Contrary to claims by Deputy Information Minister Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa that government was negotiating with African Automobile Limited (AAL) for a settlement and to beat down the amount of $1.5billion being demanded by the company as the cost of the vehicles and accrued interest, it emerged that government had already paid a whopping sum of over GH¢8.4million to the company as judgment debt.
The vehicles, which had been left at the mercy of the weather on the compound of the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), were ordered by the Rawlings administration and arrived in country in the year 2001. They were said to be intended for distribution to district assemblies.
Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa however claimed that the refusal of the Kufuor administration to pay an amount of $17million as cost of the vehicles to Africa Automobile resulted in the vehicles being abandoned by the government, a claim which had been parried by former Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Okyere Mpiani.
Documents sited by DAILY GUIDE indicated that the monies were paid in three different tranches over a period of 10 months in the year 2010.
This was captured in the 2010 Auditor-General’s report on the public accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) which is currently being scrutinized by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
The first tranche of the money, GH¢2.5million, was paid by the NDC government to the company on May 14, 2010 and the next payment of GH¢2.5million effected two months later on July 16, 2010, whilst the last tranche of GH¢3.379million was paid on October 2, the same year.
DAILY GUIDE sources indicated that more money was paid to the company the Alfred Woyome way because there was no contract covering the supply of the vehicles.
The source said the yet-to-be-released Auditor General’s report for the year 2011 captured more of such payments to the company for the same purpose.
It therefore beat the imagination of many why Ablakwa would tell Ghanaians government was still negotiating with the company over the terms of payment when it had already commenced payments to the company that allegedly had no written contract with the state except for a gentleman’s agreement.
Another thing that surprised a number of people was the fact that it was captured as ‘judgment debt’ when the case was not in court, according to Ablakwa.
Mr. Mpiani challenged the rationale behind the $1.5billion claim by African Automobile Limited.
According to him, the vehicles, which were ordered by the previous NDC administration, did not meet the specifications and could therefore not be accepted by the Kufuor-led government.
He was not sure whether there were documents covering the transaction between the previous NDC administration and the company involved.
Mr. Mpiani, who spoke on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show yesterday said, “Let them (referring to government) go to court and challenge them,” since according to him, “there is no basis for any negotiation.”
Instead of negotiating to ensure that the State did not lose an amount of money, he said the Mills administration was rather engaged in equalization of errors and a publicity stunt.
Former Local Government and Rural Development Minister under the erstwhile Kufuor government, Kwadwo Adjei-Darko, said the Government of Ghana, and for that matter his former ministry, never entered into any contract with African Automobile to import any vehicles into the country for onward distribution to the district assemblies.
Mr. Adjei Darko, who was a two-time minister at the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry between May 2003 and January 2005 and July 2007 and January 2009, said there was no document covering the so-called importation of the Galloper cross-country vehicles.
“So far as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development was concerned, there was no transaction between the government and any company called African Automobile whether earlier or during that period since there is no document in the ministry to confirm such,” he disclosed.
He added: “If a group (NDC government) comes and they are always eager to pay all manner of debts, it’s their own cup of tea.”
Source Daily Guide Ghana