Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Friday, July 03, 2015
Minister of Communications Edward Omane Boamah says his colleague Trade and Industry Minister Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah should not be hanged by the public over the controversial Bankswitch saga.
According to Dr Omane Boamah, the trade minister was only exploring ways and means to get the judgement debt to Bankswitch settled without the IT firm shortchanging Ghana in the process and added that he did not see how Dr. Spio-Garbrah could have erred.
The Communications Minister said on Metro TV last week that “the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) is saying that government has not taken a decision on how to explore to pay the debt and Dr. Spio-Garbrah was only operationalizing one of the ways to derive the money.”
“When it comes to the Bankswitch issue and the resolution, let me state that a team comprising the MOFEP, and the Attorney General worked on settling the judgement debt brought some positions to cabinet and cabinet rejected that mode of settling.
He said the mode included “the payment of the $4 million plus which has already been done and then the new payment which will also include a contract,” adding “cabinet rejected that outright and said we should avoid the hazard of rewarding when a contract had been terminated, judgement debt had arisen that had been settled and then you go ahead and award the contract.”
Dr. Omane Boamah said “cabinet said ways should be looked at settling the debt. So if you read the position of the MOFEP and that of Dr. Spio-Garbrah and you don’t have this information it will sound contradictory.
He corroborated Dr. Spio-Garbrah’s position that the Trade Ministry forwarded the new payment plan to the AG and MOFEP and said “if they find it appropriate it will be done,” adding “government rejected the position that we should reward Bankswitch with another contract.”
Letter to DICs
In recent times, Dr. Spio-Garbrah has hit the news for writing to five DICs to pay $35 million each to settle the GH¢197 judgement debt to Bankswitch in exchange for contracts at the ports, a move which appears to have ruffled the feathers of the minister’s political opponents.
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 around GH¢4, the NDC government will be raking in about GH¢840million far in excess of the GH¢ 197 million judgement debt to Bankswitch.
The letter signed on Wednesday June 3, 2015 asked the DICs with the capacity to contribute $35 million each towards repaying the judgement debt to assist government.
“To pay this debt, government of Ghana is informing all destination inspection companies that any of them who can advance government of Ghana an amount of 35 million dollars would be awarded a contract of 0.35 per cent of free on board values on all Ghana’s imports for at least a period of five years to enable that company recover its investments,” it said.
The DICs were given until midday of June 8, 2015 to respond with an expression of interest.
Spio breaks silience
Dr Spio-Garbrah confirmed on radio last week that the contract was awarded by the Kufuor government on 2007 and abrogated by the Mills administration and that brought the debt.
He said details of how the deal with the DICs would work was before the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General and insisted that he was not acting alone.
“On details of how many years or how much money the DICs are going to make; we are not there yet. We have not signed any contract yet. At this stage it is only an expression of interest.”
He said that the government had started paying the debt to Bankswitch but when the IT firm wanted to renegotiate the deal that could make them receive a whooping GH¢1 billion spread in five years from the state, his ministry decided to intervene.
When asked whether the DICs move was not in contravention of the procurement laws, the minister said he had not broken any law, saying “it is for the avoidance of paying GH¢1 billion that we are engaging the DICs.”
“I have done my part. I have forwarded everything to the Ministry of Finance and the AG to determine whether we should proceed with the deal.
"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 the debt had been caused by ‘evil politicians.’