A government sanctioned forensic audit has revealed that the acquisition of helicopters worth over $61 million by Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC) caused financial loss to the state because the choppers were never utilized.
The four Z-9EH helicopters bought from China for surveillance by Ghana Gas during the previous Mahama administration at the total cost of $100 million ($25m each) was commissioned by then President John Mahama in September 2015.
According to the forensic audit report, “The helicopters purchased from China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) have never been used for the purpose of its purchase, causing the state to lose $54,800,000.
It also said a loss of $5,958,366.76 was incurred because “equipment for the helicopters were not delivered even though it was part of the contract price”, while another loss of $300,000, being abnitio training cost not fully utilized for its intended purpose was caused, bringing the total to $61,058,366.76.
The report mentioned Ghana Gas Board Chairman Prof. Kwesi Botchwey and other members like Dr. George Sipa-Adja Yankey, who was the CEO of the state-owned company; Eric Yankah; Thomas Manu and Dr. Valerie Sawyerr, a former deputy Chief of Staff, should be held responsible.
According to the report, there were procurement irregularities, totalling GH¢76,802,760.39 against Memphis Metropolitan Limited (GH¢34,452,650.22) and Kingspok Company Limited (GH¢42,351,110.17) in the contract.
It also cited Kassim Baluri Bukari for procurement irregularities in the contract of Worrall Lees and Associates (GH¢1,713,375.21), as well as contracts to Technip UK Ltd and another payment made to Tullow Ghana Limited, all totalling $4,108,378.60.
Freda Maame Bartels Mensah was also cited in the report for ‘procurement irregularities’ in the contract with Adeabs Catering Services at the cost of GH¢6,688,986.56.
In the ensuing heat, one of the NDC gurus cited in the report has issued a statement condemning what she termed ‘deep sea fishing expedition by the government against the former board members of Ghana Gas.
Dr Valerie Sawyerr wondered how the forensic audit team could come to those conclusions without allegedly giving them a hearing, and accused the NPP government of ‘running’ what she called “roughshod over laid down rules and regulations.”
“Is the current management of Ghana Gas looking for lost helicopters? Did we take the helicopters with us when we left office?”
She continued: “Was the so-called investigator aware that the board members he listed in his ‘awam’ report were not the Ghana Gas board members on January 6, 2017, just before government changed hands? Or did a very simple thing like that escape his eager digging claws? Did he contact the board members that came after our board to find out if the helicopters are under their beds?”
During the transition, the Co-chair of the Ghana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (GHEITI), Dr. Steve Manteaw, had questioned the whereabouts of the helicopters and said they had not conducted a single surveillance activity although they were procured at a very high cost.
Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, had also insisted that the purchase of the helicopters was a rip-off.
He said initially seven helicopters were bought for $100million, but added that they were overpriced since each cost $8 million but the NDC government brought them in for $25 million each.
“The four could have just cost the nation $32 million and not $ 100 million…go to the Americas and we would get them for less instead of purchasing them at that expensive cost from China,” he queried.
Explaining how the helicopters were procured, the minister said Ghana acquired a loan from the Chinese Development Bank and added that the loan application was not presented to parliament despite opposition from then Minority NPP.
He said that with the change of power, the new government could hold its predecessor to greater accountability.
“Fortunately, the main characters in the Ghana Gas Project are still around and we can call them to come and clarify issues for us…I will demand in parliament that they come and clarify issues on the award of contracts and others,” he added.
The names of the Ghana Gas officials, alongside other heads of six state-owned agencies, which appeared in the special forensic audit report, have since been submitted to the Office of the Special Prosecutor, headed by former Attorney General Martin A.B.K. Amidu and the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) for investigations.
Apart from Ghana Gas, Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and the Ghana Technology University College (GTUC) have equally been cited in the forensic audit report for alleged wrongdoing