People & Money

Six Big Corruption Cases That May Decide Ghana’s Elections

On Monday 7 December, President Nana Akufo-Addo of the National Peoples’ Party in Ghana will be facing the National Democratic Congress candidate John Mahama in the 7th general elections since the return to democracy in 1992. The incumbent had ousted Mahama out of office in 2016 principally on account of the widespread perception amongst Ghanaians that the NDC was extremely corrupt. Akufo-Addo promised to establish a Special Prosecutor to fight corruption as part of his NPP’s strategy to focus voters’ attention on the multiple cases of corruption that had embroiled Mahama’s NDC.   

President Akufo-Addo talks a great game, impressing foreign audiences with very eloquent soundbites about how Africans plan to develop their countries without foreign aid. On the ground in Ghana, he has governed as African countries have and are largely governed, initiating 1970s-style populist but economically ruinous policies. One campaign promise is to build a factory in every one of Ghana’s 216 districts.

Alas, President Akufo-Addo has also not been able to reduce corruption or the perception of it. Even as the elections approach, the government’s inability to rein in corruption is on glaring display as more cases of corruption erupt. Public outrage has been met with brazen-faced impunity. 

Here are six high-profile cases of corruption in the West African country:

1. The Agyapa Royalties Deal: The royalty that Ghana gets from gold mining is 4% of annual government revenue. President Nana Akufo-Addo has taken steps to sell about 76% of all future funds due to Ghana as royalty from gold mining to Agyapa Royalties, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) in Jersey, a jurisdiction notorious for aiding tax avoidance and registering firms whose ultimate owners are kept a secret. Under the unpopular deal, Ghana would own 51% of the company Agyapa Royalties while the remaining 49% of shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange from which it would raise US$500 million in capital. In essence, the deal values future royalties at $1 billion, a figure which analysts say is too low. The Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) bill, which authorised the setting up the SPV in which gold royalties would be vested, was amended in July 2020 to limit government oversight over the SPV with lawmakers having roughly four hours to look at the documents. NPP parliamentarians staged a walkout alleging concerns over the probity of the Agyapa deal. 

Resignation of the Special Prosecutor: The Ministry of Finance delayed submitting documents to the office of the Special Prosecutor on Corruption, Martin Amidu who decided to investigate the deal. Then the Special Prosecutor had to himself publicly announce the findings of the report on 2 November 2020 after the government refused to acknowledge it since he submitted it on 16 October. The Special Prosecutor found out that Databank, a company co-founded by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta has connections with Imara Corporate Finance of South Africa, the transaction adviser for the deal. Imara was appointed in a manner that suggested “bid-rigging, and corruption activity including the potential for illicit financial flows and money laundering”. Imara and Databank were paid millions of dollars with little input from bureaucrats in the Ministry of Finance. Information useful in winning the bid was shared among key players including Databank and allied companies ahead of the bidding process. 

The Special Prosecutor resigned after threats to his life; he also alleges that President Nana Akuffo-Ado had personally leaned on him not to expose the rot at the bottom of the Agyapa deal. Amidu has asked Ghanaians to hold President Nana Akufo-Addo responsible if anything happened to him. Martin Amidu, a lawyer and NDC member, popularly known as Citizen Vigilante, was dismissed as Attorney General in President John Atta Mills’ government for probing illegal government payments to an NDC financier, Alfred Woyome. He later initiated and won a court case against Woyome as a private citizen. 

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2. Procurement Racketeering: The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) found that the CEO of the Public Procurement Authority, Adjenim Boateng Adjei, had procurement contracts to the tune of over 50 million cedis. The president subsequently sacked him but great damage had been done – the most important person in the effort to reduce public procurement corruption, the biggest source of graft, was found to be blatantly engaged in corruption. The former Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, revealed that Mr. Adjenim Boateng Adjei, wired into his bank accounts GHS15,691,559.30, USD4,467,655.00 and €54,500.00 between 2017 and 2019.

The major trend in corruption cases under the NPP is that it is closely related to procurement. The impression is there was a cartel led by the Former Head of the Public Procurement Authority, A.B Adjei, that controlled awarding sole-sourcing contracts to cronies of the government.

3. Sacking of the Auditor General: President Nana Akufo-Ado’s decision to get rid of the Auditor General, Daniel Domelovo, by asking him to proceed on terminal leave in July 2020 has also reinforced the impression that his government is very corrupt. The President appoints the auditor, but the office is independent. Domelovo had exposed public sector malfeasance with vigour, exposing the involvement of government appointees in corruption frequently, thus embarrassing the government. This had made the government uncomfortable. The Auditor-General was then hounded out of office. Civil society organizations sued the government over the decision to get rid of Domelovo in October, thus maintaining the issue in public consciousness close to the elections. 

4. Contract Inflation at the National Lottery Authority: The Director-General of the National Lottery Authority Kofi Osei Ameyaw is said to have inflated a contract by about 300 percent running into 54 million cedis. The investigation was carried out by popular Accra-based radio station Joy FM; the station has kept the case very prominent in its programming. So close to the elections, this is reinforcing the view that the NPP is very corrupt.

5. $1 Million Kroll Payment: In 2017, UK firm Kroll and Associates was hired to conduct a value-for-money audit of some government projects and paid $1 million for the assignment. The former Auditor General Daniel Yaw Domelevo found no evidence of work done and ordered that the Senior Minister, Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, and five officials of the Ministry of Finance should refund $1 million to the government. Though Osafo-Maafo and co-accused were able to get a court to overturn the order of the Auditor General, public opinion remains divided between support for the former Auditor General’s position and the Court decision. 

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6. The $953.7 Million Amended Ameri Deal: The National Democratic Congress Government of former President John Mahama in early 2015 signed an agreement with Africa Middle East Resources Investment Group LLC (AMERI) to add 300 MW to Ghana’s electricity capacity. The deal was heavily criticised amidst accusations that people close to Mahama had pocketed $150 million. President Nana Akufo-Addo’s NPP proceeded to renegotiate the Ameri deal when they came into power, raiding the homes of the former Energy Minister and his deputy for evidence of corruption. It hence greatly shocked Ghanaians that the renegotiated deal was found by reputable NGOs and think thanks to be even more costly, coming in at $953.7 million rather than the $510 million negotiated by the NPP government originally. The new, more expensive deal had been authorized by an Executive Order, bypassing parliamentary legal scrutiny and financial oversight by the Ministry of Finance. The public uproar that greeted the new deal led to the sacking of the Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, the main actor in the renegotiation, in August 2017. Ghanaians in the know think that the amended deal was designed to arrange payoffs for powerful NPP figures, while Agyarko was merely made to carry the can. 

Ghanaians can feel and agree that corruption remains pervasive and the NPP has not delivered on its election campaign promise to fight or reduce it. Many may be persuaded it has added to it. According to the pan-African polling agency, Afrobarometer, only 34% of Ghanaians believe action would be taken against corruption if they reported it and trust in president Nana Akufo-Addo has declined by 15% since 2017. Yet, what is encouraging about Ghana is that institutions and the courageous people leading them rise up to resist political pressures to make them cover up corruption.

Abimbola Agboluaje

Abimbola is Managing Director of WNT Capitas . He consults on strategic communications and investment risk.

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