Saglemi Housing brouhaha: Collins Dauda, 4 others granted bail

BY: Justice Agbenorsi
Collins Dauda
Collins Dauda

A former Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alhaji Collins Dauda; his successor, Dr Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah, and three others yesterday pleaded not guilty to 52 counts of causing financial loss of $200m to the state over the Saglemi Affordable Housing Project when they made their first appearance at the Criminal Division of the Accra High Court.

The three others are the Chief Director at the ministry from 2009 to 2017, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu; the Executive Chairman of Construtora OAS, the Brazilian company which constructed the affordable housing project at Saglemi, Andrew Clocanas, and a director of RMS, the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) consultancy subcontractor, Nouvi Tetteh Angelo.

The five persons have been slapped with different charges, including wilfully causing financial loss to the state, misapplying public property, issuing false certificates and dishonestly causing loss to public property.

They all took turns to take their respective pleas as the presiding judge, Justice Comfort Tasiame, read out the charges to them.

As early as 8 a.m. yesterday, the court was fully packed with sympathisers and some notable bigwigs of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), including, the Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr Haruna Iddrisu; the MP for Asawase, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka; the MP for Ablekuma South, Mr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije; a former Deputy Attorney-General, Dr Dominic Ayine; the Communications Officer of the NDC, Mr Sammy Gyamfi, among others.

Others stood outside the courtroom until the close of the nearly three-hour proceeding.

Bail

Alhaji Dauda was granted a self-recognisance bail and ordered to deposit his passport at the court registry.

Dr Agyeman-Mensah and Alhaji Yakubu were granted bail in the sum of $65 million each or its cedi equivalent, with three sureties, one of whom must be a civil or public servant.

Clocanas was granted bail in the sum of $179 million or its cedi equivalent, with three sureties, one of whom must be a public or civil servant, while Angelo was granted bail in the sum of $13 million, with three sureties, one of whom must be a public or civil servant.

The sureties are to deposit proof of landed properties at the court registry.

The court further ordered all the accused persons to deposit their Ghanaian passports at the court registry.

The case was adjourned to October 13, this year.

Not opposed

The Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, who read out the facts of the case, immediately told the court that he was not opposed to bail application.

Rather, he urged the court to avert its mind to the “undisputed” circumstances under which the accused persons had been arraigned.

He said Alhaji Dauda was the only public officer among the accused persons who was entitled to self-recognisance bail, subject to the deposit of his passport at the registry of court.

“I submit that the amount and conditions of bail be commensurate with respect to the respective sums for which they are standing trial,” Mr Dame added.

Bail application

In his bail application, counsel for Alhaji Dauda, Mr Thaddeus Sory, drew the court’s attention to the fact that his client was not only a public officer within the country’s jurisdiction but also a member of the pan-African Parliament.

That, he said, would require the accused to travel consistently outside the country.

He, therefore, urged the A-G and the court to place more emphasis on that fact in granting bail to the accused person, adding: “Dauda is not flight risk and will be available to stand trial. We pray the court to take this into account.”

Counsel for Dr Agyeman-Mensah and Alhaji Yakubu, Mr Godwin Edudzi Tamekloe, argued that the circumstances under which his clients had been arraigned could be disputed, adding that his clients were not guilty until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

He further told the court that his clients, throughout the preliminary investigations by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), had cooperated with the police.

“For over one year throughout this investigation the bail conditions offered by the CID were faithfully complied with,” he said.

He added that his clients were not flight risk.

Conduct

Counsel for Clocanas, Mr Randolph Twumasi Ankrah, in his bail application, associated himself with the submissions made by counsel for the other accused persons.

He noted that his client had not given the investigators any cause to doubt his conduct as far as compliance was concerned.

“In granting bail, the court should take notice of the good conduct exhibited by Clocanas,” he said.

For his part, counsel for Angelo, Mr Ziyerely Agambilla, argued that his client was not flight risk, had a fixed place of abode, was a responsible member of society and had competent people who were willing to stand as sureties for him.

