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John Mahama Gov’t Blows $5m On USA PR Firm

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Policy think tank, IMANI, has blown the lid on an alleged secret deal between the John Mahama administration and American lobbyist firm Jefferson Waterman International LLC (JWI), to project a positive image of the country to the United States government, in spite of the country’s severe economic challenges.

JWI is alleged to have strong links with the USA’s international espionage institution, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

According to Franklin Cudjoe, Executive Director of IMANI, in a statement issued on Monday, the American firm’s clandestine contract with the government, which failed to seek the advice of the Attorney General before signing the agreement, will cost the country a whopping $5 million annually.

The scope of the contract includes helping the government in the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) processes although this multi-million dollar MCA deal with the US had been sealed by the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration.

“We are all aware that work on MCC has long been done. In fact there was only technical work standing between Ghana and a new MCA Compact, not fresh lobbying. The US authorities had no need of lobbying firms telling them about Ghana’s positives as they already knew of the country’s track-record in managing the first compact,” Franklin asserted.

“Or is the assumption that our international reputation, especially in the US, has deteriorated to the extent that only lobbyists can save a deal already in the works?” Franklin asked.

Insight Into Contract

Investigations by DAILY GUIDE reveal that the deal with JWI was signed on April 30, 2014 by the Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani, and Charles Waterman, the Chief Executive Officer of the lobby group.

Even though details of the agreement with JWI has been made extremely inaccessible in Ghana, contents of the deal can be found on the US Department of Justice website where the firm is compelled under the USA’s Foreign Agents Registration Act to file all international agreements.

Under the agreement, JWI “shall render various professional, strategic counsel, and public relations services to assist the Government in maximising the benefits received from its many accomplishments and in improving its relationship with the Government of the United States,” the agreement signed by Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani, and Charles Waterman stated.

The term of the agreement stated also that it is for a 12-month period commencing from April 30, 2014.

Also in the agreement, the Government of Ghana will pay JWI a retainer fee of $500,000 “for each 12-month term, payable in advance, upon the signing of this Agreement and at subsequent 12-month intervals….”

Details of the full contract are sketchy as that was not on the website.

Apparently, in January 2011, the then John Atta Mills administration engaged the same firm to among other things, assist Ghanaian representatives in obtaining access to US government department and individuals with interest in Ghana; establish positive relationship with major electronic and print media in an attempt to project a positive image for Ghana on the international scene.

The deal also required JWI to link Ghanaian officials with members of the US Congress.

Compromised Position

The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), before assuming power, had been a strong critic of contracting government business to international lobbyists.

“This was curious because the ruling party, when in opposition, stridently criticised the practice, questioned the value, and lamented the amount of money spent on such exercises. They argued that the maintenance of a full diplomatic mission in the United States (in both New York and Washington DC, in fact) was sufficient to represent the full range of our interests in the United States, not least also because of the large diaspora of Ghanaian professionals, many of whom have deep connections across the political and economic landscape in that country,” Mr. Cudjoe charged.

It is unclear why the John Mahama administration is desperate to employ the services of international lobbyists, but critics have concluded that it is due to the rapidly deteriorating image of the country, given its dire economic situation caused by runaway budget deficit, escalating inflation rate, depreciating local currency and a generally high cost of living.

“Given that this matter of paid lobbyists has come up before, one would have expected greater transparency on the part of the Administration in handling this matter. Yet, the Government did not so much as publish a single announcement. There was no international competitive bidding. Even if not by advertisement in the international press, a qualified bidding process could have been done by inviting several eligible lobby firms to submit expressions of interest,” the IMANI boss stated.

Past Failure

IMANI disclosed that JWI flunked a similar lobbying contract with Gambia after the West African country had sunk huge funds into the deal.

Franklin Cudjoe asked: “Did the Government take careful note of the experience of Gambia, which after spending millions of dollars on a deal with JWI found out that few concrete results were being delivered, and consequently had to abrogate the contract?”

By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran

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