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The Impudence of SADA and its Lawyers

Mon, 21 Apr 2014 Source: Mahama, Shakur Nurudeen

While am sad by the gargantuan corruption revelations at the beleaguered Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) by Joy Fm’s rising investigative reporter, Manasseh Azure Awuni, I’m equally frightened by the impudence of the management of SADA to instruct its lawyers to write to Joy Fm and demand apology and retraction from the series of stories the station has carried on the financial dissipation and decadence going on at the Authority.

As frightening as it is, the SADA lawyers were reported on myjoyonline.com on Saturday, April 19th, 2014 to have demanded a retraction and apology from the station for carrying the “SAD SADA STORY.”

The story from the station reads: “Lawyers for the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority are demanding a retraction of, and apology for, the serialized story of alleged financial malfeasance in the operations of SADA.”

“According to the solicitors, Beyuo & Co, the serialized reports titled “The Sad SADA Story” were culled from an inconclusive audited report but the stories sought to impute wrongdoing to the management of SADA.

“To the extent that your station relied on the management letter to impute wrongdoing to our client, we demand that you retract and apologize for the false and malicious statements made against our client,” the letter read in part.

Reading the full content of the letter, I was utterly disgusted that SADA and its management could muster such courage and write this annoying letter to Joy Fm and by extension the listeners, including those of us from the north, who are at the receiving end of the day-light robbery carried out by the Gilbert Iddi-led management at SADA.

This is akin to a thief or even a rapist accusing his victims of wrongdoing and demanding an apology. The questions one can ask from this letter from the lawyers of SADA are; do they have conscience? Have the lawyers of SADA contested the real facts in the Joy Fm revelations? Have they challenged the claims that SADA has deposited GH¢74.5m at the Stanbic Bank, when the Managing Director of the Bank Mr. Alhassan Andani is also the board chairman of SADA? Can they tell us the interest that has accrued to that money at Stanbic Bank?

Can they show to Ghanaians how the poverty-stricken people of the North have benefited from their expenditure of GHC620, 206 (almost c6.2 billion) on consultants?

Can they show to Ghanaians how GHC2, 771, 890 (almost c27 billion) paid to Dan Saaka Ahmed’s Plus One Investment Limited in their so-called butter nut squash business at Yapei has alleviated poverty in the North?

Can they tell us how payment of GHC 15m (c150 billion) to the ACI Limited for the establishment of guinea fowl project has helped to reduce poverty in the North and the Savanna zones?

Can they tell us why they paid GHC 6000 for one laptop for their consultant?

Can they tell us what is happening to the GHC 32, 498, 000 (over c320 billion) paid to Roland Agambire’s ACI Construction Limited for the afforestation program?

These and many others are the issues that the management of SADA and their lawyers should focus their minds on and find answers for the long-suffering people of Ghana and not issue empty threat and show rudeness to the people because we are keenly waiting to see what will happen to them.

I have no doubt in my mind that given the professionalism that both Manasseh Azure Awuni and Joy Fm have exhibited in this exercise, should SADA management and their lawyers decide to ask for 1000 hours of airtime or even more to explain to Ghanaians how these monies were spent, Joy FM will gladly oblige them.

So what is their problem? Is it because nothing has happened in terms of action to punish and retrieve these monies from these unpatriotic people?

Similarly, the Stanbic Bank also wrote to Joy Fm, demanding retraction and apology of the headline of a story that reported that the Authority has placed or deposited GHC74.5m in Stanbic Bank. The beef of the bank is that the headline of the story had suggested that Mr. Alhassan Andani, the Managing Director of Stanbic Bank owns the bank. What a country! Again, the bank also is offended that the story had sought to send a message that SADA has invested in the Stanbic Bank. Another warped logic!

Joy Fm in its article stated that “In the first of a series of investigations titled the Sad SADA Story, Manasseh Azure Awuni reports of a murky investment deal of GH¢74.5 million.”

“According to a budget monitoring report submitted to Parliament for the 2012 financial year, the SADA earmarked GH¢23,120,000 as its investment for that year.

“The Authority however ended up investing over GH¢74, 341,000, that is GH¢51,311,000 more than it budgeted.

“The budget monitoring statement does not provide details of the investment but a recent audit report Joy News intercepted in the course of the investigation reveals that the amount was invested in a call account at the Movenpick branch of Stanbic Bank in Accra.

“According to the report management of SADA could not produce the Investment certificate as evidence of the deposit made.

“Management also failed to disclose the interest that had accrued on the investment. The audit report says there is the risk the investment could be lost to SADA in any eventuality.

“Another anomaly which the audit report found with the GHc74.5 million Ghana cedis investment is the type of investment made.

“The report indicates that SADA could have invested the money in higher yielding accounts such as fixed deposit.

