It has emerged that the Works and Housing Ministry, under the leadership of Mr Samuel Atta Akyea, caused to be advanced, two Interim Payment Certificates (IPMs) to Messrs Construtora OAS Ghana Limited, the contractor who worked on the $200-million Saglemi Affordable Housing Project in the Ningo Prampram Constituency of the Greater Accra Region despite the expiration of the contract.
According to the project’s contract documents sighted by Ghanaweb.com, an amount of US$5,614,242.23 was paid by the Atta Akyea-led ministry to the contractor in March 2017 as certificate number (12) while in June 2017, an amount of US$1,614,242.23 was paid to the same contractor as certificate number (13). Also, the consultant for the project was paid US$1.2 million by the ministry under Mr Atta Akyea.
The contract was first passed by parliament on 31st October 2012 for the construction of 5,000 low-cost housing units at a cost of US$200 million while the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) agreement was signed on 4 January 2013 to enable the US$200-million contract to be executed in four phases in which the mortgage proceeds from each previous phase would be reinvested into the next phase until all the 5000 units were completed.
The EPC, according to sources, did not need parliamentary approval like the US$200 million contract did.
When the project started under the tenure of the then-Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Mr Collins Dauda, the Architectural & Engineering Service Limited (AESL) proposed a few changes to the original design of the units so as to make them habitable taking into consideration the climatic conditions in Ghana.
Per the original design of the units, the walls were to measure 2.4 m instead of 2.7 m. They also came with tiny windows and a concrete decking. There was also no consideration for drains and a sewage system. Furthermore, pavement blocks were to have been used for the roads and pathways instead of asphalt.
Upon the expert advice of AESL, however, the walls were increased to 2.7 m for comfortable habitation while the windows were expanded for proper ventilation. Drains and sewage systems were also incorporated into the design and the concrete decking was discarded in favour of a more friendly roofing design to suit the climatic conditions so as to mitigate heat. Furthermore, the roads were asphalted instead of concrete blocks used.
The design and engineering changes proposed by AESL, according to impeccable sources within the ministry, consequently shot up the unit cost of the project, which meant that the 5,000 units could not be put up at a go, thus, the need to execute the contract in multiple phases.
In the first phase, 1,502 units were started and the majority of them completed. The proceeds from the sale of the completed units would have been reinvested into the second phase of the project.
Mr Atta-Akyea recently admitted that his ministry paid a total of over $US7 million to Constratora OAS Ghana Limited in March and June 2017 but claimed he knew nothing of the payment.
According to him, the former Chief Director of the ministry, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, should be held responsible for sanctioning the payments at his blind side.
Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu is also alleged to have signed a second restated agreement that changed the terms of the original contract on 21 December 2016 with Messrs Construtora Ltd.
Mr Atta Akyea told Accra-based Asempa FM in an interview that: “It has come out in a very pathetic way. Ziblim, at my blind side, went and made the payment without my permission… There is a looming problem and you will soon see whether a Chief Director can sanction a payment without the approval of his minister,” he disclosed.
He said although he bears ultimate responsibility as the minister, “I am not responsible for criminal vicarious liability”, adding that: “There is nothing like a vicarious liability when it comes to criminality because I have not asked anyone to take any money and engage in a criminal act”.
According to him, “Thievery has gained strength and the lack of the fear of God played a part. This is not my Chief Director but the one I came to meet. Do you know that after winning the December 2016 elections, they signed a management contract over this and paid a company in Dubai? There is a problem in Ghana and a lot of issues will come out,” he told show host Osei Bonsu.
“I have not sanctioned any payment to Saglemi. Do you know my signature is very notorious and it has been proven I did not sanction those payments”, he stated.
Recently, the Attorney General offered its advice to the Ministry of Works and Housing on the project. Mrs Gloria Akuffo recommended that criminal investigations be launched against those who, according to the Works and Housing Minister, unilaterally reviewed the contract without parliamentary approval.
The AG also recommended a refund of monies paid to the contractor plus accrued interest for failing to deliver on the stipulated terms of the original contract.
Also, the AG has declared the alleged revised contract null and void and advised that the contractor should be compelled to deliver the 5000 units for which a total amount of US$ 179,904,757.78 has been made to them or refund same to the state.
As far as Construtora OAS Limited’s formal request for the termination of its contract with the government of Ghana and demand for compensation thereof are concerned, as contained in a letter dated 8 March 2019, and signed by the Directors of the company, Mr Charles Maia Galvao and Ricardo Rocha Ulm da Silva, the AG said there was no need to terminate a contract that has already expired.
In the letter, the contractor said: “Further to the termination and following the provisions of the agreement, the contractor hereby presents variations to cover additional costs suffered by the contractor due to delays and disruptions which impacted the project and are attributable to the employer”.