General News of Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy, Alhaji Amadu Sorogoh, has said the legislative body has requested for documents concerning alleged payments to some former staff of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).
The decision was taken after executives of the corporation met with members of parliament on Wednesday December 2, to probe the circumstances under which huge sums of money were allegedly paid to some former staff of GNPC.
Alhaji Sorogoh revealed on Citi FM’s Eyewitness News that “one person has received (the money) but three others have not received anything. We [parliament] couldn’t get the exact amount paid since the documents were not available”.
He further disclosed that the notice to invite the GNPC officials to face the committee was received late by some of them and so they cannot be faulted for not making available certain necessary documents.
“All the documents that we requested to support the briefing, they agreed that they are not immediately available. The committee unanimously agreed that they should provide the documents by Monday so that Wednesday we can meet and conclude the issue.”
Responding to a question about claims that the Corporation is misapplying resources, Mr Sorogoh said: “I don’t have the slightest evidence to that effect, nothing before the committee suggests that GNPC has misapplied funds. I don’t have it, if there is any evidence, it is not before me, so, I cannot hold anybody. If it comes to my attention, we will probe it,” he reiterated.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the legal team of GNPC, according to a member of parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Committee, wrote an opinion to advise against the payment of ex-gratia to the four top-level management members, who worked with the corporation more than 15 years ago.
Mr Joe Osei Wusu told journalists in an interview that: “I have information, I can confirm that…indeed GNPC’s own conditions of service do not support the payments that have been made, and, in fact, lawyers of GNPC did write an opinion against the payment to the board.”
“If indeed lawyers for GNPC had raised these issues about the limitation period having expired…then the board needs to explain to Ghanaians on what basis they determined and paid those monies,” he said.
Mr Osei Wusu’s revelation came on the back of a statement issued by Esther Cobbah, wife of former CEO of the GNPC, Tsatsu Tsikata, denying receiving any payment yet from the state-owned oil firm as ex-gratia. She, however, noted that she is due a “significant” amount owed her by the state-owned corporation.
She said, despite GNPC contacting her with intentions of advancing such payments to her, she is yet to receive any money at all.
Cobbah’s statement comes on the heels of allegations by former deputy Energy Minister K.T. Hammond that the Stratcomm Africa CEO, her husband, and two others, Nana Asafu-Adjaye and Benjamin Dagadu, all former top-level staff of GNPC were recently paid hefty sums as ex gratia.
According to Mr Hammond, apart from Esther Cobbah who got about GHS600,000, the other three former officials received about GHS1 million each.
Though the GNPC has confirmed paying the money to the four, it did not give details about how much each got.
A press statement released by the corporate affairs department of the corporation on Monday November 30, 2015 said the four deserved the money, which had accumulated over the years.
It said: “The four served the corporation for periods ranging between twelve and twenty-one years. They were all removed from office in 2001 under circumstances that did not allow for the payment of their respective accumulated separation entitlements. The Board of Directors of the corporation, after an in-depth review of the situation, concluded that the payment of end-of-service benefits to these management personnel, who have made valuable contribution to the development of the corporation, is a valid obligation.”
“The board took the position that meeting this obligation, however belatedly, is the right thing to do. The corporation computed the amounts to be paid to each of the affected senior managers on the same basis as what has been used with respect to all staff who are made redundant or separated from the organisation,” the statement noted. It, however, did not specify how much each of them got as packages.
In Mr Hammond’s view, Mr Tsikata, whom he described as “arrogant,” did not deserve the amount. “He should not have been entitled to anything anyway,” he said. All the others, he said, did not deserve the payment as well.
“What did Esther Cobbah do? Legally she was not entitled to anything. Somebody is taking the country for a ride. It’s not fair,” he said.
Esther Cobbah, in her release, said Mr Hammond’s allegations are “really totally without a base.”
“The truth is that as at now, no payment has been made to me by GNPC though I am owed significant amounts for work done and for my contribution to the provident fund while I was in the employment of the corporation.
“I worked in various capacities for GNPC from 1989 when I set up the public affairs department of the corporation, including being public affairs manager. In 1999, I was sent on secondment to the West Africa Gas Pipeline project as the External Affairs Manager. I set up the external affairs department of the project with staff from the four countries i.e. Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana.
“I was in that role when in May 2001, I went with the project manager, an employee of Chevron to a meeting at the office of the then Minister of Energy, Ghana. Quite unexpectedly, the minister announced that the government was removing me from the project even though my appointment as External Affairs Manager of the West Africa Gas Pipeline project was not a government appointment over which the minister had authority. I decided not to contest the issue having regards to the circumstances of the day.
“Soon after this announcement by the minister, I was again notified by the corporation that my services in the corporation were no longer needed. To this day, my entitlements, including my end of service benefits, my providence fund entitlements, as well as my arrears of remuneration for my period of secondment to the West Africa Gas Pipeline project have not been paid.
“I was, however, given assurances since 2009 that GNPC will meet its obligations. Most recently, the Chief Executive of GNPC informed me that the board of GNPC has resolved to settle these matters and the corporation will pay me what I am entitled to. No amount has been paid or has been made yet. No payment has been made to date. The statement of KT Hammond appeared to be attempts to deny me of my due after service that I have rendered to the corporation.
“I thank God that no weapon fashioned against me by the making of such unjustified attacks will prosper. I also thank God that he has taken me through various circumstances with his guiding hand. I have found it necessary to issue this brief statement to make the public aware of the basic facts which are being misrepresented,” she added.
Mr Osei Wusu, however, said the payments were statute-barred and thus the board of GNPC may have caused financial loss to the state if it indeed paid the monies to the four.
“I’m suggesting that the board of GNPC should be held responsible because they would have approved the payment,” he said.