Exactly five years ago, in February 2013, Joy News broke the story about the massive looting of state resources through the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA). I was the journalist on that beat.
Between 2009 and 2012, when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government took over GYEEDA, nearly ONE BILLION GHANA CEDIS was spent by the state on GYEEDA. About 80% of that money was looted through PPP – public-private plundering. Never mind they call it a partnership. It’s a partnership to plunder! They looted through senseless and unconscionable contracts with.
To be fair to the NDC government, these senseless contracts began with the John Agyekum Kufuor regime. For instance, immediately the NYEP began in 2006, the government signed a nationwide contract with a waste management firm, which could only boast of a few man-powered Chinese tricycles. That company is Zoomlion Ghana Limited. The government, through the NYEP, employed thousands of sweepers across the country and handed them to Zoomlion to manage. According to the terms of the contract, GHS350 was to be allocated to each of the sweepers, and it was to be shared between the workers and Zoomlion. Each worker was to receive GHS 50 (14.2%) a month while Zoomlion pocketed GHS 300 (85.8%) as management fees per worker per month.
When the NDC took office in 2009, it also introduced its own business affiliates such as the RLG and its AGAMS Group and the Zeera Group. Then smaller companies such as Philip Assibit’s Goodwill International Group also got their share.
After the Joy News investigations in 2013, the government set up a committee to probe further. The committee presented its report to the President in July 2013. Powerful businesses and political figures were involved. The President had to make a tough decision.
In 2013, I wrote an article in which I likened the GYEEDA scandal to a tsetse fly on the scrotum of the President. If he failed to act, that insect would continue to draw blood from where it hurt him most. If he acted without caution, he would crush the delicate balls of production. That’s why our elders warned us that it takes a lot of caution to kill the tsetse fly that perches on the scrotum.
In November 2013, the President, through a letter written by his secretary, Dr. Raymond Atuguba, ordered the cancellation of all GYEEDA modules that did not pass the value for money test by December 31st, 2013. He directed the Attorney-General to liaise with the Police and EOCO to investigate and punish possible wrongdoers.
All the GYEEDA contracts were cancelled, except the Zoomlion contract, which turned out to the worst of all the contracts. The management fees had shot up to 500 cedis, with Zoomlion taking 400 cedis (80%) as management fees and the workers taking 100 cedis (20%) as monthly payments. They have no health insurance, transportation allowance or any other benefit. In 2017, I met a man in Kumasi who had been sweeping since 2006 and still went home with 100 cedis a month. He has no pension benefit. Our investigation revealed that Zoomlion was not providing the things it claimed to be using the management fees for. In Damongo in the Northern Region, World Vision had to intervene to provide equipment for the sweepers because they were collecting the rubbish with their bare hands.
The Government then took some actions; a bill was laid in parliament and an Act subsequently passed in 2015.
The government, after a lot of pressure, retrieved about GHS60 million from the AGAMS Group of Companies, which was interest-free loans given to the company.
The government also charged then CEO of the GYEEDA, Abuga Pele and Philip Akpeena Assibit of the Goodwill International Group for among others causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GHS3.3 million.
On Friday 23, the Commercial Division of Accra High Court found the two guilty and jailed them. Abuga Pele got 6 years while Mr. Assibit got 12 years.
As an investigative journalist whose work on GYEEDA resulted in the passage of a law, the cancellation of fraudulent contracts, the retrieval of over 60 million cedis and the jailing of two of the perpetrators, I ought to be happy with Friday’s news. But I was not. I am not. And can never be until the real justice is done in the GYEEDA matter. The state will retrieve at least GHS 500,000,000 (FIVE HUNDRED MILLION GHANA CEDIS) if a serious audit is done. Fortunately, the moneys are still being paid while some are in arrears.
In fact, jailing only Abuga Pele and Phillip Assibit, has filled my heart with anguish. I don’t see it as justice. It is selective justice. The least offenders were prosecuted while the worst offenders are free. This, in my view, is unjust. These are my reasons:
As I stated earlier, Abuga Pele was accused of aiding Philip Assibit to receive payments of money he did not work for. The total amount was 3.3 million cedis. This was captured on pages 125 and 126 of the GYEEDA committee’s report.
On Page 118 of that same report, the committee made adverse findings against RLG. The company had signed an MOU with the Youth and Sports Ministry (under which GYEEDA was) to train 15,000 youth in ICT at a cost of 25.5 million cedis. The training was to take place in 2013. In 2014, the company was to train another 15,000 at the cost of another 25.5 million cedis. The contract was signed in July 2012. In November 2012, the government paid the company all the 25.5 million cedis.
Note that government contractors often work, raise certificates and get paid. In this case, it was paid the full amount before the first person was recruited for training.
When the GYEEDA Committee was concluding the report, the company claimed it had trained 4,222 people. GYEEDA could not verify these figures. Granted that the figures were correct, the committee said that work was worth GHS 5,277,500. This means RLG had pocketed GHS 20.22 million it did not deserve it based on this contract alone.
