The cacophony surrounding the commencement of operations by Meridian Port Services (MPS) at the newly built terminal 3 Port with its seemingly orchestrated protests by some aggrieved workers of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GHPA) could all point to one direction.
Some top management Members of GPHA have been fingered to be the architect behind the brouhaha surrounding the protests against the said deal.
A leaked audio which has been intercepted by this paper reveals how some top management members were heard briefing some selected journalists on some aspects of the agreement which they believe is in bad taste and would not be in the interest of the state and then ushering them into a contract to serialize the content of the agreement to incur the wrath of the workers against government.
The agenda as revealed in the audio is to also galvanize the support of other unionized groupings like the Maritime Dock Workers Union, the Trade Union Congress and some members of the Ghana Freight Forwarders Association.
For instance, this group, together with some others, the paper learnt, would be staging a demonstration on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 to begin their agenda.
In the said audio, a top management member is heard engaging the journalists and plotting with them on how they could help serialize the various documentations binding the MPS contract to ostensibly incite the public to protest vehemently against their yet-to-start operations at the Terminal 3 Port, a facility which was built by MPS.
He is also heard hatching a plot with the journalists to incite workers of GPHA including some trade unions both in Tema and Takoradi against the government over the MPS deal.
Again, on the said audio recording, the top management member is heard leaking some vital documents to the said journalists to execute a particular agenda to put the image of government in a bad stead.
He is further heard leaking some particular details of some discussions he had with the President some few weeks ago regarding the MPS deal to the selected journalists.
Additionally, he is heard divulging vital information regarding his Board Chairman emerging out of board meetings to the journalists.
On the same audio recording, the top management member is again heard briefing the journalists about some aspects of the contract that he thinks will not be in the best interest of the state and therefore soliciting their support to blow up those aspects in the contract to put pressure on the government to immediately call for its termination or review despite the President’s assurance to him that he has put a team of lawyers together who are studying the deal to professionally brief him in order to eventually take a final decision.
“If you put all the revenue together, it is going to be about US$74million per annum that GPHA is going to lose from 2020. From 2019, the contract will just be half in its implementation so the revenue loss will be half. If you take this US$74million which we are earning today, which we are going to lose fully from 2020, it’s only natural to say that if I’m now going to lose so much cost, then I’ll cut my cost. You have to cut your cost to be able to adjust to that loss. And to cut the cost, you need to cut all your operating cost and then being a public entity as we are, labour cost is the highest of our operations close to 35-40%. So, if you touch all other revenues – cost centers and leave the labour cost, you won’t get the effect. So, it is in the process of trying to cut labour to be able to fill the gap of the US$74million in addition to the 485 who are directly to be affected and at least 1,300 will have to join. And this 1,300 will affect Tema and Takoradi. Why because Takoradi traditionally exports manganese and bauxite and it doesn’t attract much money”, the top management member is heard on the audio briefing the journalists.
According to him, when he joined GHPA in 2018, he took time to examine the content of the agreement and realized that there were some aspects of it which will not be in the best interest of the state.
Therefore, he together with one of the Ministers, sought audience with the President to brief him about the agreement with the aim of convincing him to abrogate it in order to save the country from the quagmire it has put itself into.
According to him he didn’t hear anything from the Presidency again until the President visited the Tema Port to get first-hand information about happenings over there.
The President, after inspecting the port, later visited management of GHPA for further briefings about the MPS deal.
He said when he raised the issue again, the President assured him that the lawyers are critically examining the agreement following which he will take a decision since the contract itself is an international one, hence, any hasty decision to terminate or review it will have some diplomatic consequences, the top management member noted in the said tape.
This has left inside watchers to wonder why the said GHPA top management member was in an indecent haste to incite the public against the President.
The top management member further revealed that, in an attempt to convince the President to abrogate the contract, he told the number gentleman of the land that Ghana will not be the first country to have abrogated the international contract and that there are already two cases of precedence involving Djibouti and Guinea to guide him and also being mindful of his reputation.
But in his own narrative in the leaked audio, those two contracts (the Djibouti and Guinea deals) were executed three years before they were abrogated, making the inside watchers to further ask why he (top management member) is rushing the President when he knows that it could have some diplomatic consequences?
The top management member in his analysis concluded that GPHA will lose a revenue of about US$74million per annum when its seemingly entire operations are taken over by MPS, a concern he added, will affect about 1,784 workforce from both Tema and Takoradi Ports.
But his analogy is seen by those familiar with the contract and similar ones in other jurisdictions as an attempt to incite the workers to go on rampage and demand for the abrogation of the MPS deal which requires tactful minds to make a decision that will inure to the benefit of the country.
The audio also revealed that the top management member divulged all the details of the conversation he together with the Minister had with the President to the journalists and appealed to them to support him succeed with the task at hand.
Even though government accepts the fact that some aspects of contract requires some kind of review, this paper is informed that the sophisticated manner with which the agreement had been crafted will require some kind of professional advice else the consequences of abrogating the contract will be dire.
To this end, the government has contracted renowned lawyers both local and international, to examine the agreement with the view to take the best decision for the country.
Government also notes that about 45% of containers are scattered, making it difficult to track and collect the necessary revenues, a source familiar with the deal has hinted this paper.
However, with the advent of the operations of the terminal three port with state-of-the-art facilities, there will be more space to keep the containers and bring to an end revenue leakages at the port.
This has therefore incurred the wrath of some freight forwarders who are bent on stampeding the commencement of the terminal three operations.