The government delegation to Qatar to investigate the alleged fraud associated with the execution of demand guarantee by Al Koot Insurance and Reinsurance Company for Power Distribution Services (PDS) Ghana Ltd in its concession agreement with Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) according to government insiders, is back.
However, its report as usual, has become a closely guarded secret unlikely to be unveiled soon.
The delegation whose membership is also unknown, is said to have gotten confirmation from Al Koot Insurance and Reinsurance Company that it had not authorized the insurance guarantee submitted by PDS to ECG as security for the concession.
The delegation is said to have returned home last weekend after visiting Al Koot, based in Doha, Qatar to confirm what the insurance company, had earlier told a Ghanaian embassy official in that country.
This comes as the US government, says it is awaiting an independent forensic audit of the PDS concession scandal before it makes a decision on the matter.
According to the US Embassy in Ghana, the “U.S. Government strongly supports the decision” which it says is needed before any action is taken on the alleged fundamental and material breaches of PDS’ obligations to Ghana.
“Only then can all relevant parties make a transparent and evidence-based decision that is in the best interest of the citizens of Ghana,” the Embassy said in response to queries by Citi News.
The Herald’s highly placed source disclosed that the alleged fraud, was reported after the chargé d’affaires in Ghana’s embassy in Qatar, was sent by ECG to confirm the authenticity of an insurance guarantee submitted by PDS from Al Koot.
The Herald’s information, has been corroborated by The Daily Statesman published by Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, a cousin to President Akufo-Addo.
The newspaper reported on Wednesday that “the consular officer of Ghana’s mission visited Al Koot’s offices in Doha “to establish the authenticity of the letter … signed by the Chief Officer General Insurance, Mr. Osman Hag Musa”.
According to the Daily Statesman newspaper, a letter signed by Abdulai Haruna Alhassan, acting head of Ghana’s mission, “The officer successfully met with Mr Osman Hag Musa at Al Koot, during which he attested to the authenticity of the said Letter and all its contents.
“Whilst with Mr Musa in his Office, at Al Koot, I was called and placed on Speaker-Phone to listen to him (Mr Musa), for which he stated that: i. the letter ALK/GI/083/07/2019 dated 16/07/2019 was issued by him and the contents are accurate; ii. an employee of Al Koot, working under him, had perpetrated fraud by forging his signature on an earlier letter which was the subject matter of his letter of 16/07/2019; iii. the matter was under investigation and the officer suspended,” said the Daily Statesman
Al Koot is now claiming innocence in the matter of its staff member allegedly signing and issuing the guarantees without authorization, even though it has confirmed that the circumstances under which guarantees were issued in the name of the company constituted “fraud”.
It revealed that “a letter to the ECG managing director, signed by Osman Hag Musa, chief officer of general insurance at Al Koot, the company went as far as to claim that it is “not permitted by its constitutional documents to underwrite counter party and trade risk”.
It adds: “For any undertaking to bind Al Koot, it must be a duly process authorised product line approved and executed by the authorised signatories of Al Koot.”
The company’s letter to the ECG boss states further: “… now that we have information of the fraudulent issuance of the guarantees, we categorically state as follows: the guarantees are, ab initio, null and void as they have been fraudulently manipulated and managed by some employee of Al Koot without any authority; we deny the existence of the guarantees; the guarantees are obtained by fraud and that is very apparent from the conduct of the issuer; we are carrying out an internal investigation in this regard which is being handled at the highest level of management.”
Citi News reports that its queries, among others, concerned the role of the embassy and the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) in possibly resolving the matter, potential actions if the government cancelled the deal and thoughts on alleged fraud in the deal.
The Embassy, also assured that the US favoured a “transparent, well-run transaction that meets international standards for private sector participation, investment, and operations.”
“The U.S. Government expects that MiDA, PDS, and the Government of Ghana, will continue to work together to implement the bold solutions and partnership of the MCC compact that have been fostered to enhance the reliability of the country’s power network and improve the lives of millions of Ghanaians.”
PDS took over from the ECG in February 2019, after winning a bid to run the power distribution in Ghana as part of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) compact which was signed in 2014.
The deal saw the 20-year concession of the ECG to PDS.
It was a $498 million venture geared towards the transformation of the country’s energy sector through private sector participation.
The first tranche of $308.2 million was released in 2016 and the country is awaiting the second tranche of $190 million pending certain targets.
The ECG, has since assumed the responsibility of running power distribution in Ghana’s southern zone temporarily.
But it has allowed PDS to carry on with all activities related to electricity retail sale.
Indications are that the government is also engaged in a probe of its own which it hopes to conclude at the end of August.
Government officials, have noted possible fraud in the deal with reports of a forged document being involved in the deal.
The probe included a trip to Qatar where a company thought to have guaranteed for PDS, denied knowledge of any documentation.
A petition, signed by Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, was personally hand-delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Accra on Wednesday, August 14, 2019, by the Ranking Member of Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.
The Minority seeks to trigger an investigation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the United States of America (USA), “especially after a clearer picture is now emerging that the Akufo-Addo government stands complicit with top functionaries and cronies neck-deep in the putrescent sleaze”.
A press release by Mr Ablakwa underscored: “The Akufo-Addo government, therefore, cannot be trusted to conduct thorough and independent investigations into this scandal of monumental proportions”, adding the government is already ‘confused’ on how to decisively handle the matter.
The Minority petitioned the US Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan, demanding full-scale investigations by the US government into the suspension.
But the government, has expressed disappointment at the petition with Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, questioning the basis for such a petition to the U.S. government.
He told Accra-based Class FM that: “It’s disappointingly unsurprising that the Minority will choose to invite a foreign nation to come and investigate the sovereign of which this Minority purports to be part…
“The U.S. statement says it is happy to note the government of Ghana is investigating the matter and encouraged the government of Ghana to do so… There’s America money involved in this, the Ghana government has taken action, in fact we are told the American government is unhappy with us and the Ghana government has taken action … and we have a Minority who says: ‘No, we don’t trust the government, so, you Americans come and investigate.’”
The government of Ghana, recently suspended its concession agreement with PDS.
The decision was communicated via a press release by the Information Minister on Tuesday, July 30, 2019.
The statement, said the action to put the agreement on hold was necessitated by “the detection of fundamental and material breaches of PDS’ obligation in the provision of Payment Securities (Demand Guarantees) for the transaction which has been discovered upon further due diligence”.
The government said, a full probe has been initiated into the agreement and steps have been taken to ensure that “distribution, billing and payment services continue uninterrupted”.