We act as solicitors for the Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD) and have its instructions to write to you on the above referenced subject matter.
According to our instructions, you published on the front page of the April 23, 2015 edition of your daily newspaper, Daily Graphic, a story with the above caption in which your reporter made a number of factual misrepresentations and published outright untruths with serious implications for the credibility and continued commercial viability of CBOD members.
Among other evidently bombastic and damaging claims, your publication unequivocally alleged a fraudulent conspiracy scheme between unnamed Bulk Oil Distribution Companies (BDCs) and officials of Bulk Oil and Storage Company (BOST). Your publication referenced “…deliberate activities of top officials at BOST who supported BDCs to rob BOST of petroleum products at the depots, leading to significant petroleum product losses that affected the national strategic reserve
In furtherance of the allegations of wrongdoing by BDCs in fraudulent partnership with BOST officials, the publication stated that the over-drawings from the national strategic stock of BOST which should reflect a state of indebtedness by BDCs rather reflects a huge credit position in favour of BDCs. This state of affairs arose, according to your publication, as a result of the targeted bribery of BOST officials by BDCs and the forgery of outturn reports by them. These were very serious allegations.
The Daily Graphic publication placed reliance on a stock-reconciliation report by audit firm, Ernst & Young (E&Y), from 2009 to 2014 on the drawing activities of BDCs from BOST. You know, or should know, that stock-reconciliation audits are not undertaken to establish fraud; only forensic audits achieve such ends. It was, therefore not surprising that the Deputy Minister of Petroleum, the BOST Managing Director and Board Chairman in the days following your publication, have all publicly refuted the categorical fraud allegations which your story constructed solely upon the stock-reconciliation report.
It is profoundly shocking that despite the auditors’ advice that the stock-reconciliation report is “DRAFT” and “RELIANCE RESTRICTED”, your publication erroneously and mischievously described the E&Y audit as “comprehensive” and made deductions of firm fraudulent intent by BDCs from it. Your publication’s unequivocal allegations of fraud against some BDCs are completely unsupportable by any pages of the draft E&Y stock-reconciliation audit or any reasonable extrapolations from it.
It is also in furtherance of this operative mischief and error that your publication claimed some BDCs criminally overdrew from the national strategic stocks, when it is common stakeholder and industry knowledge that no such strategic stocks were held by BOST during the period of the E&Y audit. BDCs could not have overdrawn on stocks which were unavailable and there is nothing, express or implied, in the draft audit report which should lead a journalism professional to such a conclusion.
The categorical allegations of fraud contained in the publication, the criminal innuendoes and the acerbic public conversation that it generated cast BDCs as national economic saboteurs engaged in crimes and passing them off as legitimate businesses. While the full amplitude of the damaging impact of your erroneous publication is still being fully assessed by a task force established for that purpose, several of our client’s members have reported lost earnings as a result of unfavourable evaluations by banks and business partners worldwide. Further, the failure to name the culprits in your publication has meant that all BDCs were painted with the brush of fraud.
Remarkably, no fair and objective reading of the interim E&Y report or any reasonable extrapolations from it could yield the matter-of-fact conclusions that your publication projected.
Even more striking is your failure to contact the CBOD or the BDCs engaged in the alleged grand fraudulent collusion for their side of the story before going to press as enjoined by the best ethical standards of journalism. Regrettably, this has become the new orthodoxy for mainstream media in Ghana and, one would have expected that being a standard bearer in the industry, the Graphic Communications Group Limited would avoid such unprofessional practices.
The publication has been a source of grave embarrassment to our client as it has subjected it to public contempt, hatred and ridicule.
According to our client, despite meetings between you and the CBOD chief executive officer, and the latter’s e-mail communications with the Managing Director of Graphic
Communications Group Limited, Mr Ken Ashigbey, in the days following your malicious publication, and in spite of assurances that the matter would be investigated and appropriate actions taken, no apologies have been offered nor retraction of the story done, several months after it became clear that your publication was patently false.
We are hereby instructed by our client to ask you to apologise to it for the extensive harm that the publication has caused to its reputation and that of its individual members.
This apology should be given equal prominence as the original defamatory publication and as required by law.
Our client will continue to partner the media, especially the Graphic Communications Group Limited, to improve public understanding of the activities of operators in the downstream petroleum industry.
Thanks for your cooperation.
Darko, Keli-Delataa & Co.
(Solicitors for the CBOB)