General News of Tuesday, 1 August 2023
North Tongu Member of Parliament, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has alleged that lawyer and cousin of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko is piling pressure on officials at the Ministry of Finance for the payment of some GHS187.3million to a client of his.
The lawmaker in his latest publication dubbed “Kitchen Scandal” has shared details of how the president’s cousin is neck deep in a scandal that is set to cost the state GHS187,356,969.55.
According to Ablakwa, Gabby is at the center of the scandal which he says “is a tale of betrayal, bravado, double standards, influence peddling, dishonesty, greed, collusion, arm-twisting, naked nepotism and blatant rape of the public purse.”
In pursuit of his agenda, the North MP said Gabby has allegedly engineered the transfer of the Chief Director at the Ministry of Finance while other officials have been cowed into fear or submission.
“Insiders say Ministry officials are terrified as the “Prime Minister’s” pressure mounts. Already, it is suspected in several quarters that the former Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Patrick Nomo was transferred because he wasn’t cooperating on this matter.
“The new Chief Director and Ken Ofori-Atta staunch ally Eva Esselba Mends seems more amenable and is piling pressure on GRA to respond to Gabby’s 6-week ultimatum for payment to be effected,” he wrote in his publication published on Tuesday, August 1, 2023.
According to Ablakwa, Otchere-Darko has managed to get sections of government including the Attorney-General and elements within the Finance Ministry to agree to pay his new client the said amount even though there is no basis for so to be done.
“It is absolutely insane for Akufo-Addo’s “Kitchen Cabinet” to create this ginormous GHS187.3million liability for the Ghanaian taxpayer under this downgraded bankrupt IMF-bailout economy,” the MP lamented.
Read the MP’s full publication below:
The Kitchen Scandal
The Kitchen Scandal is a tale of betrayal, bravado, double standards, influence peddling, dishonesty, greed, collusion, arm-twisting, naked nepotism and blatant rape of the public purse.
The Kitchen Scandal will afford us a rare insight into how President Akufo-Addo’s “Kitchen Cabinet” operates and how destructive they have been to national progress.
This Kitchen Scandal reveals the modus-operandi and sophisticated schemes of the grand master in the “Kitchen Cabinet” — Mr. Gabriel Asare Otchere-Darko, who prefers to be called Gabby Otchere-Darko.
Many people say Gabby is the “Prime Minister” of Ghana and what he wants always gets done — well, the volumes of intercepted documents in my possession appears to confirm this perception.
Gabby’s name has often come up in other multi-million dollar transactions such as PDS, Agyapa and recently Ameri when former Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko accused him of unilaterally renegotiating the infamous Ameri novation agreement which led to the minister’s unceremonious exit.
Justice Dotse may likely describe this Kitchen Scandal as a well-hatched conspiracy to “Create-Loot-and-Keep,” perhaps in a Cecilia Dapaah-like fashion.
This Kitchen Scandal is valued at a stupendous GHS187,356,969.55.
How Gabby Otchere-Darko managed to get sections of government including the Attorney-General and elements within the Finance Ministry to agree that his new client: West Blue Company Limited must be paid the staggering GHS187.3million is most legendary.
It is absolutely insane for Akufo-Addo’s “Kitchen Cabinet” to create this ginormous GHS187.3million liability for the Ghanaian taxpayer under this downgraded bankrupt IMF-bailout economy.
Put in proper context, GHS187.3million is more than the entire 2023 budgetary allocation for the following ministries: Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (GHS76.6million); Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs (GHS44.9million); Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (GHS6.4million); Ministry of Information (GHS141.4million) and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (GHS180.9million)
The monetary value of this scandal is also greater than the full 2023 approved budgets for the following institutions: Office of the Special Prosecutor (GHS129.5million); National Development Planning Commission (GHS13.2million); CHRAJ (GHS45.4million); NCCE (GHS84.4million); National Pensions Regulatory Authority (GHS98.4million) and Office of the Head of Civil Service (GHS50.2million).
Ironically, the GHS187.3million exceeds the total annual 2023 budgeted expenditure for the salaries of all lawyers and staff at the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice (GHS155.6million); all staff at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (GHS109.3million); all staff at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (GHS80.8million); all staff of the Ministry of Roads and Highways (GHS74.6million) — just to highlight a few.
