SERIOUS skepticisms and fears are being expressed that the three-member ministerial committee set up to investigate the plethora of events that led to Ghana’s early exit from the ongoing world cup tournament in Brazil, could be a subtle move to cover up corruption as well as shield corrupt government officials.
The committee, which is chaired by a Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Senyo Dzamefe with lawyer and Sports Administrator, Moses Foh Amoaning and Sports Enthusiast Kofi Anokye Owusu Darko as members, has been given 30 days to submit its report.
Among other issues expected to be investigated are why President John Dramani Mahama sanctioned the airlifting of over $3.5 million to Brazil; various acts of omission and commission by sacked Youth and Sports minister Elvis Afriyie Ankrah and his reshuffled deputy Joseph Yamin as well as roles played by officials of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) in the Brazil fiasco.
However, fears of possible cover up are being expressed because similar ministerial committees by the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) have ended up virtually protecting wrongdoers.
A statement issued in Accra and signed by new Youth and Sports Minister Mahama Ayariga, indicated the committee was expected to “inquire into matters relating to Ghana’s Black Stars team’s preparation for the tournament and possible lapses therein which might have caused their early exit from the tournament, as well as inquire into matters relating to the management of the Ghana Black Stars team and events in their camp during the tournament.”
Reacting to the statement, minority spokesperson for Youth, Sports and Culture Kwame Isaac Asiamah stated that Ghanaians have cause to worry about committees set by the NDC administration.
He pointed out that a report submitted by a similar ministerial committee which was set up in 2011 to investigate the All African Games scandal in Maputo, Mozambique, involving the National Sports Authority is yet to be implemented, three long years after the probe.
“Till date, nothing has happened to those officials who were named in the report in terms of prosecutions,” Mr. Asiamah who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Atwima-Mponua in the Ashanti region stated.
According to him, the NDC administration “hides behind the cover of committees of inquiry and squanders public funds with impunity.”
The minority caucus had called for a bi-partisan parliamentary inquiry into the matter because of serious issues relating to the status of the ministerial committee and its operation as it cannot compel witnesses to appear before it.
Speaking in an interview with The National Forum, a former deputy minister for Education, Youth and Sports, Osei Bonsu Amoah popularly known as O. B. Amoah noted the committee does not have the status of parliamentary inquiry or presidential commission of inquiry, which have the powers of the High Court that can compel witnesses to appear and give evidence.
It come up that companies including travel and tours agencies contracted by the Youth and Sports ministry may not be bold enough to voluntary appear before the committee and tell their stories as they may be afraid of victimization and neglect for future contracts.
Again, questions are being asked whether a minister can investigate his colleague ministers or president and what he/she can do if the report indicts them.
It is also asked whether the committee will sit in camera or open to public including the media.
The membership of the committee set up to send soccer fans to Brazil was made of NDC key figures including former MP for Adenta, Kojo Adu Asare; Danny Annang, Horace Annan and Agbesi Nutsu.
With the experiences mentioned, it is not certain that the governing NDC will be bold enough to prosecute or sanction these people if they are found culpable.
It would be recalled that the senior national soccer team, the Black Stars recorded their worst performance in three successive appearances when they were eliminated from the world cup tournament at the group stage after drawing against Germany and losing to the USA and Portugal.
There were allegations of financial impropriety and conflict of interest in the travel arrangement of over 700 Ghanaian football fans that were airlifted to Brazil, and player agitations over appearance bonuses and misconduct; have been attributed to omissions and commissions of the former Sports Minister and GFA officials.
Justice Dzamefe’s committee, according to the new Youth and Sports minister, Mahama Ayariga, will also “inquire into matters relating to Ghana’s treatment of Ghanaian football fans who were sent to support the Black Stars by the Ministry of Youth and Sports; advise government on the financing of activities of the Senior National Team and other national teams; as well as inquire into all other related matters of public interest concerning the organization of Ghana’s Black Stars’ participation in the tournament.”
Mr. Ayariga reiterated government’s commitment to act on the recommendations that would come from the committee.
“The government believes that a forward-looking inquiry will expose lapses to engender reforms to improve the organization of Ghana’s participation in future football tournaments,” Mr. Ayariga stated amid skepticism.
Travel agencies wade in
Officials of Kenpong Travel and Tours and African Origin Travels & Sports Tourism were compelled to jump into the fray to protect their corporate images.
Calling on Elvis Afriyie Ankrah and the handlers of the national team to render a detailed account to the nation, the two companies said they have had enough of falsehoods being peddled around by some government officials regarding the alleged maltreatment of soccer fans who were airlifted to Brazil.
The Chief Executive of Kenpong Travel & Tours, Mr. Kennedy Agyapong had told Peace FM that the demoted Youth and Sports minister had usurped the mandate of the Travel & Tours to organize activities relating to the sponsorship of the supporters.
Mr. Agyepong was pushed to react when Kojo Adu Asare attempted to blame the travel and tour agencies for the abysmal organisation of the Brazil trip.
He indicated that after airlifting 270 soccer fans to Brazil on the ticket of government, the former Minister arrogated to himself some organizational responsibilities regarding the accommodation of the supporters.
According to him, the poor organisation of the trip should be attributed to the behaviour of the former Minister.
“For almost one and half months to two months, he (Elvis) refused to answer my phone calls and gave excuses of being busy. Kojo Adu-Asare, a member of the committee instituted by the ministry and other committee members all refused to answer our phone calls.
“When you call him, he won’t pick up. If you call Adu Asare, he also does not pick up. If you call anybody, they won’t answer the phone. Even one pesewa has not been given to us and even tickets that we issued to them for their own arrangements in Brazil, about $52,000, they’ve not paid. Whenever we call them, they’re busy. So, they took over the job and that is why we have such financial misappropriation.”
Backing his boss, the Director of Finance in charge of arrangements for Kenpong Travel & Tours, Mr. George Amoako, explained that even though government authorized them to fly the supporters to Brazil, organize internal transportations and also ensure better accommodation for them; the demoted minister informed them at the last minute that they should only concentrate on just transporting the 270 passengers to Brazil.
“A lot of the arrangements were cancelled including the accommodation for the passengers. It was cancelled and the Ministry said they were going to accommodate the passengers themselves. The arrangement we made for the accommodation were cancelled,” Mr. Amoako pointed out.
According to him, about $3 million was budgeted to cater for the supporters but plans changed when they reached Brazil, adding that the Youth and Sports ministry was still indebted to his company.
Africa Origin’s anger
Joining the fray, the Chief Executive Officer of the African Origin Travels & Sports Tourism, Mr. Sampson Deen revealed that he and his colleagues were invited by Afriyie Ankrah to Akosombo on how to airlifted soccer fans to Brazil.
According to him, the meeting lasted for only 10 minutes without any concrete commitments from the former minister only to be told later in Accra that they were only to airlift supporters to Brazil without taking care of the their accommodation.
He indicated Mr. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah blacklisted him and his company from any further discussions regarding the wellbeing of the supporters and took over their job.
According to him, the demoted minister constituted a makeshift committee in Brazil and this committee was responsible for the organisation of the World Cup.
“It was on June 4th that we met to discuss Brazil 2014 all over again. We revisited everything all over again. They (sports ministry) have overburdened us with huge debts.
The former minister and his cohorts, he noted, had infringed on the rights of the Travel & Tours to provide better accommodation services and also cater for internal flights for the supporters.
Sounding livid, CEO of Africa Origin accused Elvis of piling huge debts on the Travel & Tour agencies having cancelled accommodation that had already been booked for soccer fans.
He said he forewarned the ex-minister and his people of the implications of their actions but they refused to heed his advice.