$100,000 ‘Access Fee’ Normal Practice, Not Corruption – Andrew Awuni

The Ministry of Trade and Industry erred in accepting to write a letter for the Millennium Awards Committee to charge expatriates who sat close to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo during a presidential dinner, Andrew Awuni, a former Spokesperson to ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor , has said.

He, however, believed that the move to solicit funds from the expatriate businessmen is not a wrong idea and does not smack of corruption.

It has emerged that expatriates were charged $100,000 to sit close to the president, a development that has attracted a lot of flak from some Ghanaians including the Minority in Parliament.

Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa called on the President to break his silence on the development.

“Why is the president silent? Is it a tacit approval? ... We need to hear the president on this,” Mr Ablakwa said on Joy FM Wednesday.

But commenting on this development in an interview on Class FM on Wednesday, 20 December, Mr Awuni, who is currently the Executive Director for the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy, said: “The real problem is with the fact that the ministry allowed itself to be used to write this letter. There is a reason why the Millennium Awards Committee decided that the letter should come from the ministry and that is because they know the strength of the Ministry. That is the mistake the Ministry made. I have been in this business for a long time, before I even came into politics I was head of the Public Relations Department of a bank for seven years and these letters, I have seen thousands of them, and anybody who knows corporate business, and had been in corporate circles knows this type of letters. It is a common letter that is written but the mistake government’s ministries make is that they allow people to use them to write these letters.

“The ministry would have been completely absolved if the Millennium Awards Committee had written this letter. All the ministry had to do was to give the Millennium Awards Committee a letter that says that: ‘We recognise Millennium Awards Committee and we support them in the function that they are about to hold. Any support that you can give to them please give to them.’ That is all the letter they needed, a kind of introductory letter from the ministry then the Millennium Awards Committee will go out there and then go and collect their money or whatever. This letter shouldn’t even come from the ministry at all. But that is where the mistake is.”

He added: “Having said that, business people always come with a motive and that motive is always profit. I don’t know about the Millennium Awards Committee whether it is awards foundation headed by Mr Victor Gbeho, I don’t know whether it is an NGO or a profit-making organisation, whatever it is, what they did is a good thing, it is a good idea, brilliant idea and what they have done with the president and his entourage to raise funds is a good idea and it is done everywhere. Even in America Trump will go for a fund raising meeting and it would be organised by a committee and they have the right to raise money.

“What we should not do is to allow the government or its agencies to be used to write these kinds of letters, because as soon as a head of corporate organisation receives this letter from the minister or a deputy minister, he will begin to shake. It means you are literally using your sovereign guarantee to get people to contribute to this businessman‘s product so that is where the mistake is.

“Having said that, the question is who paid for the dinner? Who paid for venue? Who paid for awards? Did the ministry share in the proceeds of that awards? Those questions must be asked. As for this up and down, sometimes we just throw corruption around but we don’t even know the details, and, so, if anybody really wants to know what has happened, go and look for a copy of the MoU that Minister is talking about. In that MoU, the responsibility the ministry took which was wrong is to have accepted to write that letter. As soon as you write that letter, you are literally telling the people: Bring the money. If we see that MoU we will know what went into that MoU.”