Strikingly, GHS187.3million is far greater than what the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government is spending on numerous flagship programmes such as: Railways Development (GHS164.5million); Water and Sanitation Initiative (GHS74.4million); National Identification Authority (GHS37.6million); MASLOC (GHS14.4million); Fish Landing Sites (GHS26.3million) and Zongo Development Fund (GHS24.4million).
NPP’s POSITION ON THE WEST BLUE CONTRACT
In opposition, the NPP raised fire and brimstone and mounted the most fierce resistance to the National Single Window System and an Integrated Risk Management System contract awarded to West Blue Ghana Limited on 4th August, 2015.
The NPP’s Alexander Afenyo-Markin, MP for Effutu went to court in a spirited effort to stop the contract.
Not even a ruling by His Lordship Justice K.A. Okwabi on August 31, 2015 dismissing Afenyo-Markin’s injunction application deterred the NPP from continuing with further legal actions in a bid to scuttle the West Blue Contract. I must add that these NPP-led legal actions are still pending in court, albeit cold cases now.
The NPP continued to fight the West Blue contract in and outside the courts.
On the 16th of May, 2016 — the NPP’s Director of Communications, Nana Akomea issued a statement on what they said was President Mahama’s record of corruption. First on his list was the West Blue Contract. This is what Nana Akomea wrote: “President Mahama told a blatant lie when he said in London that he does not put himself in a position to be bribed as he does not involve himself and his Office in public procurement. As fate will have it, on 12th May, 2015, exactly a year ago to the day he granted the BBC interview, the President, through a letter signed by his Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, personally and directly instructed the Minister of Finance “to formally engage West Blue Ghana Limited”, without any competitive tender. This was the contract for the implementation of the National Single Window for the inspection of goods at the ports. This contract is estimated to be worth more than $300 million over the next five year. By directing his Minister of Finance to give the contract to a particular company the President, by his own logic, had put himself in a position to be offered and receive bribe.”
The NPP won the 2016 elections and could now act on their opposition to the West Blue Contract.
The NPP Government discovered that the 4th August 2015 West Blue Contract had as a condition precedent to contract effectiveness, a value-for-money audit.
In August 2017, the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government got Crown Agents to complete the value-for-money audit. The outcome was that the contract did not guarantee value for money. Crown Agents recommended either a cancellation or a termination. (Report attached).
On 21st September 2017, Ports and Customs World Ghana, with links in Dubai, wrote to the Ministry of Finance that it had taken over West Blue and expressed readiness to renegotiate the West Blue contract. (Letter attached).
On October 2, 2017, West Blue also wrote to the Ministry of Finance indicating that they had been taken over by Ports and Customs World. (Letter attached).
The Government of Ghana wrote to Ports and Customs World on 25th January, 2018 on the basis of Crown Agent’s value-for-money audit, revising the fees under the contract downwards from 0.35% FoB to 0.28% FoB and bringing forward the termination date from December 2020 to December 2018. (Letter duly attached).
Ports and Customs World/West Blue, per a letter dated January 30, 2018 accepted these reduced terms and new contract termination date. (Letter attached).
On March 14, 2019, government entered into a mutual understanding with West Blue to hold the fort by delivering services on the reduced terms until government replaces them.
DOUBLE STANDARDS AND BETRAYAL
Despite the NPP’s firm public opposition to the West Blue contract and termination of same, President Akufo-Addo’s cousin and grand master of his “Kitchen Cabinet,” Gabby Otchere-Darko has strangely become the chief advocate and super strategist for West Blue.
Gabby’s law firm, Africa Legal Associates (see articles of incorporation attached) now represent West Blue. Who would have predicted this considering the political tsunami Gabby and his collaborators created for President Mahama a few years ago in the aftermath of the West Blue contract?
Curiously, Gabby has not only surreptitiously departed from the position the NPP canvassed publicly and vehemently in opposition and in government, he has managed to get the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame to strongly agree with him.
Suddenly, to Gabby who may have transmogrified from Saul to Paul — contrary to the claims they made in opposition, the West Blue contract is no longer over priced due to sole sourcing; basically, it’s no longer a ripoff.
Now Gabby actually suggests that President Mahama’s government did not pay West Blue fully and fairly — wonders they say will never end!
