Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sack Hannah Tetteh

Some of us were very much relieved, indeed very much satisfied, when the Daily Graphic of Wednesday, May 6, 2009 reported that the Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) were to be probed.

And even more refreshing was the revelation that the National Security Secretariat itself would be in charge.

We were told that the probe, among other things, would aim at 'blocking every revenue leakage' (emphasis mine) as much as possible to ensure that Ghanaians do not suffer unduly from certain policies.

Concerns so far raised by CEPS officials and other stakeholders in the matter have been very genuine, patently valid, leaving some of us eternally confused by the sudden turn of events in the Import and Export horizon.

Why should the state invest so much in acquiring offices, gadgets and train personnel of CEPS to take over destination inspection duties only for the same state to turn round against its own policy? No, there has to be something more than meets the eye.

Even more intriguing and ominously grotesque was the fact that even before the agreement between the government and all DICs could expire in December 2008, a new company Ghana Customs Inspection Company had in June 2008 been formed with one of the operating DICs, the Ghana Link Network Services (GLNS). Interestingly, the new company is in the same building as the Ghana Link Network Services at East Legon, Accra.

An article written by Johnson Atakora under the above heading "destination inspection companies - the other side" which appeared in the Daily Graphic of May 20, 2009, was trying desperately to mislead the public, rather than exposing the intrigues and perfidy in the whole DIC matter. You see, some of us are opposed to the continued operation of the DICs for reasons more sensible than companies merely being local or foreign or fronts for foreign interest as alleged by the writer.

It is to do with the stark truth that the operations of the DICs are a huge financial loss to the state. It is tactically skewed to benefit only few selfish individuals who want to reap abundantly where they have even not sown. The other truth is that the same work can easily be and were being performed by CEPS Officials. Indeed, it was these same CEPS staff who were initially poached to resign or seconded to start the DICs without any fresh training. That's the irony and the perfidy.

The writer admits that the Ghana Link Network Services (GLNS) is only "one of the destination Inspection Companies operating in the country". But he still sees nothing wrong or "fishy about the arrangement", when without any official public notification announcement, tender or compliance with the procurement Act, only GLNS was "approached" by the 'President Special Initiative Division (PSI) of the Ministry of Trade and Industry to the exclusion of the other three DICs also in the system. Do these omissions, arguably intentional, not legally render the so-called agreement a nullity?

He also argued, rather senselessly, that GLNS was chosen for two reasons. That it was well equipped for the job. That it was the "only fully indigenous" DIC operating in the country. Obviously, these reasons are not only preposterous and untenable but deeply subjective.

Who says that being a fully indigenous company is a sine qua non in competitive biddings? And he unconsciously disclosed that GLNS had to undertake "a lot of expansion work" in view of the added volume of work. Then how was GLNS well equipped for the job as he claimed? Very contradictory indeed. As if the other three DICs were incapable of doing even bigger expansion works if they were similarly "approached" By the PSI with this juicy offer.

The writer also states that GLNS had already brought in one of the five speed boats for CEPS as stipulated in the agreement. You see, this may be true but it is equally true that the agreement is too juicy. A whopping 60 per cent ownership of the new company? We cried foul over Vodafone acquisition of 70 per cent of Ghana Telecom. And, frighteningly, the sole DIC in the country?

What is the cost of the five boats? In any case, one would have expected that since GLNS bought the boats and, significantly have 60 per cent ownership of the new company, they should operate the boats themselves. Why should CEPS risk the lives of its staff on the high seas when it has only 25 per cent stake in the business? In this age of piracy? Besides, is CEPS going to compete with the Navy on the high seas?

Even granting the perception that CEPS officials are corrupt, as advanced by another writer in the Daily Graphic, why not reverse the roles so that CEPS would do the Price Verification and issue the FCVRS report for the GLNS to carry on with the watchdog role of validating the FCVRs That makes a lot of sense and justification for the emergence of the new company. That way CEPS and for that matter the government should own not less than 95 per cent of the new company Yes, GLNS is a "fully indigenous" company and must therefore be allowed to fleece the economy. Is it the only indigenous company in the country? This is unreasonable. It is stealing. To say the least.

And it becomes even more frightening when it is realised that the DIC's have operated in the country for over eight years. And for the whole period they operated purely and exclusively as private companies solely pocketing huge profits.

So what is the US$30 million that the writer claims GLNS has allegedly invested in the new company? Do we really and sincerely need any such company? Definitely no. And just check on the name. The Ghana Customs Inspection Company seemingly couched to deceive the ordinary Ghanaian into thinking that it is a state institution. Ghana Customs indeed.

And the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Hannah Tetteh, also appears not to have helped matters by her actions and in-actions. She is perceived as someone with a profound interest in the matter, for whatever motive. She has consistently maintained the same pro-DIC stance anytime the matter rears up its ugly head. Yes, her consistence may be admired more than condemned. A woman of substance.

Like Madam Gladys Asmah and pair-trawling.

There has been no evidence that Gladys Asmah benefited from pair-trawling but her post election postures and abrasiveness, especially her threat to take the Mills's administration to court would appear, maybe erroneously, to show her as someone with a large financial muscle.

You see, even normal courts are expensive.

But it is even more expensive when the government is the defendant. It is becoming abundantly clear that political patties ignore national interest in favour of parochial party interest at their own peril. Pair-trawling, some say, affected the fortunes of the NPP during the last elections. Some of us thought that the PSI concept died with the previous administration. So what is Hannah Tetteh's stake in the present matter?

Mr Kofi Akordor in his column in the Daily Graphic of May 5, 2009, "from my rooftop" also captured this bizarre posture of the Minister when he wrote that "unfortunately, the posture of some top officials at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, including the new minister, is not encouraging'.

Again at a public forum held in Accra on April 22, 2009 at which Mr Africanus Owusu Ansah, Deputy Commissioner of CEPS, revealed that one of the DICs raked in US$1.2 million in just two months in 2009, Hannah Tetteh was reportedly not in the least amused.

The Daily Graphic reporter wrote thus, "Ms Hannah Tetteh, the Minister of Trade and Industries' remarks at the forum was not too clear on the agreement signed with Ghana Customs Inspection Company Ltd which assigns the responsibility of destination to that company. From what she said, CEPS may still not be in the position to execute its core function, thus justifying the existence of the DICs."

Another case of Hannah Tetteh's outbursts may be cited. When the panellists at a forum organised by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) in Accra recently asked for the government's financial support in its (NCCE) educational campaign against corruption, this same minister told the forum, rather impetuously, that the government was not generating enough internal revenue for the request even to be considered.

Meanwhile, one of the DICs had reportedly bagged US$I.2 million in just two months of January-February 2009. And she cannot claim not to be unaware.

The government must act decisively now.

Hannah Tetteh must be moved or sacked. The Trade and Industries Ministry is too sensitive to be entrusted into the hands of persons whose actions and intentions fall below public expectations. We cannot all be fooled all the time.

In the unlikely event that we accept this new worrisome and scary arrangement, then we would have no justifiable basis ever to prosecute anyone on a charge of causing financial loss to the state.

Author: Paapa Stevens
Source: Daily Graphic