Probe ministry for making financial commitment to Oslo property - Minority
The Minority in Parliament has called for a full-scale probe into the purported procurement of a property at an inflated cost of $12 million in Oslo, Norway, for the Ghana mission
insisted that the state had made a financial commitment to the owners of the six-bedroom property which was to be used as a Chancery, and indicated that it was only an investigation by independent personalities that could get to the bottom of the matter.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra Tuesday, the Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, refuted the claim by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, that the government had not released any money for the procurement of the facility.
He displayed documents, some of which had been translated from the Norwegian language into English and others from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, to support his claim of the government's agreement to purchase the facility and give specifications for the modification of the building.
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He made the documents available to journalists.
In one of the documents, the Ministry of Finance purportedly released GH¢15.3 million to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration for the Ghana missions in Norway, China Mauritius.
There was also a letter purportedly written by the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs requesting answers on the supposed transaction.
Ablakwa referred to paragraph 419 of the 2019 Budget Statement to indicate that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had begun processes to own a property in Oslo.
He claimed that the Chancery and a residence were priced at $15.1 million but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented an inflated figure of $16.5 million to the Committee of Foreign Affairs.
He also showed a video showing people modifying some aspects of the supposed building in Oslo.
Ablakwa, who is the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, said it was crucial for President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to commission a national inquiry into the procurement of the property in Oslo to identify the people who recommended the purchase of the property.
He said it was important for the syndicate to be exposed and the perpetrators punished for their involvement in the deal.
He said it was also important to know the involvement of the Cabinet in the procurement of the facility in Oslo.
Ablakwa rejected the claim by Botchwey that she wrote a letter on December 12, 2018, asking for the suspension of the purchase.
He said Botchwey's claim of suspending the purchase of the property was an afterthought.
He said Botchwey's claim could not be true because December 13, 2018, a Ghanaian delegation went to Oslo to inspect the property.
Ablakwa said the Minority in Parliament was demanding evidence of the 12 December 2018, letter that Botchwey purportedly wrote to the owners and other parties asking for the suspension of the transaction.
He again demanded to see the response of the parties, including the seller to the Minister.
Ablakwa said the Minority in Parliament also wanted to know the full liabilities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the transaction.
Contributing to the debate on the approval of budget estimates for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Parliament last Monday, Mr Ablakwa said the current owner of six-bedroom property being converted into a chancery for Ghana's new mission in Norway, bought it at $3.6 million in 2017, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was procuring the property at $12 million.
He said the latest purchase price by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration appeared to inflate the cost of the property by a whopping $8,620,379.
"Records show that a previous buyer Lillian Olsson bought the property in 2014 for 25,250,000 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) equivalent to $3,598,108. According to Norwegian Financial newspaper known as Finansavisen, Lillian Olsson sold the property in August 2017 to an unknown buyer for BOK 31,000,000 equivalent to $3,598,108.
"Ghana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration gas made a presentation to Parliament's Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that Ghana us purchasing thus same building at a staggering NOK 105,180 000 equivalent to $12,218,487.
He called for a probe of the procurement process because it was fraudulent.
Responding, Botchwey explained that she had even suspended moves for the procurement of the property in Oslo due to the huge disparities in the valuation of the property
She said a state agency in Norway valued the property at $11 million but a newspaper in that country put the value at $3 million.
Not even one corner been spent on the property. We have not paid a penny for it.
"Last week I got of the fact that there was some discrepancy in the price of the property. The document that we received which was an article in a newspaper in Norway put the price very low in terms of the valuation", she said.
Botchwey said when five high-level directors went to do the investigation they came back with a public document which put the valuation at $11.5 million.
"Immediately I asked them to stop or stay all proceedings on the transaction. As at last week, I had no intention of continuing the purchase.