State fails to retrieve $3.8m three years after judgement against mining company

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Mr Eugene Asante Ofosuhene (left), the Controller and Accountant General, showing documents to the Public Accounts Committee. Looking on is Mrs Abena Osei-Asare (2nd left), a Deputy Minister of Finance. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo
Mr Eugene Asante Ofosuhene (left), the Controller and Accountant General, showing documents to the Public Accounts Committee. Looking on is Mrs Abena Osei-Asare (2nd left), a Deputy Minister of Finance. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo

It has emerged that the state is still struggling to retrieve $3.8 million from the defunct Dunkwa Continental Mining Company (DCMC), three years after a court awarded the cost against the international mining entity.

The DCMC and the Continental Construction and Mining Company Limited filed a $200-million claim against Ghana in 2011, accusing the government of unlawfully terminating their contracts.

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However, a tribunal constituted under the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) dismissed the claim in August 2015, on the grounds that the case had no merit.

The court awarded costs of $3.16 million against the applicants and further ordered a refund of $700,000 to Ghana, bringing the total amount to $3.8 million.

However, at yesterday’s sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, it came to light that the Attorney-General's Department, the Ministry of Finance and the Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD) had not been able to retrieve the amount from the company, citing inability to locate the managers of the company as an excuse.


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PAC sitting

There were interesting developments at the sitting when a Deputy Minister of Finance, Mrs Abena Osei Opare; the Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Eugene Ofosuhene, and other officials appeared before the committee to be quizzed on some infractions cited in the 2016 Auditor-General’s Report.

Representatives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the National Youth Council (NYC), also appeared before the committee.

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The committee quizzed the public officials who appeared before it on infractions in the 2016 Auditor-General’s Report with regard to the Consolidated Fund and how they related to the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) they represented.

Twists

There were tense moments during the proceedings, as Mrs Opare, Mr Ofosuhene and other officials struggled to furnish the committee with information on the efforts they were making to retrieve the money owed by the DCMC.

There was a back and forth between the Chairman of the PAC, Mr James Klutse Avedzi, and the two officials, as the former kept asking for steps being taken to retrieve the money.

The development followed a question posed by a member of the committee and Member of Parliament (MP) for Kumbungu, Mr Ras Mubarak, in reference to the 2016 Auditor-General's Report that showed that the amount had not been recovered from the company.

In her explanation, Mrs Osei, said: "We have been making every effort to recoup the money because it belongs to the state. The Attorney-General's Department said it was doing everything possible to serve the company with the court order for the money to be paid, but the challenge now is how to locate the managers because they are not in the country."

She said it was the responsibility of the Attorney-General to pursue the matter and ensure that the money was retrieved.

The committee, however, did not buy into her explanation and asked the Ministry of Finance to put in swift action to retrieve the money.

Mr Avedzi took a strong view of the matter, stressing: "You cannot hide behind the excuse of the inability of the Attorney-General to serve the company with the court order and leave the issue hanging."

Woyome’s cash

The committee enquired from the Ministry of Finance and the CAGD why information on the GH¢51.9 million owed the state by the businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome was captured in the 2016 report.

It came to light that since Mr Woyome was ordered to pay back the money he owed the state, the embattled businessman had been able to repay only GH¢467,000, according to the records provided by the CAGD.

SOEs

Another issue that took centre stage at the PAC sitting was the failure of the Ministry of Finance to capture some state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in its 2016 financial statement.

The SOEs that were not captured included the National Lottery Authority (NLA), the Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing Company (GCMC), the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority (GPHA) and Juapong Textiles.

In a related development, concerns were also raised about defunct SOEs that were still in the books of the state.

After another to-and-fro session, Mrs Osei disclosed that the Ministry of Finance had contracted Deloitte and Touche, an audit firm, to conduct a comprehensive audit of all SOEs, so that the ministry could have an updated list of viable public entities.

"We are working hard to ensure that we put a comprehensive list of these SOEs together and will come back to Parliament for approval to strike out defunct companies from the books," she said.

It also emerged that some GH¢97.5 million was offered in loans to SOEs between 1997 and 2005 and were cited in the 2016 Auditor-General’s Report but the money had not been retrieved.

Mr Ofosuhene conceded that the failure to capture some SOEs in the financial statement of 2016 was an oversight but said "it was an error of omission which is accepted in accounting because figures can slip as they are being put together".

He said efforts were being made to rectify the situation.