General News of Wednesday, 20 December 2017
The Board Chairman of the Millennium Excellence Foundation, Victor Gbeho, has stated that donations were actively solicited for the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards on December 8, which has courted some controversy over extortion allegations.
Allegations were made that the Ministry of Trade and Industry charged expatriates between $25,000 and $100,000 to enable them to sit close to the President at the awards ceremony.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Gbeho indicated that, “special treatment” was given to the higher donors, but there is no suggestion that the donations were used as a basis to secure sitting places next to President Nana Akufo-Addo. The Board Chair stressed that, the Foundation was a Non-Governmental Organisation and was issued notes by the Ministry of Trade to give to potential donors.
“All our ceremonies are based on funds that we realise. We have no other source of money except what we raise for each occasion and in this case, we asked the Ministry of Trade and Industry if it was going to be our partner, and give us an introduction to the business community,” Mr. Gbeho explained.
Because of the variance in the donations received, he said it was only right that the higher donors were favoured.
“In some of the awards [ceremonies], there is the platinum, then gold and then the silver [categories], all for protocol, if we come to you and you give us GHc 20,000 and somebody else gives us GHc 150,000, it will be the highest form of perversion of principles if the one that gave GHc 20,000 is going to be given more special treatment than the one who gave GHc 150,000.”
“It doesn’t mean that anyone was being compelled. Those who gave [donations] gave of their free will knowing very well the categories that we had,” Mr. Gbeho added.
But the President of the Foundation, Ashim Morton, flatly refuted the allegations at the press conference, where he also noted that President Akufo-Addo was not even originally scheduled for the event.
In an attempt to clear the air on the matter, Mr. Morton noted that, reserved seating was for expatriates “who have contributed enormously in our development and not necessarily whether they sponsored or would win a prize.”
He was also was keen to note that, the President’s table was originally designated for him and not Ghana’s Head of State.
“Nowhere in our literature did we say specifically or categorically say that the Presidents’ Gold table was designated for the President of the Republic of Ghana. I am the President of the Foundation and that Centre seat was designated for me.”
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has since dissociated itself from these allegations first trumpeted by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak.
The allegations have even led to the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, clashing with the Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa in Parliament.
This was followed by President Akufo-Addo writing to the Trade and Industry Minister, Alan Kyeremanten, demanding answers from him over the allegations.