Posted: Friday 5th September 2014 at 17:36 pm

Brazil 2014: Flagstaff House came to the rescue of travel and companies


But for the intervention of the Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani, the carting of football fans to Brazil in June to support the Black Stars would have been murkier.

That is the verdict of the Chief Executive of one of the travel and tour companies contracted by the Sports Ministry to ferry fans to Brazil.

Mr. Samson Deen said this in a written testimony submitted to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating Ghana’s shambolic participation in the last World Cup in Brazil.

He said after securing visas and accommodation for close to 300 fans, getting payment for his services or even somebody on the planning committee to talk to, became a difficult task.

According to Mr. Deen, the Chief of Staff “was very disturbed to learn of the events which he felt an urgent action was needed to avoid potential hitches. I understand he held separate discussions with key members of the organising committee. On the 7th of June 2014, he held a second meeting with them together with representatives of all three travel and tour agencies with whom he discussed solutions to avoid an undesirable consequence especially upon learning that the said committee had accredited a total of about 700 persons for the tournament.”

 
Please read the full written testimony as submitted below.

 
STATEMENT OF SAMSON DEEN – CEO OF AFRICAN ORIGIN TRAVELS AND SPORTS TOURISM  – HIGHLIGHTING AND FOR EASE OF REFERENCE AND SEQUENCE OF MY TESTIMONY AND TENDERING OF EXHIBITS AT THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY – BRAZIL 2014 WORLD CUP. DATED THIS 26TH DAY OF AUGUST 2014 IN ACCRA

My Lord,
INTRODUCTION
My company has since 2002 grown its track record and enviable pedigree in the travel and sports tourism business with greater engagements in professionally assisting both individual and corporate/group clients to process and acquire visas as well as the requisite documentation to travel to various countries of the world to watch/participate in various sporting disciplines at various times.

My company typically also would often take care of hotel, feeding and internal transportation for our clients upon request at specific service fees.

African Origin Travels has very recently been at the forefront of processing and securing accommodation and related needs to ensure the smooth hosting of the Egyptian national soccer team and their supporters during the World Cup Qualifier Ghana in October of 2013.

African Origin Travels also in the same year was the only entity contracted to airlift, accommodate and see all attendant needs of all state sponsored supporters of the national team, the Black Stars, to South Africa AFCON 2013. We have been an official travel partner with the Ghana Olympic Committee for six years. See Exhibit “AOTST”.

HOW AFRICAN ORIGIN CAME IN
African Origin Travels was, therefore, not the least surprised when it was contacted to provide professional advice to assist local organisers of the 2014 World Cup tournament towards ensuring a smooth outing by Ghana.

After some interaction with now former Minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, I was requested informally to submit proposals and later held meetings with Fred Darko at the direction and pleasure of the minister who subsequently invited me over to his office for discussions on the preparations. See attached Exhibit “IP”.

African Origin Travels fully complied with the requested requirements including submitting a detailed corporate profile and references, hospitality programme and budget for the requested services. A copy of the presentation is attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “FULL RANGE”.

THE FORMAL INVITATION, INTERVIEWS AND SELECTION 
My company was later to receive a formal invitation from the Ministry of Youth and Sports dated the 3rd of January 2014 to submit proposals to “provide travel management services to Ghana’s fans, supporters and officials” for Brazil 2014. A copy of same is attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “RP”.

The minister and the Chairman of the Protocol and Supporters Welfare Committee of the ministerial organising team for Brazil 2014 Kwadwo Adu Asare (former MP for Adenta) both called me on telephone; some three weeks later, to invite me to attend an interview at the Osu Castle on the 24th of January 2014. I did attend this meeting chaired by Mr. Adu Asare. I was requested to do a power-point presentation of Exhibit “FULL RANGE” and I did.

My outfit would receive a letter dated 13th of March 2014 i.e a month and a half after the interview, congratulating and notifying me that African Origin Travel had been selected after evaluation processes undertaken by a technical team. A copy of same is attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “ALLOCATE”.

My Lord, before this, however, I had cause and concern to request to meet the minister and did meet him to discuss a number of relevant issues including media reports in which the minister was reported to announced plans I felt were difficult or almost impossible to implement. I did recommend cost saving measures including doing away with plans to set up fan parks, games village, cooking for supporters as well as the need to reduce the proposed thousands of supporters to a maximum of three hundred state-sponsored supporters – either directly or by the MOYS raising funds from corporate Ghana. See attached some of the said media reports marked as Exhibit “1000” Series.

Subsequently, an aide to the minister, Larry Acheampong, called to inform me the minister wanted me to meet him at Akosombo on the 21st of March 2014. I honoured this invitation at the Volta Hotel for a meeting that lasted only for ten minutes during which I was officially informed my company had been allocated 235 persons to be airlifted to Brazil, provide transfers in Brazil and hotel accommodation for same.

Proof of contracts with my suppliers in Brazil was demanded and same provided on the spot. See attached and marked Exhibit “SC” Series.

My company on the 24th of March 2014 received a letter dated same day, and like most previous official letters, signed by the minister confirming African Origin Travels had been assigned the responsibility of airlifting the said number of 235 supporters to Natal, Fortaleza and Brasilia. A copy of the said letter is attached hereto and marked as Exhibit “C-ALLOCATE”.

