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Ghana Gas runs amok

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 Source: General Telegraph

…Over General Telegraph exposé of GH¢148,000 plane tickets extravaganza

IN the Monday, July 7 issue of The General Telegraph, we carried a front page lead story in which we reported that the Ghana National Gas Company spent a whopping GH¢148,000 on plane tickets for four people who travelled by first class on two occasions. The expenditure, we reported, did not include per diem, accommodation, feeding and in-country and transport costs paid to the officials who undertook the trips.

We reported that Ghana Gas paid a total of GH¢65,246.00 to Journeymax Executive Travels Limited for four Accra-Dubai, Dubai-Accra air tickets for four officials of the company who went on a trip to Dubai between January 4 and January 9, 2014.

We named the officials as Dr George Sipa-Yankey, CEO of Ghana Gas; Dr Kwesi Botchway, Mr Eric Yankah and Mr Amarquaye Armah. Checks by The General Telegraph have established that Armah has no portfolio either as a consultant or as a board member at Ghana Gas.

We also reported that Ghana Gas paid Journeymax GH¢82,400.60 for British Airways tickets (Accra-London, London-Beijing, Beijing-London and London-Accra) for trips by Dr Kwesi Botchway and Eric Yankah between December 7 and December 14, 2013.

Rather than send us a rejoinder clearly stating any inaccuracies in our story and setting the records straight in keeping with professional public relations practice, the public relations officer (PRO) of Ghana Gas, Mr Alfred Ogbamey, {formerly of the defunct Gye Nyame Concord newspaper}, arranged for air time on Breeze FM where he spent more than an hour calling us names and our professional integrity into question, and seeking to give the general impression that we had published untruths.

He also had the misinformation he fed the public in response to our story, published by several newspapers. Since most of the arguments he raised in his radio and newspaper rebuttals are totally irrelevant to the substance of our story, we wish to respond only to the comments by the Ghana Gas PRO which are relevant to the thrust of our story:

GHANA GAS COMMENT 1: “This is a mischievous piece of journalism. It is deceptive and meant to fuel an anti-Ghana Gas agenda at getting the Board and CEO removed. It is false to say the company blew Gh¢148,000 on plane tickets for four people.”

OUR RESPONSE: It is perfectly true that the company spent GH¢148,000 on plane tickets for four people on two trips and we are providing the evidence in this issue. We also propose to illustrate that if there is indeed any mischief maker in this affair, it is Mr Ogbamey who sought refuge in Breeze FM to comment on our story without resort to a rejoinder in harmony with journalistic practice. Mr Ogbamey is kindly reminded that The General Telegraph does not practise the kind of journalism he describes.

GHANA GAS COMMENT 2: “We are dealing with two separate trips at various times. Secondly, a minimum of six officials travelled on these two separate occasions. If you add the outward and return tickets, it comes up to about 20 trips. Find out the cost of a ticket to Dubai and do the breakdown and see whether the report was worth the paper it was written on.”

OUR RESPONSE: The introduction of numbers whose authenticity cannot be immediately verified by an audience, is an old trick in communication psychology used for the express purpose of public deception. The cost of transit flights is included in the cost of return tickets, and transit flights cannot therefore be counted as “trips” as the Ghana Gas PRO has sought to do. Our story focuses on FOUR OFFICIALS. The GH¢148,000 we quoted is in respect of the cost of FOUR tickets for those FOUR officials for two separate foreign trips, no more no less. The cost of two tickets for two of the four officials during one of the trips was GH¢82,400.60, or GH¢41,200.30 each. Confirmation of this is the invoices we have published in today’s issue of The General Telegraph for the benefit of the public and Mr Ogbamey.

For the sake of emphasis, we repeat that we are unaware of any 20 trips undertaken by Ghana Gas officials. Our story is about two trips undertaken by officials of the company by British Airways between December 7 and December 14, 2013 and by Emirates Airlines between January 4 and January 9, 2014. If, as Ghana Gas has insisted, the number of officials who travelled on the two trips is more than the number we have indicated, then that is additional information that does not in any way negate our report that four officials made the trips. Ghana Gas through Mr Ogbamey is telling us that there were more officials on the said trips, thus raising the quantum of expenditure.

We stand by our report that for those two trips alone, a total of GH¢148, 000 was spent on plane tickets for FOUR officials who went on the trips.

GHANA GAS COMMENT 3: “Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, a former Finance Minister and Chairman of the Board of Ghana Gas, Dr. George Sipa-Adjah Yankey, a former Health Minister and CEO of the company, Messrs Eric Yankah, member of the Audit Committee of the Board and Amar Amarquaye, a consultant to the Board travelled on the trip.

“The newspaper [The General Telegraph] DELIBERATELY DELETED (sic) the names of Mr. Kassim Baluri Bukari, a former Director of Finance of Ghana Gas and Dr. Ben Asante, the Director of Technical Operations of Ghana Gas, to intentionally ‘reduce the number of persons who travelled on the trip....’ They did that deliberately to also increase the amount per person per ticket.”

OUR RESPONSE: It is perfectly true that we deliberately left out the names of Mr Bukari and Dr Asante. That is because they travelled by ECONOMY CLASS. Our interest was on the expenditure on those who travelled first class. Obviously, then, if there is anyone engaged in mischief in this matter it is, once again, Mr Ogbamey who is seeking to make it appear as if the GH¢148,000 we quoted in our story included money spent on the air tickets for Mr Bukari and Dr Asante when he knows full well that that is not the case.

GHANA GAS COMMENT 4: Mr Ogbamey asserts that the editor of The General Telegraph has confessed that he got aspects of the story wrong.

OUR RESPONSE: The editor of The General Telegraph has denied the claim by the Ghana Gas PRO. If he did so, it must have been because Mr Ogbamey put out a lot of technically worded misinformation on radio which made the editor believe documents in his possession were forgeries.

CONCLUSION: Having published for the benefit of the public in today’s issue of The General Telegraph, evidence of payment of GH¢148,000 for four plane tickets {including two tickets purchased at a cost of GH¢82,400.60}bn, we dare Ghana Gas to publish A LIST OF INVOICES IN RESPECT OF PAYMENTS MADE TO JOURNEYMAX FOR EACH OFFICIAL WHO UNDERTOOK THE FOREIGN TRIPS DURING THE PERIOD UNDER REVIEW.

Columnist: General Telegraph