A number of delegates who were expected to participate in an international non-governmental organization conference (INGO) in the United Kingdom, were denied visas, because they submitted forged bank statements to support their claims about the financing of the visit.
The submission of forged documents clearly impacts on the credibility of the applicants, as well as being a criminal offence both in Ghana and the United Kingdom, Mr. Gary Nicholls, Press Officer of the British High Commission said in response to queries sent there.
The delegates were supposed to be representing NGOs in Ghana and were allegedly nominated and sponsored by their organizations to the INGO conference from May 4 to 8, 2004 but were denied the visas. The enquiries followed complaints by Okabros Foundation, a local NGO, which was co-ordinating the participation of Ghanaian NGOs that a deputy minister of manpower development and employment, Mr. John Bennan Jabaah, and the ministry?s chief director, Mr. Kojo Amoakwa, influenced the High Commission to deny the delegates the visas.
The conference has been rescheduled from July 7 to 9, 2004, due to what the organizers said was ?due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control,? and Okabros Foundations, says it called for the postponement to ensure the full participation of Ghanaian NGOs. In his response to the enquiries, Mr. Nicholls stated that ?we are not aware of any letter from the deputy minister of manpower development in connection with this conference.
He said besides the use of forged bank statements, other applicants also submitted bank statements that had been used by other visa applicants or which showed very limited funds. He explained that due to data protection legislation, the commission was unable to give specific reasons for the individual decisions. But in general terms, Mr. Nicholls said some NGOs were proposing to exhaust their assets in the entirety by sending delegates to the conference, while one NGO was entirely fictitious.
The founder of Okabros Foundation, Mr. Kwaku Amponsah Okai, alias Gideon, accused Mr. John Bennam Jabaah and Mr. Amoako, for influencing the British High Commission to deny visas to prospective participants to the conference. Okabros foundation was the coordinating agency for Ghanaian NGOs which were interested in participating in the conference.
Mr. Okai said the minister duly approved of the conference and sent an official to launch the conference in February, this year. According to him, a series of meetings were organized between officials of the ministry, the British High commission and Nexus Consultants, stressing that the public relations officer of the ministry, Mr. Kwamina Sakyi represented the ministry.
Mr. Okai said he got a call from Nexus in London that the British High had called to tell them that its (Nexus) collaborators knew nothing about the conference and for which reason the visas were being denied the delegates. Each applicant was made to pay a non-refundable fee of ?500.000 and was expected to pay 2,000 pounds as conference participation fees.
Mr. Jabaah who is responsible for NGOs said when he was approached for his assistance, he declined to assist and suspected the conference was a fraud and would therefore have nothing to do with it, as they were already reeling under the activities of ?Explore Abroad.? Okabros went ahead and to advertise in the media inviting interested delegates to apply.
Mr. Jabaah said he returned from his constituency when his wife told him that her sister had come demanding 2000pounds to pay to an NGO to enable her travel to the UK. He said he suspected it was Okabros Foundation, so he called the representatives of Okabros in Sunyani and Takoradi on the pretext of taking part in the conference without disclosing his identity. He said he was told to pay 2000 pounds if he did not have an NGO and also asked him to contact Okabros to facilitate his participation. The deputy minister said he later contacted the sector minister who told him that the he (minister) actually approved it.