Business News of Tuesday, 5 December 2017
A $64 million infrastructure project at the University of Ghana (UG) has come to a standstill due to disagreement between the current Vice Chancellor (VC) of the University, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, and his predecessor, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, over the viability of the project.
Reports indicate that already more than 1,000 workers have been laid off because the university authorities have sanctioned it pending a review of the project contract.
In July 2014, under the leadership of Prof. Aryeetey, the UG entered a contract with Africa Integras, a private investment company with headquarters in New York, to construct five buildings for the university on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.
The project was to consist of the construction of an expanded facility for the College of Humanities, a complex for the new College of Education, a new building complex for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, a complex to house the Institute of Technology and Applied Science and a building for the College of Health Sciences to aid the university in relocating the medical school to the UG campus from its present location in the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
Although unclear, the main challenge that is stagnating the development of the project is the disagreement between the two learned professors on the viability of the project.
While Prof. Aryeetey has expressed his assurance that he could vouch for the viability of the project since due diligence was made before the university entered the agreement with Africa Integras, efforts to reach the current VC for his take on the issue have not been successful . Emails sent to him have not been replied.
In an interview with the Graphic Business on why the project has stalled, Prof. Aryeetey expressed his astonishment over the delay in the execution of the project that was originally planned to be completed in September this year and said if the project was at a standstill it was the fault of the current leadership of the university and not him.
“If there is any financial loss associated with this project, it’s something that’s going to be in the future, but it will not be because I designed a bad agreement. It will be because people in leadership positions today failed to live up to their responsibilities and show courage,” he said.
$28 million spent so far
Professor Aryeetey insisted that the processes leading up to the signing of the agreement with Integras were transparent, with all relevant stakeholders, including the current VC, aware of developments each step of the way and that “there is no scandal at all in relation to the $64.4 million contract. Africa Integras signed an agreement that they were supposed to spend that money. As far as I know, by the time the project stopped, they had spent about $28 million.”
He also dismissed assertions that he had received financial inducements to allow the project to proceed.
“I can assure the public that nothing untoward took place. The processes that were followed were very transparent”, he added.
He said if there was a scandal associated with the project, then it was the decision to sanction the project without any good reasons.
“What is scandalous is that we have stopped the construction for no good reason. There was never a problem with the design of the buildings or the structuring of the facility and we believe that it was something that was required by the university. Once these buildings are finished, at least 20,000 more students can be admitted to the university”, he said.
The UG entered into a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with Africa Integras under the leadership of Prof. Aryeetey to invest US$64 million in the construction of five multifaceted buildings to expand the university.
The project was structured as a 25-year Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract but when the leadership of the university changed, the new VC sanctioned the project, sighting issues with viability and favourableness with the project contract.