Nobody has taken any steps to retrieve this money. The minister of state who signed the contract and facilitated the payment of the full amount without providing the youth to be trained is free. His name is Clement Kofi Humado. If Abuga Pele is jailed for causing us to lose 3.3 million cedis, Clement Kofi Humado, has to be asked why he made us lose 20.2 million cedis. If RLG and its managers cannot be jailed, at least, the nation should get the money back with interest.
On page 131 of the report that got Abuga Pele and Philip Assibit in jail, the Committee made adverse findings on Zoomlion’s contract. This is what the committee said:
“A schedule provided by Zoomlion to support the number of management fees raises serious value for money issues. We have analyzed below a few of the cost lines within the schedule to reveal the significant windfall profits that Zoomlion is making. In the schedule that Zoomlion provided, Zoomlion suggests that at a management fee rate of GHS400, it is making a loss of circa GHS18 per beneficiary. Aside being illogical, this claim is also inaccurate and deceptive.
“By Zoomlion’s own admission, the cost of a fully fitted tricycle is GHS1,200 and they are replaced every two years. The total number of tricycles in circulation is less than 10,000 (about 6,000). Even assuming 10,000 tricycles, Zoomlion requires only GHS12m every two years to replace them but charges the MOYS GHS37.5m an excess of over GHS25.5m”
“By Zoomlion’s own admission, the tricycles are robust and hardly breakdown yet MOYS pays GHS22.82m over the term of the contract to repair them. The cost of repair is almost double the cost of purchase. This is inappropriate.”
“Zoomlion suggests that it buys motorbikes for its supervisors (numbering about 600) and replaces them every two years. Zoomlion suggests that the cost of a motorbike is circa GHS1500, meaning that Zoomlion requires GHS900K to replace them every two years. MOYS, however, pays GHS49.64 over the two years period for motorbikes. This is an overcharge of circa GHS48.7m.”
Zoomlion’s contract has been running since 2011 with these overcharges to the state. If an audit is conducted, we should get not less that GHS 400 million as a balance.
If Joseph Siaw Agyepong of Zoomlion is too powerful to be jailed, should Ghanaians not be worried about these huge sums of monies that have been “undeservedly” paid to Zoomlion since 2011 to date? And why has anybody not questioned Clement Kofi Humado, the Youth and Sports Minister who presided over these contracts?
One of the most outrageous contracts was the Better Ghana Management Contract with GYEEDA. GYEEDA claimed it had problems paying its beneficiaries under the Health Extension, Education and paid Internship Modules so it contracted this company, a subsidiary of Joseph Siaw Agyepong’s Jospong Group to manage the payment.
Almost all GYEEDA Management members resisted this contract. Minutes of a management meeting held on December 21, 2011, quoted the National Coordinator of GYEEDA, Abuga Pele as saying: “I must point out though that I am not in favour of outsourcing our payroll but since it is a decision of the ministry, we have to comply.”
The former MP for Nanton Constituency, and former Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Hon. Murtala Mohammed, who was a deputy coordinator of GYEEDA, was mad about the contract:
“I will personally not accept this decision and I’m going public to oppose it,” he said. “Are we saying we lack the competence to manage this programme? And what is the guarantee that Better Ghana Management Service (BGMSL) can handle the programme better than us? I want it to be on record that I, Murtala Mohammed, vehemently oppose this decision and I am prepared to debate it everywhere.”
The reason for their resistance was simple: the contract was a senseless one. The state was going to lose so much money and the future of GYEEDA modules the company was to manage was under threat.
In fact, when I finished reading that contract, my reaction was, “Not even a mad man would sign this contract.”
But Clement Kofi Humado went ahead and signed the contract. And he has no folder at the psychiatric hospital. Each month the state paid management fees of over GHc10 million to Better Ghana Management Services Limited. In the 24 months that the contract lasted, the state lost over GHc 240 million.
That was not all. Less than a year into the contract, all the 10 Regional Directors of GYEEDA jointly wrote a letter to Humado asking him to cancel the contract because it had made the management of the modules worse than before.
Humado refused to cancel it. Abuga Pele also wrote in his handing over notes that the contract be cancelled for similar reasons, saying if company would be retained at all, it should be given only one module. Humado did not mind him.
Finally, the GYEEDA modules crushed. The beneficiaries were asked to go home. The state was burdened with debt. But Humado is free. He was rather a witness against Abuga Pele in the 3.3 million cedis case.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo should not abandon GYEEDA. He should start where President Mahama left off. The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo should be interested in this case. The Special Prosecutor, Martin A.B.K Amidu, should be interested in this rot, which is more gargantuan than Woyome’s GHS51 million.
Until that is done, hauling Abuga Pele and Philip Assibit into jail will forever remain selective justice. And that is an injustice to the conscience of the state.