THE BUDGET REVISIONS
My lord, I was late in March requested to submit a revised budget reflecting the reduction in the numbers from 500 or more to 235. I duly submitted the attached marked as Exhibit “RB” with a caution via email in response to one from the Project Coordinator, Fred Darko. That email sought to unilaterally vary the agreement reached at Akosombo by demanding a visit to Brazil to inspect the accommodation facilities my company had long secured before approval for payment. See said correspondence attached to Exhibit “RB”. In these my emails in April I consistently drew attention to delays in signing the necessary MOUs and making payments and the fact that even though as an IATA member (ie International Air Travel Association) I could provide accommodation at anytime during the tournament, I was concerned that prices would increase with increasing demands for such facilities the more the payments delayed.

All emails from this point on were never replied neither were my telephone calls to the minister and his aides or assigns responded to. The minister would call me on Sunday the 10th of May 2014 or thereabout informing me one Ben Nunoo Mensah was to contact me over the outstanding matters. Mr. Nunoo Mensah’s preoccupation was to discuss with me how to distribute a new allocated space for 300 supporters among 25 registered supporters’ groups known to my company. The attached, marked Exhibit “25G”, is the list of supporters’ groups submitted on request. He also discussed how to secure visas for these supporters and MOYS dignitaries. By this time, my lord, my company had long procured visas for supporters’ groups including all those on the said list of 25.

In fact, I all the while had been waiting for payments for this reviewed list for 300 supporters having submitted same to the minister upon request earlier in March 2014.

I was once again not contacted again neither were my attempts to make contacts with the minister and his people successful. It was on June 3rd that Mr. Nunoo Mensah called me requesting another revised invoice for the much earlier agreed and assigned 235 persons. Find attached email correspondence (marked Exhibit “BACKON” Series) soon after this new request. I honoured a call to meet the minister over this budget in his office by 2pm of the 4th of June 2014. I was, however, not attended to until about 5:40pm when the minister who appeared to be hurrying out of his office directed me and George Amoako of Kenpong Travel and Tours to discuss all outstanding matters with Mr. Joel Nettey, chairman of the subcommittee Brazil In Ghana. His excuse was that he was late to catch a flight for Brazil. I was assured payment would be made the next day by Mr. Nettey and his committee comprising Ben Nunoo Mensah, Fred Darko, Kwesi Bentum, Horace Ankrah, one Rebecca and Dentaa Amoateng.

CHIEF OF STAFF AND THE SAVIOUR MEETINGS  
The next day when all frantic attempts to reach any of the above failed, I was left with no option than to seek audience with the Chief of Staff. I counted myself extremely lucky to have had the chance after some bit of difficulty. He, Mr. Prosper Bani, was very disturbed to learn of the events which he felt an urgent action was needed to avoid potential hitches. I understand he held separate discussions with key members of the organising committee. On the 7th of June 2014, he held a second meeting with them together with representatives of all three travel and tour agencies with whom he discussed solutions to avoid an undesirable consequence especially upon learning that the said committee had accredited a total of about 700 persons for the tournament.

Eventually as indicated in the Exhibit “SUCCESS” Series 1-7 attached hereto my company successfully flew out a total of 270 persons for the tournament on the 15th of June 2014 and brought them safely back to Ghana on the 27th of June 2014.

My company applied to the Ghana Football Association (GFA) for a total of 1,500 game tickets. We had 2000.00 USD worth of tickets delivered upon payment.

We were promised 217 tickets which we paid for, but this was not delivered. Attached hereto and marked Exhibit “GT” Series are receipts of the said payment.

My Lord, things seemed to happen in a manner and fashion that gave me reason to suspect a lot of the services I was engaged to provide had been pre-procured and that the organising team was up to games with me while I broke my back to comply with every demand and request from the team. 

LEAVE FOR BRIEF IN-CAMERA SESSION      
COUNSEL: My lord, we at this point seek leave to, and pray same is granted so we may be heard in-camera on a small bit of his testimony which we believe should properly so be considered because it may have security implications. It borders on the details of where and how the Chief of Staff struggled to get funds to save the situation. “Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution or as may otherwise be ORDERED  by a court in the interest of public morality, public safety or public order, the proceedings of every court shall be held in public.” – Article 126 (3) of the 1992 Constitution. Emphasis mine.

PRAYER
Recovery of 108,000.00 USD (being 400.00 USD per seat agreed profit margin)

Recovery of GHC 59,722.74 (being the cost of a total of 217 tickets paid for, but not delivered – Unit price @ GHC 275.22)  

Loss of profits (due to delays in making payments on agreed times while cost of secured facilities rose) 

Lost time and business (deploying tools and machinery of the company to focus on executing the special project to the total neglect of all potential businesses)

Legal fees (hiring the services of counsel to advise and assist in preparations to assist the commission)

IN FUTURE      
I have given the account above faithfully to extent of my personal knowledge of events before, during and after the tournament. The account reveals a sad commentary of the processes from start to finish.

The difficulties, frustrations, stress, avoidable waste, and the near disgrace that would have occasioned relative to this aspect of the organisation, were largely self-inflicted and needless. I won’t say more except to recommend for consideration two proposals as follows:

The state, acting through the MOYS, may have to divest itself of much of such processes and by compliance with the Procurement Act, more professionally engage the services of travel agents for this aspect of the organisation and timeously.

The MOYS may also consider an outfit whatsoever called and howsoever to be constituted upon sufficient professional consultation, to coordinate and serve the supporters’ unions. It may put in measures to, among others; screen persons to more accurately account for same and avoid the national image-damaging occurrence of supporters turning Asylum seekers.              

Sign:
Samson Deen
CEO – AOTST

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