In an unusual development, the Attorney-General has issued three pro-Gabby legal opinions on this matter.
What is even more worrying about the AG’s latest legal opinion dated 16th December, 2022 is that it failed to take into consideration inputs from the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Revenue Authority as both institutions had not submitted their written arguments. (Legal opinion attached)
Gabby and Godfred now state emphatically that despite the fact that the value-for-money condition precedent was not met, the contract is still valid.
The duo have also questioned the post value-for-money contract downward revisions and are insisting that the colossal West Blue demands are met.
These Gabby-Godfred positions run contrary to what the Finance Ministry had earlier communicated to West Blue through former Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. Kwaku Kwarteng on January 25, 2018 which the latter accepted in writing. (See letters attached)
Interestingly, the previous lawyer for West Blue, Mr. Ace Anan Ankumah wrote to the Ministry of Finance on March 10, 2020 proffering a different opinion from Gabby and Godfred although it related to a proposed market value audit when he asserted: “As you are aware, the written agreement dated 4 August 2015 that West Blue entered into with the Government of Ghana, acting through the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Revenue Authority, for a National Single Window System and an Integrated Risk Management System (“Agreement”) did not come into effect as the conditions precedent for the agreement to become effective were not fulfilled. An agreement that did not become effective cannot be used as a basis for the market value audit.” (See letter attached)
Is the Attorney-General suggesting the Finance Ministry and the GRA did not seek his legal advice when they were declaring the August 4, 2015 West Blue contract ineffective?
Why is Gabby and Godfred happy to impose this huge financial burden on Ghanaians when West Blue had earlier accepted in writing the “new understandings” which substantially protect the public purse? What could be their motivation?
Does Godfred Dame recognize that by issuing his one-sided legal opinion without the inputs of Finance and GRA as he concedes, he has undermined the position of the state should Gabby decide to proceed to court? Is this a conspiracy to cause financial loss to Ghana?
That notwithstanding, I must point out that even though Gabby Otchere-Darko doesn’t state his name in all his letters for this frightening GHS187.3million West Blue demand, I can confirm that he is the one signing the letters as I have obtained his GRA Taxpayer Registration Form which bears the same signature. (See attached).
What is increasingly troubling is the shifting position of the Ministry of Finance to align with Gabby. Insiders say Ministry officials are terrified as the “Prime Minister’s” pressure mounts. Already, it is suspected in several quarters that the former Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Patrick Nomo was transferred because he wasn’t cooperating on this matter.
The new Chief Director and Ken Ofori-Atta staunch ally Eva Esselba Mends seems more amenable and is piling pressure on GRA to respond to Gabby’s 6-week ultimatum for payment to be effected. (See her 30th June, 2023 letter to GRA attached).
Analysts agree that Eva won’t be writing those letters to GRA if she didn’t have Ken’s approval.
Also, Ken’s cousin Gabby won’t be getting bolder and bolder with his threats and ultimatums if the family had a genuine objection. A really complex nepotistic web.
By some sheer coincidence, Gabby’s 6-week ultimatum letter for payment of the colossal GHS187.3million is dated May 3, 2023 — the same month Ghana received US$603million from the IMF.
1. President Akufo-Addo must immediately instruct his Finance Minister and the GRA to ignore Gabby’s 6-week ultimatum and not to pay the GHS187.3million;
2. President Akufo-Addo must instruct his Attorney-General and Minister for Justice to withdraw his lopsided pro-Gabby legal opinion because of the obvious dangers to Ghana’s interest in any likely litigation;
3. President Akufo-Addo must caution his cousin, Gabriel Asare Otchere-Darko to back off and stop issuing threats to GRA officials;
4. President Akufo-Addo should as a matter of urgency constitute an independent panel to investigate these grave matters;
5. The Finance Committee of Parliament should urgently summon all parties and initiate a full-scale parliamentary inquiry into this GHS187.3million West Blue saga.
May I assure the top public officials working with me on this latest patriotic project, and the Ghanaian people that we shall not relent until this unconscionable GHS187.3million Gabby-orchestrated demand is defeated.
We are preparing to stage a mammoth “Enough of the Looting Demo” if we do not see urgent action from the President on this matter.
May God give us fortitude and victory.
For God and Country.
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