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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

GHANA:Politicians, others milk PSC Tema Shipyard dry


Grim revelations from an internal audit on the accounts of West Africa’s biggest dry dock facility, PSC Tema Shipyard, have been livened by the Chief Finance Officer of the company in his response to major issues raised in the audit report.

In a 115-point response statement issued by the Chief Finance Officer, Mohamaed Ismail Bin Lebai Sulaiman, who is currently on suspension, the company set up dummy companies through which thousands of dollars and Ghana cedis were paid to some highly placed people.

These companies, after they were set up, never delivered any service to the PSC Tema Shipyard but only served as conduits for the payment of money to mainly politicians and the police.

Mr Sulaiman's 115-point statement was in response to queries raised in the internal audit report on the company's business transactions.

In the internal audit report, the company is alleged to have entered into a deal in which it paid SBT Resources Associates a sum of $285,000 ostensibly to facilitate the operations of PSC Tema Shipyard.

These included facilitating the dry dock company’s expression of interest as an operator of Takoradi Port Shipyard for a fee of $150,000, reviewing and identifying outstanding obligations of a Joint Venture Agreement between PSC Tema Shipyard and the government of Ghana for a fee of $10,000 and submitting records to government for free zone status for PSC Tema Shipyard for a fee of $100,000.

According to the report, “apart from the fact that the fees payable [were] excessive in relating to the services to be provided, it is doubtful if the consultant [had] the capacity to do all the work involved.”

A check on the background of SBT Resources Associates indicated that they are mainly registered to deal in Agriculture Technology, agricultural machinery, distribution of agricultural equipment and debt collection, the report indicated.

But in the Chief Finance Officer’s response, “the scope of work or services to be rendered by SBT in the contract was not carried out.”

In fact, the money paid to SBT Resources Associates was not for any services but to enable a certain Ben Tetteh to block a supposed bill drafted by the then NPP government to be placed before Parliament for the take-over of the company which was divested to some Malaysians in 1997.

According to Mr Sulaiman, Ben Tetteh produced documentary proof to show that the government was going to place a bill before Parliament to take over the company and advised him to make some money available for him (Ben) to 'see' some people to block the bill.

He claimed Ben Tetteh even took him to meet with Mr P.V. Obeng at the International Conference Centre sometime in December last year as part of efforts to block the so-called bill.

The Chief Finance Officer also intimated that Ben Tetteh also took $10,000 - captured in the books as facilitation for free trade zone application - to try and influence the National Labour Commission to get the then agitating workers off the backs of management.

The Maritime and Dock Workers Union at the time had been advocating the expulsion of the Malaysian managers of the company accusing them of running the company down and failing to inject capital into it contrary to the acquisition agreement in 1997.

To get the workers off the back of management, they paid $10,000 to Ben Tetteh to go and 'see' the labour commission to probably issue a fiat to the workers to 'leave management alone'.

Christmas rice and chicken for police

Suleiman’s witness statement also admits “protocol payments” were paid to some 60 policemen who were maintaining security at the shipyard when unionized workers of the company were interdicted for carrying out an industrial action against what they said were poor conditions of work in December last year.

Additionally, the police officers, including CIDs, were paid GH¢9,000 in lieu of chicken and rice for the Christmas celebrations last year. It further admitted that some GH¢3000 was used as “payment to the regional commander and his deputy.”

According the Chief Finance Officer these payments were necessary as the regional commander and his men had been threatening to pull out police force maintaining security at the shipyard.

Another dig the finance officer revealed was that the Inspector General Police (IGP) during the period of the interdiction first received GH¢10,000 to ensure security at the yard.

The IGP is alleged to have subsequently ordered the then Tema Regional Police Commander, Mr Adeloya, to beef up security at the shipyard.

Ameyaw Akumfi fingered

In its investigations on the establishment of the Keta Shipping Service, the internal auditors stated that the company “was given a vague description of service – provide professional, skilled and unskilled labour upon written request of PSC Tema Shipyard.”

According to the auditors, “within two months a whopping sum of GH¢53,500 had been paid to Keta Shipping Service under very suspicious circumstances.” The auditors maintained the nature of the business of the Keta Shipping Service was completely at variance with the services allegedly rendered.

The company, according to the audit report, was formed to as means of getting funds to some highly-placed political figures.

The Chief Finance Officer in his response mentioned the former Minister for Ports and Habours, Prof. Ameyaw Akumfi who had been asking him “for money or donations especially prior to the elections.

“With that in mind, Keta was formed,” Suleiman said in his reaction to the audit report, adding “some of the profits from this business [could] be channeled to the former minister.”

According to the audit report, although the shipyard has the potential to make appreciable profits, several flagrant violations of internal control systems and procedures have resulted in what it called an “economic haemorrhage.”

Meanwhile Joy News sources can confirm that the Commissioner for the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has expressed interest in the internal report and could launch an investigation into its findings.


Story by Fiifi Koomson/Myjoyonline.com/Ghana

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