Anti-corruption campaigner and a former Executive Director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Vitus Azeem, has proffered that the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAG) should launch investigations into the alleged extortion of monies from expatriate business owners in Ghana by some officials at the Presidency.
His comments follow a leaked document that suggested that business owners were charged as much as $100,000 to sit close to the president at the recently held Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA), a claim the Trade ministry has dispelled and has tagged “baseless allegations flying in the media.”
The Minority has, however, vowed to pursue what it describes as a day light robbery of the expatriate business community. Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka made a statement alleging expat business owners were charged to sit close to the president at the event.
Moreover, Ranking Member of Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa issued a long statement described the act as shameful and has demanded for a refund of all such monies collected.
In an interview with News Wire on Monday, Vitus Azeem said for the issue to be traeted as serious, those alleging should petition CHRAJ.
“Talking of how to address it, I think CHRAJ should be looking into it if someone has made a complaint that this is what is happening. The politicians if they want to pursue this, they should gather their evidence and make a formal complaint. That will enable CHRAJ to investigate it on a more serious way,” he said.
The Trade ministry has debunked the extortion claims and has said it was not responsible for the supposed charges that expatriate businesses paid during the recently held Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA) in Accra.
Below is a statement from the ministry on the issue.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE BASELESS ACCUSATIONS RELATING TO THE GHANA EXPATRIATE BUSINESS AWARDS (GEBA) 2017
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has learnt with disdain the baseless allegations flying in the media (including social media platforms) that the Ministry charged expatriates between 25,000 and 100,000 dollars to offer them seats close to the President at the recently held Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA).
The GEBA was the brainchild of the Millennium Excellence Foundation, an entity noted for its prowess and credibility in the organisation of world class events such as the Millennium Excellence Awards and the Accra Marathon.
Upon the conception of the novel idea, the Foundation informed the government, through the Presidency and further sought partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry in the organisation of the first ever award event targeted at recognizing and rewarding the contributions of the expatriate and naturalised expatriate community to the socio-economic advancement of the country over the decades. For the avoidance of doubt, this is the first of its kind in Africa.
As a Government that believes in the private sector as the engine of growth, the Government through the Ministry of Trade and Industry welcomed the initiative to collaborate with the Foundation to see to the birthing of the initiative.
The Ministry consequently signed an MoU with the Foundation that spelt out the roles of both parties. Resource mobilisation to ensure that the event was organised at no cost to the taxpayer was the sole responsibility of the Foundation.
As a serious and experienced event organiser, the Foundation came up with a sponsorship programme as would be done by any serious-minded event organiser which included series of fundraising dinners and sponsorship packages.
Non-mischievous minds with a basic knowledge of event organisation will know that as is the case with all fundraising activities, there are different sponsorship categories and packages with their attendant benefits.
As to how one chooses to categorise them (whether presidential circle or platinum down to the least package) is only a matter of semantics, nomenclature and ingenuity.
It is very worrying for people who are expected to know better (especially if some happen to be leading members of the august House of Parliament) to conveniently join the streets wagon in pursuit of petty partisan parochial interests to churn out deliberate falsehood to perpetuate the fallacy that access to the President has to be secured with financial inducements
The two documents being paraded in the social media and some other platforms, that is the Ministry of Trade letter and the Millennium Excellence Foundation Package have nothing in common as they were not presented to sponsors at the same time.
The Ministry only wrote letters to introduce the Millennium Excellence Foundation to sponsors and solicited support whilst the Foundation prepared the sponsorship package kits and presented it to potential sponsors at a later date.
Without any show of disrespect or attempt to tag individuals and organisations as not being corporate responsible, on the so-called “for sale Presidential Table “ were the Award winning MD of Tigo/Airtel (Roshi Motman), Amar Hari (IPMC), Salem Kalmoni (Japan Motors), Ashok Mohinani (Polygroup), H.E. Jerry John Rawlings, Hon Alan Kyerematen, Amb. James Victor Gbeho, Hon Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah, Mr. Yofi Grant of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and Amb. Ashim Morton who did not pay a pesewa to be seated on the “for the highest bidder Presidential Table”.
People who know or ought to know better should desist from mischief and propaganda and rather learn to commend individuals and institutions that come up with initiatives such as the GEBA that has the capacity to boost the country’s FDIs.
It is gratifying to us as partners that all the wild and unsubstantiated falsehoods has not included anything to the effect that any company that won an award did so by virtue of its ability to pay – a testament to the commendable work of the event validators, the reputable KPMG.
A technical team defined the criteria for evaluating the award categories. This technical team consisted of personnel from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, the Ghana Export Promotion Authority, the Registrar General’s Department, the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Private Enterprises Federation, the Ghana Free Zones Board and the Millennium Excellence Foundation.
KPMG acted as an independent party to evaluate, analyse and validate the data to determine the winners. Their role as Event Statisticians required them to ensure that the defined criteria and process for determining the winners were strictly adhered to. KPMG concluded that the award winners won on the basis of the criteria and process defined by the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards Technical Team.
The GEBA has come to stay as an event to be held every other year to appreciate the contributions of the expatriate and naturalised expatriate community to the growth of the country. An investigative report by a competent security agency of the country has put to rest the spurious allegations that one has to pay his or her way to have access to the Presidency. Let no one attempt to resurrect a dead issue through GEBA.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry as one of the major drivers of the industrial transformation agenda of government will continue to endorse and support worthy initiatives as GEBA that is championed by proven credible individuals or organisations to help accelerate socio-economic advancement of Ghana