General News of Monday, 22 June 2015
Trade and Industry Minister, Ekow Spio-Garbrah, says the ongoing public debate about the legality or otherwise of the ministry’s decision to ask some Destination Inspection Companies to help it defray a 197 million cedis debt it owed an international I.T firm, was being pushed by the opposition New Patriotic Party.
Mr. Spio-Garbrah, whose office has since an announcement on the arrangement come under heavy criticism, told Kasapa FM Monday suggestions that the decision was unwise and a mockery of sound financial practice, was solely being pursued by the NPP.
“We could have asked foreign companies, road contractors to pay. There is nothing illegal or unethical about what we did.
“Everything we did was on the ministry’s official letterhead. The DIc’s, too, in their replies to us, do so on the official letterheads.
“So it is not as if we are hiding behind this to make some money.
“The NPP people who don’t understand and want to benefit from the judgement debt of 1 billion are those making the noise to confuse the public.
“They signed the contract, and are those who will benefit if the judgment is paid.
“No NDC member of parliament has commented on this. It is the NPP who has in interest in the overpayment.”
Spio-Garbrah’s office had earlier issued a statement to make a case for the invitation extended the DICs.
Below, the Ministry’s official position on the matter
The attention of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) has been drawn to articles and commentaries in the media especially Daily Guide of Saturday June 20th, 2015 regarding a correspondence the Ministry has exchanged with Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) on the payment of a judgment debt owed Bankswitch. The imports of such reports and subsequent commentaries have given the impression that the Ministry is involved in transactions that may be improper or which may constitute bribery.
The facts are that a company called Bankswitch has succeeded in receiving a Judgment debt against the Government and people of Ghana in the amount of approximately GHC 197 million. The judgment debt was for the termination by the Prof Mill administration of a contract awarded under the Kufuor Administration for services in the trade facilitation arena.
The Prof Mills administration was of the conviction that the contract was improperly awarded and that Bankswitch had not performed the services for which it was contracted to perform. Bankswitch sued the Government in international courts and won a judgment debt amounting to approximately GHC 197 million. Due to delays in paying this judgment debt and the accumulating interest, this debt is rising.
As the Government has been unable to pay this judgment debt this far, Bankswitch has been negotiating with Government on alternative payment arrangements. Until recently, Bankswitch sought to have the Government pay the entire judgment debt over a 5-year period, and in addition for Government to award Bankswitch 0.35% of the FOB values of all Ghana’s imports over five years.
This supplementary award of 0.35% of FOB imports over 5 years, were it to be accepted by the Government of Ghana, would imply a contract to Bankswitch that would be worth more than GHC One billion cedis over five years. This additional over payment to Bankswitch of more GH? One billion Ghana cedis would be over and above the full settlement by the Government of Ghana of the GHC 197 million debt, whether paid in one lump sum or over a number of years.
It is this 0.35% of Ghana’s import trade bill that Bankswitch would wish to be awarded that the Ministry of Trade has invited Destination Inspection Companies interested in paying off the Bankswich debt to present expressions of interest so as to prevent the people of Ghana from being bilked an extra GHC One billion for no work done.
MOTI’s open and transparent invitation on official Government of Ghana letterhead to five destination inspection companies to express interest in pre-paying the GHC 197 million was motivated by the national interest in saving the country more than GHC One billion in overpayments that Bankswitch is seeking from the people of Ghana.
Members of the NPP government who negotiated and signed the Bankswitch contract, some current NPP MPs, their associates in civil society and friends in the media, who wish Ghana harm can distort MOTI’s action and pretend it is some kind of bribe or scandal.
However, when it is understood that MOTI is rather trying to help save the people of Ghana from an evil plot by some businessmen and politicians to rape the country’s Treasury, then right-thinking men and women should sit up. If MOTI were interested in any scurrilous and scandalous business, it would not do so on Government letterhead and address the same opportunity to five independent and separate businesses to respond in writing.
The Minister of Trade and Industry is consulting his lawyers and is prepared to take swift legal action against any media house or commentators who wish to toy with and damage the hard-earned global reputation for hard work, creative problem-solving, professionalism, competence and integrity of Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah.
The Ministry is of the view that, the issue at stake should be discussed, taken into consideration the payment of judgement debt through no work done. The question is, should we pay judgement debt in excess of GH? 1 Billion through no work done by Bandswitch?