Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Trade and Industry Minister, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah is mounting spirited defence over a letter he wrote asking Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) to contribute a total of $175 million to defray GH¢197 million judgement debt to Bankswitch, a private IT firm in exchange for contracts.
The minister is adamant over his demand to five DICs to contribute $35 million each in spite of criticisms that the move was pure blackmail and feeds into the widely-held perception of widespread corruption in the current NDC government.
He told a pro-NDC government Radio Gold in Accra yesterday that he did not break any law in asking the DICs for support to settle the Bankswitch debt.
"Which law has been broken here? Cite the law which I have offended. Have I stolen something or paid illegal money? I am working in broad day light with as much transparency and as open as possible."
Rather, Mr Spio-Garbrah said his action was in the best interest of the country and to protect the public purse.
He repeated a statement released by the ministry at the weekend describing critics of the move as evil and said the debt had been caused by ‘evil politicians.’
But former Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei said Spio-Garbrah doesn’t get it that he has erred.
According to the former minister and minority spokesperson for Finance, Spio has broken the procurement law by promising contracts to DICs if they help raise $35million each to help pay a judgment debt.
Dr. Akoto Osei told Joy Fm, that it was the responsibility of the Finance minister not the Trade minister to go around looking for money to fulfil a government obligation.
“When did he become the loan officer for Ghana? When did he become a loan officer? So if he doesn’t know the laws he should check the laws that no minister, not even the president can sign a contract worth that amount. That is why we have rules”, Dr Akoto Osei told the Trade minister.
Mr Spio-Gabrah claimed Bankswitch had already been paid GH¢200 million but claimed certain people were still plotting to run the country by demanding an extra GH¢1billion, an amount that could easily be used to fund the building of schools, roads among others.
“This is totally unconscionable," he said, adding that the ministry devised means to stop this GH¢1 billion payment and said it was the reason the ministry decided to ask the DICs to help the government.
It means that the government will receive $175 million from the five DICs should they be able to afford the amount to settle GH¢ 197 million.
With current exchange rate of cedi to dollar at interbank rate as at Friday pegged at GH¢4.27, the NDC government will be raking in GH¢841million far in excess of the GH¢ 197 million judgement debt to Bankswitch.
Cancelation of Contract
Bankswitch’s contract with Ghana government was abrogated by the NDC administration under President John Evans Atta Mills with current President John Dramani Mahama sitting as a Vice President at Cabinet.
Bankswitch then dragged Ghana government to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands for unlawful termination of their contract and the court awarded damage in excess of GH¢197 million to the company.
Bankswitch in 2014 filed before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in The Hague, the Netherlands after the cancellation of a contract signed in 2007 to help government mobilize revenue at the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Bankswitch demanded the payment of GH¢853 million in damages for the cancellation.
According to the rules of court, each party to the case was to appoint an arbiter.
The two arbiters then appoint a third person as president of the Court to hear the case.
Sources said that Ghana refused to appoint its arbiter forcing the hand of the court to chose one for Ghana.
When a teleconference was set up at the Kofi Annan Center to enable Ghana call its witnesses, no government official showed up to question witnesses.
Before a judgment was delivered, government filed papers explaining the contract was cancelled because it did not have parliamentary approval.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected the explanation, ruling that a local law cannot be used to relieve Ghana of its international obligation.
Ghana was asked to pay in excess of 197million in judgment debt.