By Kwabena Adu Koranteng
The subtle endorsement of the Jospong group of companies by the president has the potential of affecting ongoing criminal investigations against the company, Ghana Integrity Initiative has said.
The Executive Director of the anti-corruption group, Linda Ofori Kwafo said she was disappointed with the posturing and recent comments by the president Nana Akufo-Addo when he met with the head of Jospong, Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong and his workers.
Especially when there appears to be a delay in investigations into alleged financial impropriety by the Jospong Group and previous government officials, Mrs Kwafo insists the president’s posturing is a little confusing.
The Jospong Group of companies has been at the centre of a new scandal in which officers of the company are accused of inflating prices for some contracts it won during the administration of the John Mahama led administration.
A nine-month Joy News investigation revealed how a contract signed between the Jospong Group and the Ministry of Local Government under the erstwhile NDC administration was inflated by some ¢130 million.
The investigations, titled Robbing the Assemblies, Joy News’ Manasseh Azure Awuni revealed how the Office of the President, the Local Government ministry, and the Jospong Group were involved in the questionable waste bins contract.
In November 2016, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development awarded a contract to five companies, all of which belonged to Jospong, to supply one million waste bins and 900,000 bin liners at a cost of $74, 040,000 (GHc318million).
The cost of the one million waste bins is $60 million while the cost of the bin liners is $14, 040,000. These amounts do not include Value Added Tax. The contract was awarded through sole sourcing, with approval from the Public Procurement Authority (PPA).
A letter, written by then sector Minister, Collins Dauda, to the PPA cited urgency as the justification for using the single source procurement method.
He said the bins were urgently needed at the time because the rains were approaching and there was the possibility of a cholera outbreak.
Procurement experts have questioned why wastebins which could be supplied by different companies at competitive prices would be to awarded to one company under a sole sourcing regime, an action which violates the procurement process.
As if that is not enough, Joy News investigation also revealed that the cost of the contract may have been inflated.
The cost of a 240 litre waste bin as advertised by the leading producers of waste bins in Ghana, which are also suppliers of waste bins to the Local Government Ministry is GHc135.
A pro forma invoice Joy News secured from the Universal Plastic Product and Recycling Ltd, a subsidiary of the Jospong Group, quoted the cost of a bin of this size as GHc150.
An earlier contract awarded by the Local Government Ministry for the supply of waste bins and sighted by Joy News charged GHc15 to transport each waste bin.
Even if the cost of transportation for each waste bin for the Jospong Group is increased from GHc15 to GHc20 (33.3% increment) the cost per waste bin should be GHc170. However, the contract with the Jospong Group quotes $60 per waste bin or GHc258 with the exchange rate of $1 to GHc4.3 at the time the contract was signed.
This is about GHc88 million higher than the actual estimated cost. This could be as high as GHS103m (GHc15 million more) if compared with the prices advertised by other waste bin suppliers used by the ministry by the ministry previously.
In yet another damning revelation it has emerged the Jospong Group of companies took monies ostensibly to provide fumigation services for the Asante-Akim Central Assembly but failed to do so.
In yet another damning revelation, the company was awarded another ¢98 million contract to fumigate all 11 regions as a measure to fight the outbreak of cholera.
That contract was awarded at a time Zoomlion, a subsidiary of Jospong had an existing contract to do the same job, a contract which monies are deducted every month from the District Assemblies Common Fund.
Checks by Joy News indicate that in a year, each district assembly pays Gh¢161,000, every municipal assembly pays GH¢184, 000 while the Metropolitan assemblies pay GH¢207,000 each, to Jospong for the fumigation.
These revelations which were shortly after the Nana Akufo-Addo administration came into power sparked a huge controversy leading to a police investigation.
It is not clear yet the status of the investigation.
In the wake of these criminal investigations, the president met with the Jospong CEO and some workers during which he showered praises on them.
“What we are witnessing here is the modern way of providing service, the collaboration between the State and private sector to deliver public goods. And, in this case, the most important in any city is sanitation,” the President said.
“It is an eye-opener for me. It is about what is possible, about what collaboration can do, and what is possible, with encouragement and proper policy framework, if we have confidence in Ghanaian entrepreneurs. Ghanaian entrepreneurs have to be at the forefront of the social and economic transformation of the country. This sort of facility, seeing it work in detail, is extremely encouraging.”
“When you are at the forefront of doing things like you are, you will be the subject of controversy, it goes with the territory. I know you a little bit, and I know you are capable of handling it. Stay focused,” the president admonished.
But many anti-corruption campaigners have found the president’s comment worrying.
Linda Ofori Kwafo of the GII said while the president has the right and power to endorse any local businessman or woman he so chooses, his decision to endorse a company which is in the middle of corruption investigations could send wrong signals.
An endorsement of this nature can confuse Ghanaians about the president’s commitment to fighting corruption, she hinted.
When she was asked if the comment could cloud the ongoing investigations, Mrs Kwafo said: “It has the potential to and that is where my disappointment is.”
“There are investigations going on for some time now and we are yet to hear of the outcome of those investigations.”
“We are only hoping that this kind of endorsement will not cloud the judgement of any investigative institution that is doing any work she stated