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Energy Minister, others to face jail term over ‘sham’ petroleum deal – Alex Mould

Former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), has served notice Energy Minister and the entire Cabinet of President Akufo-Addo, will in future, have questions to answer over their involvement in the AGM petroleum deal, which has widely been described as a “sham”.

Alexander Kofi Mensah Mould, charged “Anybody who approved this has caused financial loss to the state. If anybody approves this, he is either useless and does not understand the basis of financing, or there is a benefit”, adding it is shocking that a deal that was rejected by former Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko and put before the same Cabinet, would be accepted by the new Minister and the same Cabinet without any basis.

According to Mr Mould, the action of John Peter Amewu and the Akufo-Addo Cabinet, to renegotiate the deal with the Norwegian oil firm, first signed in 2013, by reviewing downwards Ghana’s share from 49 percent to 18 percent, is something that should not be left unanswered.

“We should not let Cabinet out of this and we should not give Hon Amewu all the credit for doing all this bad deal, no!We cannot give him all the credit. The credit of doing this bad deal, lies at the highest level of approval in this country and that is Cabinet and we know that Cabinet represents the Presidency. So my question to them is, what information made them change the deal that many of us don’t understand that changed government’s 49 percent to 18 percent? I am puzzled”, Mr Mould said.

The former top official of Standard Chartered Bank in both New York and Ghana, described as “shameful”, the “accelerated”manner in which the deal was pushed through an emergency recall of Parliament and subsequent approval without due diligence.

Mr Mould, said this at a Public Forum on the $30 billion State capture in Ghana’s Oil industry, organized by the Caucus for Democratic Governance, Ghana (CDG-GH) on Tuesday in Accra.

The former GNPC CEO, bluntly said the deal could have only been passed by government officials, who know next to nothing, adding those people have “caused financial loss to the state”.

“The question is, anybody who knows an iota of finance in this country, and the Finance Minister he will not approve such a thing to happen. Anybody who approved this has caused financial loss to the state. If anybody approves this, he is either useless and does not understand the basis of financing, or there is a benefit. Now, I will leave the people of Ghana to decide what action should be taken”, he said.

He said, if Cabinet accepted Mr Amewu’s position, then it means he must have presented new information, which he insists does not exist.

“It’s very clear that before Boakye Agyarko, the former Minister approved or before he turned down the offer or the application of AGM, he must have gone through some process. And my understanding of government is like any organization, there is a board that approves what a Minister can do, that board is called Cabinet or you can have an Executive Order from the president. So mostly likely, Hon. Agyarko, went to Cabinet, he made his case got approval and turned it down. Now the question is, another minister comes,I am sure he went to the same Cabinet almost of the same number of people, and got approval to approve to this”.

The former GNPC boss, who has also worked with Union Bank of Switzerland serving in their New York office continued, “What I am saying is that, he must have brought new information to Cabinet because the Cabinet with the same old information,will not be able to approve something they did not approve [the first time].So he must have brought new information and the question is, what is this new information that evoked Cabinet decision?

He diagnosed that there was a“leadership breakdown or crisis” at the energy sector, which is making Ghanaians loss out on deals which they should have greatly benefited.

To him, “It seems that AGM has been given a new lease of land through a sole retender and Government has reduced its stake from 49% to 18%. Be mindful that AGM was originally given this block from a competitive tender and three other companies that are changing the terms before they start work is akin to our controversial road contractors who bid slowly only to come back before the work starts and add to the variation.”

“Even in road contracting, this is not allowed. Also, it is our understanding that the original local content partner is being replaced by a new local content partner called Quad Energy. This company was set up months ago,

before Minister of Energy brought this ridiculous amendment to Parliament and they shamefully approved given the questions and issues raised.”

On the Aker Energy deal, Mr Mould, said claims by the government that GNPC, did not have funds to purchase the 10 per cent share, was completely false. He said there was a leadership gap in that instance.

The former CEO said, GNPC, could have raised the money or the Finance Minister could have done same, adding there was a pre-emptive law that should have been invoked for Ghanaians to buy the shares. He said the Minister, should have been advised on this law, adding if he was advised, then he had “bad advisors”.

Chairman of Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) also regretted the recent “Questionable contracts and contracts reviews” by government, saying “You don’t renegotiate contract in a week”.

“If you are a Minister, you abuse the discretion given to you under the law, you turn round, you go to Parliament, you use your numbers to pass through a deal”.

Dr. Steve Manteaw, was particularly worried about the discretionary powers given to the Minister, which he said “Opens him up for corruption and bribery”.

In the AGM petroleum and the Aker deals, Dr. Manteaw said “Somebody stands to benefit” from them.

According to him, attempt to analyze the ownership structure of AGM Ghana, unveils attempts to conceal the actual beneficial owners of the company.

“Our initial analysis shows that, AGM is ultimately owned by Aker ASA and the Norwegian Government. Again, we learned that the local partner to Aker in the renegotiated contract is certain Quad Energy.The selection of the local partner, from what we know, did not go through a competitive process. In fact, we learned that the company was registered almost concurrently with the initiation of the renegotiation process”.

President of policy think tank, IMANI-Africa, Franklyn Cudjoe, was convinced that the whole deal was an “Economic sabotage” as he believed it was a deliberate decision to short-change Ghanaians as it did not make any sense.

Mr Cudjoe, did not understand why the government, will institute the Procurement Ministry, value for money audit, but will side step them and go into contracts that “Have no value for money analysis”.

He said, the action of the government “makes nonsense, the talk about saving the public purse”.

The Executive Director of Institute for Energy Security (IES) also agreed with Dr. Manteaw that, the power of the Minister to use his discretion in very crucial matters like oil contracts, must be checked to save the public purse.

Paa Kwesi Anaman expressed disappointment over a new trend in the oil sector where “faceless”, “shapeless” and “formless” companies, spring up ostensibly to dupe the state in contracts.

Member of Parliament (MP) for the North Tongu Constituency, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, recalled how in the case of the AGM petroleum deal, the majority Members of Parliament, were ‘whipped’ by their leaders to blindly approve the deal.

“I can confirm to you that this agreement came to the house and you’ll be shocked to hear from me that they didn’t even print 275 copies for all 275 Members of Parliament to have copies to peruse so we can consult experts, use our research stuff etc., you’ll be shocked that many MPs, have not even seen the agreement and yet voted in line, they were three line whipped because this is what the Boss wants, this is what the President wants”, he said.

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