All that rhetoric about this AMERI power deal…

Thu, 17 Dec 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Folks, you must also have been following developments concerning the agreement that Ghana signed with AMERI for the supply of gas turbines to help it solve the "Dumsor" crisis. I have been doing so, critically analyzing every statement made about the deal by just anybody, especially following the publication by the Norwegian newspaper, VG.

The most important question nagging me at this point in my analysis of the situation is: Could Dr. Kwabena Donkor (Minister of Power) and all those leading the Ghanaian side think that they could inflate the cost of the turbines (and accessories supplied by AMERI) without being exposed? In this Internet age? With all the documentation available to trace happenings from the source to the target?

My careful assessment of the issues point me to many directions, the most poignant of it is that I am tempted to believe the Ministry of Power and the government's version of the rhetoric until those raising the flag provide authentic documentary evidence on the matter to substantiate their allegations. Why?

1. I have found the Norwegian newspaper's publication as a huge agenda based on sensationalism, particularly the over-emphasis on the single individual of interest to the management of the newspaper (Umar Farooq Zahoor) who is painted with a wide brush as a criminal fraudster wanted by the Norwegian police and Interpol. The impression created, then, is that the government of Ghana dealt with a criminal to dupe Ghanaians. Even, if granted that the Farooq guy has ever been imprisoned for fraud, does it make him a lifetime fraudster who cannot do any business with any entity short of swindling that entity? Character changes.

The fact is that His Royal Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Dalmook Al Maktoum who owns the entity AMERI Energy with whom they signed the contract has been de-emphasized in the Norwegian newspaper's publication. Why so? Is the Sheikh is also a fraudster or someone being manipulated by Farooq to dupe Ghana? Where is the evidence?

Interestingly too, the Editor of the newspaper (Bakke Foss) confirmed that the deal between Government of Ghana and the AMERI Group was a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement for the ten gas turbines—a later stance that contradicts his own earlier submission.

2. I find it difficult to accept the newspaper's claim that the price of the gas turbines had been astronomically raised (510 million Dollars). The suggestion that the turbines could cost less (220 million Dollars) elsewhere doesn't satisfy me, especially considering the forces influencing such internal deals. The explanation about General Electric's involvement and the impression created that it could have been a better partner isn't here or there. Then also is the involvement of the Greek company. Too many question marks are left hanging on the newspaper's claims, especially when no documentary evidence is provided (quoted from) to hinge those claims on. It’s all a matter of sensationalism.

3. The Minister of Power said the agreement was laid before Ghana's Parliament for ratification, which has been confirmed by the MPs reacting to the issue. What did our Parliament do to go beyond the surface before approving that agreement? Did the MPs simply rubber-stamp it without doing their own background checks? If they did, what sort of characters are they?

Those in the NPP turning round to support the Norwegian newspaper's version are giving a very bad account about themselves and creating the negative impression that they are more interested in doing dirty politics with the matter than helping the public know what they (the MPs) knew before endorsing the agreement.

The Minister of Power has refuted the newspaper's allegation that Ghana has paid money to AMERI, which the Editor of the newspaper has refused to accept. So also is the energy think tank Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP). In its statement, ACEP said:

“We know that Government has not made any payment to AMERI. But when VRA makes the monthly payments prescribed by the contract, it will constitute payment for the turbines and the use to which it is being put. Indeed for the entire 5 years, these payments are to be made to AMERI. AMERI will be paid US$850,000 per turbine per month. This will amount to US$8.5 million for the ten turbines, with cumulative annual payments of US$102 million. In addition, an amount of US$16.6 million will be paid as variable cost. This brings the total payment due to AMERI and its partners to almost US$120 million".

This particular angle is disturbing, especially if we see it as an after-the-fact statement designed to confuse. It is a matter of whether the government has already paid any money to AMERI or not; it isn't to be pushed to the future. It is simply about the past: Has the government already paid AMERI?

This question shouldn't be difficult to answer if those responding to the government's statement debunking the newspaper's claims can do their homework properly. After all, the money for that payment won't come from the private pockets of President Mahama or Dr. Kwabena Donor (Minister of Power). So, it could only come from the official national coffers. How difficult is it for any of those people to do their checks with the Bank of Ghana, the Ministry of Finance, or any other state institution responsible for payments of that sort?

But even then, under the terms of the agreement, I wonder how AMERI could supply the equipment without being paid anything upfront. That is why those responsible for looking into the technicalities of the agreement should go ahead to dig much deeper into its intricacies for us to know what we need to know.

4. Whether the government has already paid for the turbines or not, we know that work on the installation of those turbines is complete and they should soon start operating to ease the crisis. Had AMERI failed to provide the turbines, I would have very serious questions to ask the government. All the same, I wonder how the equipment (turbines) would be supplied without anything being paid to AMERI (even to cover transportation!!). This is where I expect the Minister of Power to come clean.

There could be more gray areas; but for now, I will pause to continue monitoring the situation. Anything new that comes up will be thrown into the conversation.

Before I sign off, though, let me say that the kind of politics that has begun being done with this Norwegian newspaper's publication by the NPP fits into its agenda. Its spokespersons have already begun crucifying the government just on the basis of the newspaper's version. Fraudie Blay (Acting Chairman) is even calling for a Parliamentary inquiry into the matter---as if he doesn't already know that if it comes to the crunch, Parliament itself will be painted black for ratifying the agreement to enable the deal to be consummated. How does Fraudie Blay think at all? And he claims to be a lawyer!!

Again, the rashness with which the NPP has accused President Mahama and his brother (Ibrahim) of being connected to AMERI to create the impression that they are beneficiaries of the power deal is nauseating. Ibrahim's company (Engineers and Planners) has already reacted strongly to that allegation, warning that it will proceed to court if the image-tarnishing antics continue.

Indeed, our Ghanaian system is inefficient/ineffective, apparently because people find it difficult to separate partisan politics from any human endeavour at all that is undertaken. As is unfolding, we can see what this AMERI deal will turn into.

Again, I blame Parliament for its inability to pass the right to information law so Ghanaians can go wherever in the public system to get any piece of information they need. In other countries, the citizens enjoy that right. Unfortunately for us, our lawmakers don't see the value of such a law, which is why Ghanaians easily become fascinated by anything about Ghana published by outside sources.

Had Dr. Kwabena Donkor been "transparent" enough to inform Ghanaians at home about the AMERI power deal (even though the matter had been laid before Parliament and we expected our news media to publicize it), the people wouldn't have so enthusiastically latched on to what this Norwegian newspaper has sensationalized to the government's dismay.

In a democracy, transparency in the handling of affairs, especially anything connected with public funds, is imperative. It is only then that the citizens will be informed about goings-on and work hard to sustain the system. Otherwise, doom looms!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.