Galloper Deal Stinks

Wednesday’s press statement by Kwamena Ahwoi, Minister of Local Government in the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government under Jerry Rawlings, has further muddied the facts regarding the controversial Hyundai Galloper vehicles. Former Minister of Local Government in 2005, Charles Bintim, and former Deputy Minister of Local Government under the Kufuor administration, Nkrabea Effah-Dartey, have stated that there was no contract when they got to the ministry. Mr Bintim said the Galloper dealers approached him for payment and he asked for contract documents and they never returned until he left the ministry a year later. Capt Effah-Dartey claimed there was no contract either regarding the importation of 110 Hyundai Gallopers on behalf of the state in 2001 as Kwamena Ahwoi had claimed. Speaking on ‘Badwam’ on Adom TV on Thursday, Capt. Effah-Dartey pointed out that the late Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, who took over the ministry after the NPP won the elections in 2001, asked him (Effah-Dartey) to meet the Chief Executive Officer of Africa Automobile Limited over the issue. Effa Dartey told the CEO that “there was no contract, the vehicles were not in good shape and for that matter the government was not going to pay for the vehicles.” Mr Ahwoi’s statement has brought to the fore, three different confusing accounts about the status of the Hyundai Galloper II cars currently parked in the open since 2009 at the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS). In the different accounts, there are three different price quotes for the contentious Gallopers. Inflated Price Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa’s account estimated the price of the 86 of the 110 Gallopers imported by the erstwhile NDC government in 2000 at $17million, while Mr Ahwoi’s calculations put the total cost of the vehicles at approximately $3.32 million even though he conceded that almost half of the cost was paid before the vehicles were shipped. In the documents available to DAILY GUIDE, in 2010 when inventories from CEPS’s GCNet were compiled, the total cost of the vehicles was pegged at $ 1.04million. Different unit prices have also been interpreted from the botched transaction of the Gallopers. At an exchange rate of approximately GH¢1.44 to one US dollar in 2010, the CEPS document puts the unit price of the Galloper at US$15,154. However, Mr Ahwoi pegs the price of the Gallopers at $30,200 each. Calculations from Okudzeto-Ablakwa’s put the price of each Galloper at over $170,000 in 2000. Also in contention is the total number of Gallopers imported into the country in 2000; while both Mr Ahwoi and the deputy Minister of Information agree on the number 87, CEPS inventories conducted about two years ago, put the figure at 70. According to Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa, even though the vehicles were ordered by the previous NDC government, the subsequent government of the Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) ignored key contractual obligations that had come to hunt the Mills government with $1.5billion damages allegedly being claimed by Africa Automobile Limited (AAL), the sole distributor of Gallopers at the time. The Mills government estimates the cost to be in excess of $1.5billion; nevertheless, the deputy information minister has indicated that the government has decided to negotiate the damages down to about 30 percent of the alleged judgment debt. This will beat the price down to about $500million far from the $3million price quoted by Kwamena Ahwoi. “The company’s calculation of the damages to date is what has brought the claimed amount to in excess of $1billion, a claim which the government is disputing in its efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement with the company,” Mr Ahwoi stated in his press release. However, the vehicles, as at February 2009, were still not in the possession of the government but the auto dealers themselves because there was no contract to support it. Phantom Lawsuit According to Mr Ahwoi, these claims were based on a 2005 lawsuit filed by AAL against the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the recipient of the vehicles. “In October 2005, Africa Automobile through its lawyer, Mr. W.A.N Adumoah-Bossman, a past President of the Ghana Bar Association, who had taken over from Mr. Atta-Akyea as lawyer for the company, sued the Government for damages for breach of contract,” stated Mr Ahwoi. Copies of this lawsuit would have been forwarded to the Ministry of Local Government at the time because it was alleged to be the recipient of the Galloper consignment per the contract which could not be located. However, Charles Bintim has dismissed claims of any such lawsuit. In an interview on Accra-based radio station, Asempa FM, on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Bintim said he was neither issued a court summons when he was at the helms of affairs at the ministry nor invited to court to argue his case over the Gallopers issue. No Contract Former government officials in the NPP administration are frantically trying to absolve themselves from blame by arguing that in the first place, there was no basis for government to be negotiating damages with AAL because there was no formal contract between the government and AAL. Also, another Minister of Local Government in the Kufuor administration, Kwadwo Adjei-Darko, had stated that Ghana never signed a formal contract with AAL. Mr. Bintim, his successor, had also denied any knowledge of a formal contract between AAL and the Ghana government. According to him, the standard rule at the ministries was that after every contract, an evaluation report was prepared and attached to the contract. But according to him, during his stewardship at the ministry, he never saw any evaluation report. Contrary to Mr Ahwoi’s statement, Adjei-Darko said there was no letter in the dispatch book of the ministry to indicate consent of the ministry to the terms of the contract. Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development under the Kufuor administration, Captain Nkrabea Effah-Dartey (rtd), has accused Kwamena Ahwoi of not doing proper handing over before leaving office. According to Captain Effah Dartey, if Prof. Ahwoi had done proper handing over, documents such as the contract paper and the evaluation reports on the AAL contract would have been located. African Automobile Limited Silence Amidst these exchanges, AAL has remained silent since the news broke last week. A close look at the company shows that AAL is currently comatose. DAILY GUIDE gathered that the company has stopped its key dealership in Mitsubishi vehicles. It is currently piggybacking on its sister company, Auto Plaza Limited, which deals in Hyundai cars. The AAL has had some brushes with the law in recent times. Mohammed Hajizi, the Chief Executive Officer of AAL and two directors of the company were put before an Accra Circuit Court accused of illegally connecting electricity to their company without paying bills. They pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted a GH¢80,000 bail.