Authorities at Ghana’s Premier University, University of Ghana has warned the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Professor Kwesi Yankah, to stay off the issue involving the Africa Integras contract that is under some controversy.
The authorities are saying that the former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university should not attempt to protect anybody’s interest in the deal that university feels it is not in its interest.
Top level sources at the university have it that Prof. Yankah’s position on the Africa Integras matter was an indication that he was not on top of issues and it would therefore be better for him to shut up.
The University of Ghana under the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ernest Aryeetey in 2015, entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with Africa Integras to invest US$64 million in the construction of 1,000 new students’ hostel beds for undergraduate and post-graduate students on the Legon campus.
The said project was structured as a 25-year Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract. Reports later emerged that the University, then under Prof. Aryeetey signed the agreement without any basic due diligence.
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It was revealed that the University, under the terms of the contract, is to pay Africa Integras an amount of 10 million dollars annually for the next 25 years.
“The agreement was signed in September 2015; construction started in February 2016 way before I took over as VC… so it’s obvious and it has been obvious before I took over that that condition was impossible to meet. As to why we signed, this is the question that has led us to where we are today”, Prof Ebenezer Owusu Oduro, current VC told staff of the University recently.
The VC indicated that he has been trying to understand the decision to no avail and that at this moment; University of Ghana needs a rescue mission as the contracts didn’t have reasonable exit clauses.
“I don’t understand, you don’t understand, council doesn’t understand. So we are where we are today because we don’t understand.
“There are clauses in that Agreement that completely enslaves the University as an institution. And so right now the answer to that question as to why we signed the agreement, let me be very frank with you because where we are nobody can hide any fact from us or from the public. That question remains unanswered and I wish somebody could provide me with that answer,” he said.
Nevertheless, we’ve gotten or we’re getting to the tail end of it and the demand involves fight and energy to rescue this university, otherwise what is going to happen is not good: an international court could give an order and this university could be taken over.” Prof Ebenezer Oduro Owusu said.
Prof. Yankah in a radio interview said government is committed to ensuring that the University of Ghana is not privatized.
Mr. Yankah’s comments come weeks after the Education Minister, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, indicated that the school might soon be privatized if it fails to meet its obligations in a $64 million agreement it entered into with a private company, Africa Integras.
“University of Ghana might be put up for sale because it entered into an agreement and the school is unable to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract. Under this contract, Legon is expected to pay 10 million dollars every year for 25 years. If Legon is unable to settle this loan, its assets will be seized,” the Minister had stated.
But speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show, Professor Yankah said government will ensure the school remains a valuable state asset.
“It is our prime university, the number one university in the country – probably the number one in West Africa…Fortunately, there appears to be a resolution in the offing. Parties are talking as we speak now and there appears to a resolution in one form or the other. We will do anything possible to save the University. We will not just sit and allow the University to collapse.”
Sources at the University of Ghana said that they were rather expecting Prof. Yankah to say that government was going to look into the whole contract than saying that the university will not collapse because of debt involving the Africa Integras deal.
“As a minister who has served at the university before, we expected him to be on top of issues before speaking on that particular deal,” they said.
The sources said that the Africa Integras matter was very delicate and people like Prof. Yankah should be very careful if they want to wade into it.
“It is amazing how Prof. Yankah spoke as the government has some money sitting somewhere to settle issues with Africa Integras if it should come making demands,” the sources said.
In 2017, this same agreement came up for discussion after the former Vice Chancellor of UG, Prof Aryeetey, was accused of failing to do due diligence when the deal was signed under his tenure.
He however rubbished these claims, explaining that UG had gone through all the right procedures before signing the agreement with the company.
Professor Aryeetey insisted the processes leading up to the signing of the agreement with Integras were transparent, with all relevant stakeholders being kept informed of all developments.