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Bankswitch J D Saga: Summon Spio-Garbrah Immediately Before Parliament!!!   
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Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah
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Parliament has been asked to summon the Minister of Trade Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah before the House to answer questions on the Ministry's engagement with Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) on a judgment debt owed Bandswitch.

Bandswitch, an I.T service provider in 2007, signed a contract under the erstwhile Ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor's New Patriotic Party government to help the then administration mobilize revenue at the the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

The technology would have sealed the loopholes at the country's ports which had already led to the country losing several millions of dollars. 

Contract Terminated

But the NDC government, under the late President John Evans Atta Mills, in 2010, abrogated the contract.

The Government of Ghana was subsequently dragged to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands by Bandswitch Ghana Limited in 2014.

Bankswitch demanded the payment of GH¢853 million in damages for the cancellation.

Failure To Call Witnesses

Per the rules of court, each party to the case was expected to appoint an arbiter. The two arbiters would have then appointed a third person as president of the Court to hear the case.

But reports indicate that Ghana refused to appoint its arbirter forcing the hand of the court to chose one for Ghana. The UK law firm appointed by government to represent Ghana withdrew their services, for reasons yet to be ascertained.

When a teleconference was set up at the Kofi Annan Center to enable Ghana call its witnesses, no government official showed up to question witnesses.

Before a judgment was delivered, government filed papers explaining the contract was cancelled because it did not have parliamentary approval.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected the explanation, ruling that a local law cannot be used to relieve Ghana of its international obligation.

Ghana was asked to pay in excess of 197million in judgment debt. The figure could hit ₵1billion if payment is delayed.

Ministry's Letter

In a bid to settle the bill, the Trade ministry under the leadership of Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, wrote to five Destination Inspection Companies Gateway Services Limited - Ghana Link; BIVAC, WEBB Fontaine and Inspection and Control Services - to pay an amount of $35 million each to help defray a judgement debt of some 197 million cedis owed to Bankswitch.

It is this letter which has led to the current media rigmarole.

"The facts are that a company called Bankswitch has succeeded in receiving a Judgment debt against the Government and people of Ghana in the amount of approximately GHC 197 million. The judgment debt was for the termination by the Prof Mill administration of a contract awarded under the Kufour Administration for services in the trade facilitation arena. The Prof Mills administration was of the conviction that the contract was improperly awarded and that Bankswitch had not performed the services for which it was contracted to perform.

"Bankswitch sued the Government in international courts and won a judgment debt amounting to approximately GHC 197 million. Due to delays in paying this judgment debt and the accumulating interest, this debt is rising. As the Government has been unable to pay this judgment debt this far, Bankswitch has been negotiating with Government on alternative payment arrangements," portions of a statement signed by the Ministry's Acting Public Affairs Director, Nana Akrasi-Sarpong read.

Reacting to the statement on Peace FM's "Kokrokoo", James Kwabena Bomfeh of the Conventions People's Party (CPP) charged the legislative body to quickly bring the Sector Minister before the House to clarify the transactions.

Kabila, as he is affectionately called, stated emphatically that the Minister's action exposes Ghana to disgrace and ridicule.

He challenged the authority and logic in the termination of the Bankswitch agreement, stressing that "It’s horrible. It’s disgraceful…The Ghanaian brain, you can’t underestimate it but what we do to ourselves as if we’re not Ghanaians. We have lost our sense of identity and setting different standards, and measuring ourselves wrongly.”

The Minister for trade should be summoned immediately.”

Breach of WTO agreements

A report filed by Albert Salia in Monday's edition of the Daily Graphic indicated that some senior officials at the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the MOTI describe the use of the DICs was a breach of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement which Ghana had signed.

They explained that Ghana was given a leeway to use the DICs to help build the capacity of government officials, especially Customs and others at the ports, to take over the valuation of imports and exports.

They also said it was in line with that that the government signed an agreement with Bandswitch Ghana Limited in 2007 to help build the capacity of the officials and institutions.

According to them, that contract with Bandswitch was unilaterally abrogated in 2009 hence the decision of the company to take Ghana to the Court of Permanent Arbitration. They said the demand for the DICs to help pay off the judgement debt in return for the award of contracts was a breach of WTO’s agreement.

They argued that if the government did not have the money to pay off Bandswitch, the best way was for the government to allow that company to continue its work to help defray the cost and also use it to build the capacities of the government officials and state institutions.

However, they said, the decision to use the DICs through the backdoor only went to prove that there were some individuals who did not want Bandswitch to work at all.

“Such persons tried to justify their action by asking the DICs to pay off the debt and continue to work. I believe it is the same group of people who abrogated the contract,” one top official who wants to remain anonymous said.
Source: Ameyaw Adu Gyamfi/Peacefmonline/Ghana

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