“Investment experts Joy News spoke to agree with this assertion. Though they will not speak on record until they have seen details of the account, they have indicated that the call account can only be justified if SADA management negotiated a high interest rate. Management of SADA has refused to comment on the transaction.

“Joy News also contacted the Board Chairman of SADA and Managing Director of Stanbic Bank, Alhassan Andani in whose bank the investment was made. He confirmed SADA had an investment account with Stanbic Bank.

“But he declined to provide details of the interest rate and other details of the account. “I account to the President and not you Manasseh and Joy FM,” he said,” the story concluded.

Joy Fm as a responsible media complied with this seeming legal technicalities raised by the Stanbic Bank and on Saturday 19th April, 2014 posted an apology on its website stating that “Our attention has been drawn to the fact that the headline: ''SADA invests GH¢74.5m in board chairman's bank'' creates the impression that Mr. Alhassan Andani owns Stanbic Bank.”

“We have therefore amended the headline and regret any wrong impression it may have created. It was stated clearly in the body of the story that Mr. Andani is the Managing Director of the bank. But it has been noticed that the headline has the potential of being misconstrued to mean that the SADA Board Chairman owns or has shares in the bank.

“It has also come to our attention that the introduction of one of our stories on the subject on Joy FM's top story may have created the impression inadvertently that the said amount could not be accounted for. These representations are deeply regretted.

“We consequently apologize to Mr. Andani for any harm it might have caused him.

I believe that this exercise in legal technicalities by the Stanbic Bank is futile and counterproductive. In my opinion, the Board Chairman of SADA, Mr. Alhassan Andani should have explained to the people the rationale in placing or depositing (or whatever) poor people’s money in a foreign bank in this era of hyper-inflation and exchange rate depreciation.

Anybody with basic knowledge in finance will tell you that depositing or placing (SADA) money in any bank without attracting enough interest rate to at least atone for the falling Cedi and rising inflation is criminal negligence and a financial loss to the state.

So, the story on Joy Fm about investment as captured by the audit report is even lenient to the Stanbic Bank and its embattled managing director.

President Mahama should quickly investigate this matter for us to get to the bottom of the issues so that whoever is culpable will be held accountable by the people of Ghana.

These legal technicalities are counterproductive and will not erase the naked rape of SADA coffers by these greedy, selfish and unpatriotic northerners.

In my opinion, SADA will go down in history as one of the biggest crimes committed by northerners against fellow northerners. And I shudder to think that if we lose this opportunity this time as northerners to work hard and catch up with the rest of the country, then we should forget it. With a northern President and many northerners in key national positions than ever before, northerners can never blame anybody for their predicament if this opportunity slips.

If President Mahama really believes that he is in charge of this country and he is also fully committed to the fight against corruption and organized stealing, then all those mentioned in the audit report especially the big fishes such as Mr. Gilbert Seidu Iddi, Former CEO of SADA, Mr. Roland Agambire of ACI Construction, Mr. Dan Saaka Ahmed of Plus One Investment Limited among others, should be quickly arrested for immediate prosecution.

For the continuous silence of President Mahama on these issues is beginning to send the wrong signals and give credence to the widely held belief that this country is gradually turning into a Corruption Republic.

We do not accept the claims that this is a draft audit report. Once those accused persons have responded and their explanations incorporated into the report, nothing can change from this draft.

In fact through the good work of Manasseh we have seen with our naked eyes on JOY TV almost all the SADA project sites mentioned in the audit report. And it is clear that we did not have value for money on these expenditures captured in the audit report.

Again, we have heard the man at the center of the affairs, Mr. Gilbert Seidu Iddi on what he has as their defense on the raid on SADA finances. The question I am asking is what else can any propagandist say or do to alter what we already know on the Joy Fm and Manasseh’s videos?

President Mahama and all those people mentioned in this audit must understand that there can never be a cover-up in this SADA issue and also nothing can be done to whitewash what Manasseh and Joy Fm have reported.

We shall follow this matter to its logical conclusion and if necessary take any action in terms of mobilization of our people in the North for mass protest in all the three northern regions of Ghana and even the other SADA zones in northern Brong Ahafo and Volta regions.

The SADA issue is not an NDC-NPP affair, is a national issue and people should see it as such.

The issue is also not a North-South issue. Is an organized crime that needs bi-partisan action and so we all as patriotic Ghanaians should do all what we can in our own small ways to put pressure on government to take action to retrieve these monies for the poor and vulnerable people of the North.

Prosecuting some of these people is good, but we need the money first before prosecution, for the people of the north are suffering.

The onus is on us as educated middle-class northerners to help in mobilizing our brothers on the lower social ladder to confront these thieving elites to save our people and regions.

We also need the support of our brothers in the South to help us fight these crooks who are doing everything possible under the sun to deny us and our people the fruits of development and good life.

SHAKUR NURUDEEN MAHAMA

Nuru2014mahama@gmail.com

TAMALE

Columnist: Mahama, Shakur Nurudeen