General News of Monday, 15 January 2018
Ambassador Victor Gbeho, the Chairman of the Millennium Excellence Foundation, organizers of the controversial Ghana Expatriates Awards, has reiterated that the monies received by the Foundation in connection with the event were from voluntary sponsors.
He said expatriates were not coerced to make the payments with the promise of sitting close to the President, Nana Akufo-Addo.
The Foundation is at the center of a controversial allegation of selling seats at the event for between $25,000 and $100,000 to some attendees with the promise of allowing them sit close to the President who was the special guest at the event.
The Foundation, during its meeting with Parliament’s ad-hoc committee investigating the matter, denied any wrongdoing in the organization of the event. Ambassador Gbeho in his presentation said no seat was sold at the event, noting that some persons who sat at the high table did not make any payment contrary to suggestions by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, who first made the allegation.
“The Millennium Excellence Foundation did not coerce or levy any persons or institutions to come out with sums of money that will enable them to sit next to the Head of State. The Foundation found voluntary sponsors to support the first class event that was held. It did not sell seats for cash nor was any expatriate firm excluded from the attendance of the event because it did not sponsor. Indeed, it is a fact that most of the VIP seated on the presidential table did not pay sponsorship or the alleged $100,000 before the gala event,” Ambassador Gbeho said.
The President of the Foundation, Ambassador Ashim Morton, further denied claims that some expatriates were made to pay monies in order to receive awards at the event.
The Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, first made the extortion allegation in Parliament in December 2017.
Mr. Mubarak said the fees charged at the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA) were not approved by Parliament, adding that the monies were also not accounted for in the Internally Generated Funds [IGF] of the Ministry’s accounts.
The issue was further reinforced by Mr. Ablakwa, who suffered verbal assaults from Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah over the matter.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry initially dissociated itself from these allegations.
The Trade Ministry, in a statement said it played no role in determining prices for seats at the event, and clarified that it only facilitated the implementation of a new initiative by the Millennium Excellence Foundation.
But the Ministry after an order from the President to probe the matter, clarified that an amount of GHc 2,667,215 was realized from the event.
The organizers of the Awards had also explained that no one paid to sit close to the President, and that the amount raised was gotten from sponsorship through a fundraising at the event.]
The Minority moved a motion in Parliament for a further probe into the matter, and this forced the Speaker to recall MPs from their recess, leading to the formation of the Committee.