Facts

The facts, as presented by the A-G, were that in August 2012, the then President, John Dramani Mahama, granted an Executive approval to the Housing Ministry for the construction of 5,000 affordable housing units, to be known as the Saglemi Affordable Housing Project.

The housing units, to be executed by Construtora OAS Ltd, were to be sold to workers through mortgage arrangements provided by the then Ghana Home Loans Company.

Mr Dame said the project was funded by Credit Suisse following parliamentary approval.

He said the Ministry of Finance (borrower) and the lender signed a facility agreement on January 4, 2013 for the release of $200 million to fund the construction of the 5,000 housing units, the day on which the Housing Minister also signed the EPC agreement with Construtora OAS, represented by Clocanas.

According to Mr Dame, the project was to be executed in four phases on 2,172 acres of land at a contract price of $200 million, including consultancy services.

An Escrow Management Agreement, a condition precedent to the release of the facility to the borrower, was also signed, pursuant to the facility and the EPC agreements, he said.

That was among the Finance Ministry (borrower), the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing (account holder), the Bank of Ghana (account holding bank) and Construtora OAS (contractor).

“The purpose of this agreement was to ensure that the $200 million facility would be properly applied towards the development of the 5,000 housing units,” the A-G said.

Per the agreements, the A-G said, payments were to be effected only when specific works had been duly executed, verified and certified by the consultants of the project, the Architectural and Engineering Services Ltd (AESL).

However, the EPC agreement provided for an advance payment of 40 per cent of the contract price to the contractor within five working days of receipt of the facility in the Escrow Account.

The advance payment was to be applied towards specific works set out in the contract, with the remaining amount paid to the contractor based on fulfilment of specific milestones.

“The contractor was required under the agreement to set out the details of the achieved project milestones, which had to be verified and certified by the consultants before receiving payment,” the prosecutor said.

Disbursement

Credit Suisse, he said, disbursed the $198 million ($200 million less fees and transaction expenses) into the Escrow Account and the 40 per cent advanced payment to Construtora OAS effected on February 27, 2013.

He said the contractor failed to apply the amount towards the intended purpose.

Review

Mr Dame said on February 27, 2014, Dauda, without parliamentary approval, reviewed the EPC agreement and signed both the original and the revised (restated) agreement with Construtora OAS, represented by Clocanas.

The revision allegedly changed the scope of works and the application of the $200 million approved by Parliament, the A-G said.

“This new agreement required the contractor to execute the project in three phases over a site of 1,272 acres, while the $200 million was now to be applied towards the execution of only the first phase of the project, comprising just about 1,502 housing units,” he alleged.

“This was contrary to the Executive and parliamentary approvals, as well as the facility and Escrow Management agreements,” he added.

On December 21, 2016, he said, Yakubu again reviewed the original and revised (restated) agreement and signed them (second and his revised or restated), without recourse to Parliament.

That led to a further reduction in the scope of works to 1,412 housing units at a revised price of $181 million and extended the completion period to July 31, 2017, the A-G alleged.

Subcontract

According to the A-G, the AESL, which was the consultant, on April 15, 2013 signed a contract with Vito Hugo-Coordenacao e Gestao De Projectos (VHM), subcontracting the consultancy services under the EPC for $5 million over a period of 24 months, the amount provided under the EPC agreement.

While the AESL was to take $2 million, VHM was to be paid more than $2.98 million for its services.

According to the facts, in April 2015, while both companies were still providing consultancy services under the contract, the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, entered into another contract for consultancy services with Ridge Management Services Solutions DWC-LLC (RMS), represented by the director and majority shareholder, Tetteh Angelo , for three months for a contract sum of $5.6 million.

“This was at a time RMS was not registered in Ghana as a company. Once again, the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing was required to make an advance payment of 40 per cent of the contract sum,” he said, adding that it was also outside the EPC agreement.

The A-G said the investigations revealed that Angelo, the majority shareholder of RMS, was also a Director of VHM Ghana Ltd.

He said Dr Agyeman-Mensah, in August 2016, again entered into another agreement with RMS, referred to as “marketing implementation services”, for the sum of $2.5 million, with the ministry required to make 40 per cent advance payment.