Sports News of Friday, 13 April 2018
According to media reports, more than 65 Ghanaians had been stranded, detained or deported from Australia by immigration authorities of Australia and transit countries like Singapore on suspicions of visa fraud.
We are also informed that these beleaguered Ghanaians, claimed to be journalists and billed to provide coverage for Team Ghana at the Games were issued visas as journalists from various media houses in Ghana.
Meanwhile, all the relevant sectoral statutory authorities; Ministry of Sports, National Sports Authority and Ghana Olympic Committee had officially denied any direct involvement and complicity in this shameful act as alleged by facilitating visas for these individuals; charging them between US$11,000 and US$22,000 to help them secure visas to Australia.
With my vast experience and long association with sports in the country, serving in various positions; to the best of my knowledge, before making a trip to any Olympic or Commonwealth Game; the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) in consultation with the Commonwealth Games Committee, constituted of representatives from both Ministry of Youth and Sports and National Sports Authority and usually chaired by the Deputy Sports Minister is only body with the mandate to issue accreditation to any individual going to the Games; after submission of names of athletes, coaches and other officials by the various Sports Associations and media houses.
Interestingly, these same institutions; some headed by small-minded individuals are denying any knowledge and complicity in this shameful act that had caused national embarrassment.
This is not the first time this has happened; it has occurred several times and it is known fact to most Embassies but for their own diplomatic reasons do not usually publicise issues like this. But due to the number of people involved this time and the organized method, it is very important to fish out those involved so that we can collectively improve the system.
When I served as the President of the Ghana Federation of Boxing; similar fraudulent visa application initiated by some officials of the National Sports Authority; who had included names which were not members of the National Boxing Team, Black Bombers; got to my notice and through my vigilance wrote to the Australian Embassy to halt the process.
I was denigrated by the perpetrators for my vigilance and some elements within the National Sports Authority then covertly manoeuvred and incited some members of the Executives of the Boxing Federation to oust me.
I resigned with honour because I refused to join the syndicate;typifying William Faulkner adage that ” Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth, and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”
As a matter of principle of probity, launching a probe by the same institution which name is associated to commission of an infraction constitute a conflict of interest.
Conflicts of interest can involve financial or non-financial interests of the staff member(s) and the interests of a business partner or associate, family member, friend or person in a close personal relationship with the staff member.
In this case, it has been reported by international media and confirmed that there had been visa fraud. Specifically, the reports alleged that some officials had facilitated issuance of visas for over 60 Ghanaians; charging them between US$11,000 and US$22,000 to help them secure visas to Australia.
An independent body must be constituted to investigate this matter. As it is the case now the statutory body with the mandate and jurisdiction to receive complaints about government entities and their members, including the authority to investigate any matter respecting a member’s conflict of interest or alleged contravention of a code of ethics must be called upon to do its work to determine ,among other things, whether any member(s) of the sectoral statutory bodies mentioned had pecuniary interests in the alleged visa fraud and, if so, whether they were appropriately disclosed, or whether any member(s) inappropriately attempted to influence, promote or advance this shameful act.
I join the call on the Ministry of National Security, the Special Prosecutor, Attorney General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Police and other relevant institutions whichever is the appropriate authority to thoroughly investigate the matter in order to establish the true identity of those behind this dastard act for the purpose of redeeming the image of our dear nation. Such acts if not punished; has the tendency to stretch the visa processing time of genuine travelling applicants in the future..