The Judgement Debt Commission has implicated Chief Executive Officer of the defunct Ghana At 50 Secretariat, Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby, for acting illegally in the award of a 2.9 million cedis contract during the celebrations.
The beneficiary company, Margins Group Ltd, had supplied calendars to government agencies as part of Ghana’s 50th-anniversary celebration. Government did not pay for the contracts in full, leading to the award of a 4 million cedis judgement debt against the state.
A copy of the commission’s report intercepted by Joy News is recommending that government undertakes forensic investigations into what caused the loss.
According to the commission, when the company tendered its bid for the contract, it placed the cost of one million calendars at 920,000 cedis. That amount metamorphosed to a whopping 2.9 million cedis according to a contract invoice signed by both the Margins Group’s CEO and Dr. Wereko-Brobby.
The commission says the new specifications that increased the contract price was not subjected to competitive bidding. This means that the second contract, the terms of which more than doubled the consideration offered in the original one, was irregular as it violated the provisions of the Procurement Act.
“This Commission wants to point out that the new specifications that increased the contract price from GHc920, 000.00 to GHc2, 900,000.00 changed the contract into something else from the one which was subjected to competitive bidding within the meaning of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 [Act 663]. This means that the second contract, the terms of which more than doubled the consideration offered in the original one, was irregular as it violated the provisions of the Procurement Act, [Act 663],” the report said.
“The Secretariat cleverly avoided compliance with the Act, when it entered into a new contract with the company with completely different terms. This made the second contract illegal,” the commission said.
The report says the secretariat also verbally assigned a contract for the distribution of the calendars to a subsidiary of the company at a fee of 851, 215.65 cedis without any competitive bidding.
The secretariat did not pay the amounts as promised, leading to the court action which resulted in the judgment debt of 4, 009,401.62 cedis instead of the outstanding debt of 2 million and one cedis.
“Regrettably, however, the Secretariat could not make good its indebtedness to the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs as promised in various correspondences leading to the court action against the Secretariat almost two (2) years after the celebration. This resulted in the judgment debt of GHc4, 009,401.62 instead of the outstanding debt of GHc2, 001,215.65. Interest alone that the State was made to pay on this outstanding debt within a period of two (2) years was, therefore, GHc2, 008,185.97,” the report said quoting documents filed by the company and two of its subsidiaries, Margins Supplies Company Limited and GMP West Africa Limited in court.
The commission claims a letter by Dr. Wereko-Brobby to the Bankers of Margins Limited aided them to get the judgement debt they were awarded.
“Again, it was observed that the CEO of the 1st Plaintiff/Company in a letter to the CEO of the Secretariat Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby, requested the Secretariat to write to the company’s bankers; i.e. the National Investment Bank Ltd and the Amal Bank Ltd committing the Secretariat to the payment of any interest that would accrue to a loan the 1st Plaintiff Company had applied for to execute the contract that the Secretariat had awarded to it. The Secretariat acceded to this request by the 1st Plaintiff/Company,” the report said.
“These two developments, the Commission found, contributed to the huge amount the State had to pay finally to the 1st Plaintiff/Company when the matter went to court on the failure of the Secretariat to pay the debt on time. The Commission, therefore, needed some explanation from the 1st Plaintiff/Company and the CEO of the Secretariat on the two issues stated above,” it added.
According the report, Dr. Wereko-Brobby told the commission at the time the Kufuor-led administration was leaving office in January 2009, the Ministry of Finance had voted money for the settlement or payment of all debts owed by the Secretariat to its contractors so he did not understand why the Office of the President under Professor John Evans Atta-Mills did not utilize that amount for the intended purpose.
He, however, provided no evidence to support this assertion.
“The question is; if the Ministry of Finance at the time had money which it voted for the settlement or payment of all debts owed by the Secretariat to its contractors, why did they not utilise the money to pay the contractors before leaving office?” the commission quizzed.
The Commission also noted with concern why the Attorney General then did not consult officials of the previous administration when government was sued for judgement debt.
“When the various court actions resulting from activities of the Ghana @50 Secretariat resurrected, no attempt was made by the Attorney-General to invite either the CEO of the defunct Secretariat Dr. Charles Yves Wereko-Brobby or the Chairman of the National Planning Committee Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani for any assistance whatsoever. This position prevailed even when attempts to obtain information from the office of the incoming Chief of Staff Mr. Martey-Newman failed or proved futile,” the report said.
“The Contractors or Plaintiffs who had taken the State to court, therefore, had a field day since there was nothing substantial to support any defence whatsoever by the A-G to the claims being made. All these boil down to lack of proper record-keeping by MDA’s and other governmental institutions of information very vital to proper functioning of government and the carefree attitude of some public officials in the handling of important matters of the State,” it added.