By Maxwell Ofori
The Majority in Parliament has hit back at the Minority on the alleged inflation in the price of a property at Oslo, Norway, for a Chancery and Residence, indicating that the latter deceived Ghanaians with the information it brought out.
According to the Majority, the property, which the Ministry had in mind for the Chancery, was a 15-bedroom edifice at a very good area in Oslo for $12 million, a price quoted by the seller.
And there was a second property the Ministry hoped to acquire to be the Ambassador’s residence, which is a six-bedroom facility, with a $2.5 million price tag.
Worthy of note, the Majority reiterated what the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, had said earlier, that Ghana had not signed any contract to purchase the said property, neither had it made any payment in that regard.
The Minority, on Monday, December 17, 2018, revealed that Ghana, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, had bought a 100-year old six-bedroom at $12 millon.
The Minority claimed the cost had been ballooned by over $8 million, as the last buyer of the property got it at $3.5 million.
The Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, cited, whilst addressing journalists at Parliament House, that there had been some acts of corruption and illegalities in the process to buying the property in the name of the government.
However, at a news conference yesterday, December 20, 2018, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Frank Annor-Dompreh, expressed disappointment in his ranking member referring to some of the charges as illegal.
According to him, there is a body called Global Property Guide, which, in its 2018 report, indicated some charges to be paid when buying property at the international level.
Even the document the Minority presented quoted that a buyer would have to pay 2.5% of the building cost as sales tax, and another 2.5% as agency fee, among others.
“You can check [to see] that these charges are not illegal. They are indeed permissible, and they are within law,” Annor-Dompreh stated, adding, “The Office of the Member of Parliament is not cheap, but our brother (Okudzeto Ablakwa), day in day out, is making this office look cheap, and is a source of worry to some of us.”
Citing an example on properties the Ministry had already bought, the Chairman noted that one was bought in Canada, saying that it went through all the necessary processes.
He said KPMG, Architectural, Engineering Services Limited (AESL), and the Ghana Institute of Architects did the preliminary checks before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Ministry of Finance for payment.
He added that knowing very well the procurement laws, “You don’t just get up and buy. How could we have bought a property in Norway without going through the procurement process? So, again, that’s another falsehood being peddled by the Ranking Member. We don’t know what he is seeking to achieve.”
The Minority brought papers claiming they were the contract document to the facility, but, the Chairman, in his address, indicated that the said document was an offer.
He noted that the offer had not been accepted, so it could not have been a binding agreement; “This is what you teach any first-year law student; offer and acceptance. So, there’s no contract existing…You don’t need to be a lawyer to know this,” the Chairman asserted.
Mr Annor-Dompreh, who is the member of Parliament (MP) for Nsawam-Adoagyiri constituency, who said the Ranking Member showed bad faith in that regard, also said, Okudzeto Ablakwa, “Whom we have cooperated with is becoming a nuisance in the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana. And it is high time he is told in his face that we mean business; we have work to do…”
Expect more nuisance – Okudzeto fights back
Confident and unperturbed Ablakwa, indicating that many leading members in the ruling party had commended his actions, told journalists after the press conference by the Majority: “If exposing corruption, carrying out my oversight responsibilities, being vigilant, makes me a nuisance, then they (NPP) should prepare for more nuisance. But it is not for him (Annor-Dompreh) to decide who should be here, who he can work with, which other MP should be elected here and all of that; he should get off his high horse.”
He believed that all the information he put out had been confirmed, saying he expected the ruling party to concede, apologise to the people of Ghana, and commend the Minority for being vigilant.