The Managing Director of Freko F.D. Company Limited, the company managing the Kumasi Kejetia Bus Terminal, Mrs. Freda Darko, has described the Central Regional Minister Samuel Sarpong as a peddler of falsehood who always wants to defame her.
Mrs. Darko who articulated misgivings about a statement Mr. Sarpong made concerning her during his vetting as the then Ashanti Regional Minister designate said the latter has, since 2005, been fighting unrelentlessly to run her business down due to reasons best known to him.
According to her, even though she has forgiven Mr. Sarpong for all the sleepless nights he has tried to cause her from his days as Head of the Serious Fraud Office (Central Zone), she feels the truth must also be documented in the Parliamentary Hansard for posterity.
The Freko FD Managing Director expressed these misgivings in her Petition to the Speaker of Parliament of the Republic of Ghana, Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho as, according to her, Mr. Sarpong made the wrongful assertions during vetting by the Parliamentary Appointments Committee.
The Kejetia Bus Terminal which is the single largest Bus terminal in West Africa is a world Bank Funded Project which was originally executed in April, 2002 and the terminal was duly handed over to the company for management. The contract was subsequently renewed in 2004 and 2010 to cover the original area first handed over to the company under the contract.
The petition captioned, ‘False, Prejudicial and Defamatory comments made by the Central Regional Minister Honourable Samuel Sarpong about Director of Messrs Freko F.D. limited of Kumasi during Vetting’ also lists a number of several failed attempts by the Minister to discourage the female entrepreneur from doing her business.
It would be recalled that in the course of the vetting of Hon. Samuel Sarpong, a question was put to him to the effect that during his term of office as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly there was a general perception that he seemed not to appreciate women entrepreneurs.
It was the answer to this question that Mrs. Darko felt defamed and prejudiced as in her opinion, the answer created the impression that she was cheating the KMA in terms of the monthly revenue she was paying.
“He stated that it was when he assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer of KMA that he forced me, as it were, to pay the Assembly a monthly revenue of sixty thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢60,000), that is, six hundred million old cedis (¢600,000,000).
For, previous to his appointment as CEO, I was paying a paltry sum of eight Ghana cedis (GH¢8), that is, eighty thousand old cedis (¢80,000). This statement by the Honorable Samuel Sarpong is clearly false to his knowledge as at the time that he assumed office, I paid a monthly average ofGH¢13,500.00 to the Assembly”, she stated.
She continued that her main concern was the impact of the statement which sought to portray her as dishonest and untrustworthy person, a fraud and a crook who dealt underhandedly with the Assembly and was cheating it into the bargain. “This, I vehemently deny, and state that that they are unacceptable and unworthy having regard to other documents which I have and have also attached to this letter for your kind perusal”.
Mrs. Darko said prior to Mr. Sarpong’s assumption of duty as Kumasi Mayor, the company had on 20th October, 2008 and 12 November, 2008 written to the then Metropolitan Chief Executive of the KMA requesting for a review of the rates, tolls and charges paid by drivers and hawkers operating from within the terminal in order to enhance the income and payment made to the assembly.
Mrs. Darko stated that the Assembly acted upon these proposals after considering it in 2009/2010 and its monthly share of revenue from bus terminal on the average increase from aroundGH¢84,606.00 and GH90, 374.00 .
However, when the Honourable Minister assumed office in June 2009 as Mayor of the Kumasi Metropolis, she noted, the first decision he took against her was to issue an order stopping her company from managing the Bus Terminal within a week, adding that later in that same month he extended the duration to three months.
She noted that this was in spite of the fact that there was a subsisting management contract between the KMA and her company.
She was convinced by the several events that followed that the then Mayor harboured the idea of eventually taking over the running of the Kejetia Bus Terminal from her and hence all his actions and utterances were geared towards that objective.
In order to keep the terminal operative, my company even on dire situations obtained loans and other credit facilities from its bankers to pre-finance.
She said even though Mr. Sarpong knew very well that her company was operating exactly where they were directed as by the agreement, he forcefully took some parts of the terminal from her company saying rates at those areas were supposed to be collected by the staff of KMA.
Mr. Sarpong, she went on, turned a blind eye while some KMA staff issued fictitious tickets to the traders at that area, but a concerned citizen got wind of it and instituted a civil action against him.
“Still bent on his desire to ruin my reputation and business, Mr. Sarpong’s next strategy was to pay unannounced visits to the Bus Terminal. He was also always in the company of journalists from both radio and television stations whom he directed to put out false information to the effect that the bus Terminal had become congested owing to acts of commission and omission on my part and that terminal needed to be decongested. Consequently, he ordered me to remove the hawkers from the premises of the Kejetia Bus Terminal. With no choice and in spite of the existence of the management contract aforesaid, I dutifully had to remove the hawkers”, she noted.
From the matters as above set out, I see a clear case of giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it. Therefore, the unsavoury statement made by the Honourable Minister about me during the said vetting represented a refrain in a long and opprobrious chant to bring my character into disrepute.
“In a so-called special exercise in 2009 to find for himself what was likely to be earned at the terminal, Mr. Sarpong mysteriously came up with a whopping GH¢140,000 as monthly toll during a briefing at the assembly, when my team and his team met at a committee meeting and we demanded a proof of how they arrived at that amount they could not produce any proof but insisted the ratio remained at 68:32, a proposal which was too harsh for my company looking at our large size of personnel.
“In fact, Mr. Speaker my company petitioned the General Assembly and after hearing us it accepted the ratio of 70:30 during a resolution of the assembly but he unilaterally insisted on 68:32 without regard to either the resolution of the assembly or our large staff size and expenses. The result, Mr. Speaker, has been that my company has found it difficult to break even especially when we have almost three hundred (300) workers plus huge expenses monthly”, she said in the statement.
According to her they later found out that he arrived at the said Gh¢140,000 monthly rate by a deliberate miscalculation which is, each time a vehicle entered the terminal it was presumed to have paid a fee when in fact he very well knew that each vehicle paid once for the whole day.
“Evidently, Mr. Speaker, I am at pains to emphasize that there is a serious need for the Honourable Minister to retract the false comment he made about me that is likely to prejudice my personality, business and hard earned reputation. This retraction is all the more important and necessary because Honourable Samuel Sarpong swore oath to tell the truth to the Parliamentary Appointments Committee which acts on behalf of the august House of Parliament and because of the fact that the Parliamentary Hansard is an official and permanent record”, she concluded.