ghanas acting High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Martin Quansah, who was in the courtroom, informed the court of the Presidents willingness to accept the reparation of £658,000 offered to Ghana.
The lead prosecutor, QC John Hardy, relayed the Ghana government message to the court when he was making a statement to accept the verdict of the court. Court documents showed that Dr George Adjah-Sipa Yankey, Minister of Health, took £15,000 as his share of the booty.
Other NDC gurus mentioned in the scandal are Kwame Peprah, SSNIT Board Chairman and former Minister of Finance, who had incidentally served prison terms with Dr Yankey over the Quality Grain scandal where over $20 million was paid to an American woman for the cultivation of rice in Aveyime in the Volta Region; Alhaji Baba Kamara, Ghanas High Commissioner designate to Nigeria and former NDC National Deputy Treasurer who was the political overseer of the GDF which bagged £750,000; Alhaji Amadu Seidu, Minister of State at the Office of the President, Osu Castle and also a Member of Parliament; and Dr Ato Quarshie, former Minister of Roads and Highways who collected a whopping £55,000 in cash.
Dr Ato Quarshie was just last week appointed chairman of a ministerial committee set up by the Minister of Transport Mike Hammah to probe the operations of the Metro Mass Transit Company.
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Betty Mould-Iddrisu has indicated that no special commission would be instituted to investigate the bribery scandal which hit Ghanaians like Hurricane Katrina did US.
She said the nature of the issue is such that the President does not need to launch any full scale public inquiry into it. Mrs Mould-Iddrisu argued that if the investigation is left in the hands of a Commission of Inquiry, before you know it, the evidence has been corrupted. She said her own investigation would be sufficient.
The A-G also stated that no time-line has been given for her to complete her investigations as there can never be a time-frame for investigations. She said new information usually keep coming up which makes it impossible to put a time-frame to any probe, assuring however that the investigation would receive committed attention.
Following the courts ruling, President Mills instructed the A-G to investigate the issues to inform governments next line of action at the time when he had committed the country by taking the reparations, indicating that his appointees are corrupt.
But a section of the public thinks the seriousness of the allegations require a public inquiry. The former Executive Director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Daniel Batidam has said that persons named in connection with the shameful scandal must resign from public office.
He stressed that those who are currently holding public office should step aside and clear their names. Mr Batidam indicated that he was not surprised about the courts ruling citing some Ghanaian public officials as having engaged in corrupt practices.
His worry though is that the story proves that corruption can take place in such a nebulous way that unless and until something happens and there is reason for a revelation to be made, we might just think that people and firms are innocent and doing business in the right way while in fact they are actually living at the expense of ordinary people. Governance think-tank, Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) also welcomed investigations into the bribery case implicating some officers of state as directed by the President, but refused to comment on the call for resignation of ministers and officials mentioned in the scandal.
Governance and legal policy officer at CDD, Kojo Asante said the revelation is not healthy for the countrys image abroad and that while the President must demonstrate that he will not spare any effort to get to the bottom of the case, he must also prepare to punish officials of his administration named in the scandal. I think it is appropriate just as the President has instructed that the Attorney-General go and investigate these cases within Ghana laws.
Mr Asante contended that government must ensure that all who will be found culpable of any offence, as the investigations will show, are brought to book.
The bribery payments were laid bare at the instance of Judge Rivlin, at the Southwark Crown Court in London last Friday September 25, 2009. M&J admitted guilt and accepted the ruling of the court indicating no recourse for appeal. However we would submit ourselves to the UK Serious Fraud Office for monitoring of any future international business transactions.
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