‘Cash for Seat’ saga: Ashim Morton forged evidence – Minority report

The Millennium Excellence Foundation (MEF), organisers of the 2017 Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, presented doctored documents to the five-member bipartisan committee, according to the Minority side of the committee.

This assertion was contained in a report prepared by the Minority members on the committee, Dr. Dominic Ayine and James Klutse Avedzi.

The Committee was tasked by Parliament to investigate the alleged extortion of expatriates to allow them to sit close to President Akufo-Addo during the Awards ceremony in December 2017.

The report, which has been sighted by Citi News, also said the Foundation selected companies which did not meet laid-down criteria for the awards.

The Minority side of the Committee added that the Millennium Excellence Foundation went as far as forging documents to deceive the Committee when it appeared before it.

“The MEF engaged in deceitful practices in the process of the organization of the awards event by selecting companies for awards even when the companies had not submitted information meeting the designed criteria and also forged documents meant to deceive the Committee and Parliament as a whole,” they said in their report.

They Minority members also argued that the MEF had intended to use the presence of President Nana Akufo-Addo at their event to raise funds from the outset, despite the Foundation’s suggestions that his appearance at the ceremony was a last-minute addition.

According to them, the Foundation also forged documents to cover up this fact.

“Notwithstanding denials to the contrary, there is evidence on record to the effect that, in its initial conception, the event had the President of the Republic as the center of attraction and that payment for seats bore a direct relationship to the distance of the payor’s seat from the presidential high table. Furthermore, the evidence shows clearly that Mr. Ashim Morton forged documents in a desperate attempt to cover up this blatant fact,” the Minority’s report stated.

Why does Minority have a separate report?

The ad-hoc Committee officially presented its findings to Parliament yesterday [Friday].

However, this process has, however, not gone without controversy after complaints from a member of the Committee, Dr. Dominic Ayine that the report which was presented to the House did not include the final input from the Minority members.

The Majority Leader in Parliament, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu had said on Thursday that laying of the report had been postponed several times because Dr Dominic Ayine had wanted to present a separate reportcapturing the Minority’s conclusions on the matter.

He told Citi News’ Duke Opoku Mensah that members of the Committee had all agreed to conclude the report on Wednesday, and present it yesterday [Thursday], but Dr. Ayine did not show up at the hotel where the meeting was supposed to take place, despite several assurances from him.

Mensah Bonsu said the committee members had planned to meet on Wednesday at 3 o’clock in the afternoon to put everything in order to be able to submit the report on Thursday.

“One of them was absent, Dr. Dominic Ayine unfortunately, for whatever reason couldn’t go. They called him and he said he will be there at 5:00pm but he couldn’t go. They called him and he said they should give him two hours more which was 7:00pm. 7:00pm they called him, his phones were off. It was not until 12 midnight that he sent words to them to respond to their earlier calls.”

Mensah Bonsu said he was however taken aback when the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, informed him on Thursday that Dr. Ayine decided to present a supposed Minority report on the investigations by the Committee.

Mensah Bonsu who is also the MP for Suame, however, urged the committee members to resolve their differences in order for the report to be presented today.

Dominic Ayine denied these assertions stating that the Chairman of the Committee, had refused to include the ‘Minority report’ he had prepared for inclusion in the final document to be presented to Parliament

Background of “cash for seat” saga

The Ministry of Trade, which partnered the event organizers, Millennium Excellence Foundation, is alleged to have charged between $25,000 and $100,000, to enable expatriates to sit close to the President at the awards ceremony.

The allegation was first made by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak in Parliament in December 2017.

Mr. Mubarak said the fees charged at the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards were not approved by Parliament, adding that the monies were also not accounted for in the Internally Generated Funds [IGF] of the Ministry’s accounts.

The allegation was further reinforced by Mr. Ablakwa, who suffered verbal assaults from Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah over the matter.

The Ministry of Trade said it played no role in determining prices for seats at the event, and clarified that it only facilitated the implementation of a new initiative by the Millennium Excellence Foundation.

But the Ministry, after an order from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to the Trade Minister Alan Kyerematen to probe the matter, clarified that an amount of GHc2, 667,215 was realized from the event.

The organizers of the Awards had also explained that no one paid to sit close to the President, and that the amount was raised from sponsorship through a fundraising at the event.

Parliament subsequently formed a five-member bi-partisan committee to investigate the matter.

The Committee held several public hearings and a few in-camera sessions that featured all parties named in the allegation, and those who made the allegation.

The committee was supposed to present its report on January 24, 2018 but was subsequently given a one-week extension which was supposed to have elapsed on Wednesday January 31, 2018, but failed to do so.

Find below their conclusions

In light of the evidence adduced before the Committee, we are convinced that:

  1. In the overall circumstances surrounding the organization of the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, whilst the proponent of the motion could not justify his use of the word “levy” from a legal-technical point of view, it cannot be denied that, from the evidence on record, the Ministry of Trade and Industry played a pre-eminent role in the determination of the amounts ‘solicited’ by the MEF. In short, the manner in which the sponsorship package was designed and executed conforms to Honourable Muhammed-Muntaka Mubarak’s conception of a levy as “money that you have to pay.” The pre-determined sums of money were paid with the backing of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the agency with oversight responsibility for the business sector of the economy;
  2. Notwithstanding denials to the contrary, there is evidence on record to the effect that, in its initial conception, the event had the President of the Republic as the center of attraction and that payment for seats bore a direct relationship to the distance of the payor’s seat from the presidential high table. Furthermore, the evidence shows clearly that Mr. Ashim Morton forged documents in a desperate attempt to cover up this blatant fact;
  3. The Ministry of Trade and Industry contravened existing law on public financial management, particularly the Financial Administration Regulations, by allowing the use of an existing account for the receipt of monies that it claimed were private funds;
  4. The Ministry of Trade and Industry engaged in serious ethical violations by allowing its credibility as a public agency to be used to amass profit for a private non-profit organization which it cannot hold to public standards of accountability as well as by using the name of the President of the Republic as a means to make such profit;
  5. The MEF engaged in deceitful practices in the process of the organization of the awards event by selecting companies for awards even when the companies had not submitted information meeting the designed criteria and also forged documents meant to deceive the Committee and Parliament as a whole; and
  6. The Ministry of Trade and Industry failed or neglected to take account of possible violations of foreign corrupt practice laws and regulations in the conception, design and organization of the expatriate business awards.

 

Source: Citifmonline

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