It's Friday, friends, and we have one heck of a week to wrap up.
On Monday morning, the whole nation was talking about the demolition of homes in Old Fadamah, the area known to many as Sodom and Gomorrah. The stories started pouring in about riots on the streets of Accra, as hundreds of displaced persons wreaked havoc across Ghana's capital city. They claimed the AMA hadn't given them notice of the demolition. The AMA on the other hand, said they had the legal backing for the action, and had definitely given notice – about thirteen years' notice. The battle raged on in the streets with journalists running for their lives alongside police officers running to their cars.
On Tuesday, we asked a few questions about the demolition exercise. What was the plan? Where were all these people supposed to go once their community was demolished? Did nobody anticipate there might be lawlessness and rioting once tens of thousands of people became instantly homeless? Did it not occur to anybody that we would be creating refugees in our own country?
We also talked about the latest head-scratcher coming out of government. An intercepted letter from the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Ekwow Spio Garbah, to a group of Destination Inspection Companies described a rather unusual proposal. These companies were being invited to express interest in a deal where they would advance government the amount of 35 million dollars, which government would use to go pay off a judgement debt they had incurred against a company called Bankswitch.
In exchange for this 35 million dollars, government would pay these DICs a percentage of the Free on Board value of all Ghana's imports over a period of 5 years. This came up to about one billion cedis. So basically, these companies were paying less than 200 million cedis in exchange for 1 billion over 5 years. All so we could pay off a judgment to a company called Bankswitch.
So who is Bankswitch, and how did we come to owe them almost 200 million cedis? Simple really. In 2007, the NPP government signed a contract with a company called Bankswitch to provide Customs with the IT solutions it needed to perform valuations on all imports. Dr Akoto Osei, then a Minister of State, supervised the deal. He says he does not know where the company came from, but he remembers that the Revenue Agencies Governing Board (later Ghana Revenue Authority) tested them and found them competent. So much so that he approved that the Government of Ghana pay them GHC600,000 every month just to keep them from going under, even though they were yet to sign a contract with us. Bear in mind that back then, GHC600, 000 was equal to 600,000 dollars. Every month.
But the sweetest part of the Bankswitch deal was that it was never taken through parliament. This week, I asked Dr Akoto Osei why this wasn't done even though the constitution clearly demands it. His answer: it didn't come up. Hm. Only in Ghana do we wait for the law to come up before we obey it.
Anyway, Bankswitch continued to enjoy their unconstitutional contract with the Government of Ghana, until the government changed in 2009. The new President, Prof. Atta-Mills was extremely concerned about revenue leakages at the ports, so he sought to review the Bankswitch arrangement and ensure that the valuation problem was solved. Somewhere in the process of this, the then Minister of Trade and Industry cancelled the Bankswitch deal. This is strange because the deal was signed by the Finance Ministry, which is the relevant ministry when it comes to matters of valuation, so it is not clear why the Trade Minister felt they had the authority to cancel the deal.
So, Bankswitch sued the Government of Ghana and we lost to the tune of almost 200 million cedis. This is the debt that the current Trade Minister, Dr Spio Garbah says he is attempting to pay by being creative and raising GHC200 million at the cost of GHC1 billion. But here's the thing: the Finance Ministry have been paying off the Bankswitch debt. They have paid a couple of tranches already. Most importantly, they are currently negotiating a deal with Bankswitch which is expected to cost us the same GHC1 billion over 5 years. So in the end, we might end up spending GHC2 billion, instead of saving one billion, or, worse still, one of the parties we're offering billions to, might sue us again, and win.
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Also this week, we talked about the floundering cedi. That was a rather depressing conversation, if you ask me, because not only did we not see any light at the end of the tunnel, but Ghana's importers announced that from now on, every time the cedi goes down, the importers will increase the prices of everything they bring to this country. Now, if that doesn't depress you, then I'd like some of what you're overdosing on.
The other huge story this week was all about Asamoah Gyan and the mysterious girl who alleges he sodomized her, made her pregnant, and then denied the baby. Well, I don't know about you, but I'd also think twice before accepting a baby conceived by a woman with whom I had anal sex. Anyway, she also says she has video footage of the Black Stars captain parking his Baby Jet in her rear hangar, so we'll keep an eye on this story and let you know whatever we can learn about Asamoah Gyan, his filmmaking friend and their backdoor baby.
Today, we have a really good show for you, it includes a special debate between Nhyira and I, with a little help from two of our celebrity friends on lavish weddings. The Motion is Go Large or Go Home, and I can't wait to find out which side you're on. Stay with us for that and so much more this morning.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and it's been a week of Demolition Demonstrations, Bankswitch Brainteasers, Depreciation Depression and Baby Jet Babies.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!