Bankswitch Saga: NPP on offensive to defend its protégé

General News of Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Source: The Republic

Mathew Opoku Prempeh NewDr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, Manhyia South MP

The botched attempt by Bankswitch Ghana Limited to balloon its GHC 197 million judgment debt against the Government of Ghana to GHC 1 billion is believed to have infuriated the destination inspection company and powerful individuals within the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

In a move to quickly settle the Bankswitch judgment debt and stop the company from making ‘unreasonable’ demands on government, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ekow Spio-Garbrah gave the five destination inspection companies currently operating in the country the option of paying part of the GHC197 debt as part of their offer within their applications to extend their contracts with the government as their contracts expire this year.

According to sources, the NPP was extremely unhappy when late President Evans Atta Mills cancelled the Bankswitch contract for its apparent shadiness.

Having been disappointed by the refusal of the John Mahama administration to oblige by the GHC1 billion demand being made by their affiliated company, the NPP is said to have deliberately launched a frantic attempt to turn the issue against the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) with allegations that the trade ministry’s request to the five destination inspection companies was a cash-for-contract deal.

But the trade ministry has warned that further misinformation and erroneous insinuations of bribery in the deal with the five DIC would attract legal actions: “The attention of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) has been drawn to articles and commentaries in the media…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,” Nana Akrasi-Sarpong, the acting director of Public affairs of the trade ministry stated in a statement released earlier this week.

He warned of dire consequences, saying “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 late President Mills was said to have suspected the Bankswitch deal approved by his predecessor, John Agyekum Kufuor and ordered the cancellation of the contract given to Bankswitch for pre-destination inspection of imports into Ghana.

“ 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,” Nana Akrasi-Sarpong explained in the press statement.

Following the termination, owners of Bankswitch Ghana Limited have dragged Ghana to the International Court of Arbitration, claiming over $800 million for the wrongful abrogation of the contract between them and the Government of Ghana.

According to the MOTI public affairs director, Bankswitch succeeded in receiving a Judgment debt against the Government and people of Ghana in the amount of approximately GHC 197 million.

Due to delays in paying this judgment debt and the accumulating interest which the government has been unable to settle, Bankswitch is said to have proposed a crafty strategy of recovering the money over a five-year period. However, the company would have schemed off GHC 1 billion within that period.

“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,” the trade ministry stated.

“This additional overpayment 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,” the statement read.

“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… 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,” Akrasi-Sarpong charged.

“… 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,” he noted.

Per the Bankswitch contract between the Government of Ghana and Bankswitch, the company together with its partners like the Government Services division of Intertek, was to, among others, implement state-of-the-art Customs Management System in Ghana.

Named Ghana Customs Secure Document Management System (GCSDMS), the new system was to provide an integrated, end-to-end system automation associated with customs entry processing, payments, and clearance.

The system was supposed to be progressively rolled out during which Ghana Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) will use Intertek’s independent valuation services to verify the dutiable value of imports into the country so as to rake more revenue to the state.

As part of the contractual agreement, the Bankswitch and its partners were also supposed to give further training to officials of CEPS to effectively perform their duties.

However, the contract was abrogated by the Mills administration and given to some DICs because it was realized Bankswitch was basically being paid for no work done.

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