By Ivy Benson
The two former government officials standing trial for their involvement in the importation of 15, 000 metric tonnes of rice from India into the country have filed a submission of no case before an Accra Financial Court.
The accused persons, Akwasi Osei-Adjei, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Daniel Charles Gyimah, former Managing Director (MD) for National Investment Bank (NIB) filed their submissions after the prosecution ended its case before the court, presided over by Justice Bright Mensah.
However, the prosecution from the Attorney-General’s Department is expected to respond to the issues raised by the defence, as the court adjourned hearing to January 26, 2011.
Akwasi Osei-Adjei is standing trial together with Daniel Charles Gyimah for causing financial loss to the state for their involvement in importing 15, 000 metric tonnes of rice from India into the country.
The accused persons are facing criminal charges for contravening the Public Procurement Act, and in the process, causing financial loss of US$1,408,590 (GH¢1,524,952) to the state, in the various roles they played in the importation of some 15,000 metric tonnes (300,000 bags) of rice for the Government of Ghana in 2008, from India.
They are facing eight counts of conspiracy, contravening provisions of the Public Procurement Act, using public office for profit, stealing and willfully causing financial loss to the state, and have pleaded not guilty to all the charges leveled against them, and they have each been admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢200,000, with two sureties to be justified.
Additionally, the accused persons were to deposit the title deeds of immovable properties, valued at GH¢1 million, at the court’s registry.
It is the case of the prosecution that somewhere in February 2008, the former Minister of Trade and Industry, Joe Baidoo Ansah, initiated the importation of rice from India.
According to the State Prosecutor, a letter dated February 13, 2008, indicated that the former Trade Minister requested the Indian government, through its High Commission in Ghana, to buy 100,000 metric tonnes of (25%-35%) broken rice, with the consignee being the Ghana National Procurement Agency (GNPA).
The arrival of the rice into the country was scheduled for May 2008, “to help curb the severe increase of price of staples in Ghana.”
Mr. Gyambiby further pointed out that in another letter dated April 10, 2008, and addressed to the Minister of External Affairs of India, Mr. Joe Baidoo Ansah referred to an earlier meeting held between former President Kufuor and the Minister of Commerce of India, and drew attention to the “severe food situation looming in Ghana,” and sought to procure from the Indian Government 300,000 metric tonnes of low grade white 25% broken rice for shipment to Ghana, by June 2008.
In April 2008, Mr. Akwasi Osei Adjei took over the effort by Joe Baidoo Ansah, and nominated the NIB as the sole consignee, prosecution indicated, with Mr. Daniel Charles Gyimah, representing the NIB, and negotiated the terms of the contract with the State Trading Corporation of India, through the Ghana High Commission in India.
“The Commissioner was instructed by the 1st accused to sign the contract on behalf of the Government of Ghana, represented by first accused, the High Commissioner and 2nd accused (MD) NIB,” prosecution stated.
The state prosecution noted that on arrival of the rice, efforts by the NIB to get import tax exemption from Ministry of Finance to clear the rice were turned down, owing to the commercial nature of the contract, since the Ministry of Finance was not involved in the transaction.
The rice, according to the prosecution, has since been in the CEPS bonded warehouse, with a physical count of the consignment, revealing a shortage of 2,997 bags. The remaining quantity of rice was in a varying state of wholesomeness, as the NIB was making efforts to sell them through the tender process, the court was told.
The state prosecution further contended that the transaction was that of a public procurement, and investigations conducted into the importation of the rice by the BNI, revealed that the provisions of the Public Procurement Act were not followed.
Additionally, the prosecution noted that the investigations also revealed that about 2,997 bags of rice short-landed were diverted for sale elsewhere, for huge private profit.