In Possible US$1million Conflict Of Interest Situation
By Alfred K. Dogbey
More questions are hanging in the air begging for answers from the embattled longest serving Deputy Energy Minister, Kwabena Tahir Hammond in the controversial sale of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) drillship, Discoverer 511 under John Kufuor-led administration.
Mr. K.T Hammond, who was Kufuor’s special “eye and nose” at the Energy Ministry has hopped from one radio station to another in an attempt to clear himself from any wrongdoing, but more questions are emerging by the day, including a possible conflict of interest situation in the US$24 million drillship sale.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports claim that Nana Akufo-Addo, did not give any Power of Attorney to Mr. T.K. Hammond. Ms. Gloria Akuffo, who was Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice at the time of the transaction, is said to have once had a heated confrontation with Mr. K.T. Hammond over how her ministry was sidelined.
Among the questions are shocking claims that the UK law firm, which Mr. K.T. Hammond engaged to singlehandedly negotiate the sale of the drill ship, was the same law chamber that he [K.T Hammond] once practiced law as a lawyer in London, before becoming a Deputy Energy Minister in the Kufuor administration.
Mr. K.T Hammond is said to have paid his former work place, a whooping US$1million from the US$24 million, when the drillship was bought. The period with which they were paid the said amount is very significant, as it is unclear what their job description was and its agreed fees, especially when the deputy Minister had insisted he was only given a mandate to sell the drillship and pay off Societe Generale.
This was done after the sacking of lawyers from Bindman and Partners, based also in the UK, who the GNPC had engaged and paid more than £500,000 to represent it in a UK High Court, on the orders of Nana Akufo-Addo, the then Attorney-General and Justice Minister.
Mr. K.T. Hammond had created an escrow account in a bank (name yet to be mentioned) from where he is believed to have made several payments, including that of his preferred law firm, where he had once worked.
It is unclear whether the law firm submitted an invoice over the service it provided during the engagement, entitling them to the mouth-watering US$1milion.
It is also believed that he paid the controversial US$3.5 million to Government of Ghana (GoG), from the same escrow account he had created. It is unclear who the signatories to that escrow account are.
It is also unclear whether the US$3.5 million was indeed, paid from that escrow account at all, since there is confusion as to who or which institution Mr. K.T. Hammond paid the money to. The Finance Ministry, Bank of Ghana (BoG) and ex-President Kufuor have at various times been mentioned as recipients of the cash.
It is still unclear whether the ship was properly valued before the hasty sell.
Additional reports available to The Herald has it that a certain company whose workers happened to be the Special Assistance to the then substantive Minister of Energy, Albert Kan-Dapaah was also paid unspecified amount after submitting signed invoices to the Ministry.
Mr. K.T in one of his interviews expressively confirmed to have received the Power of Attorney from the then Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Nana Akufo-Addo, to sell the State’s property.
Meanwhile the Managing Editor of the Insight Newspaper, has also stated that despite the fact that no one can be faulted at this point in the sale of the GNPC Drill Ship, “there are questions crying for answers”.
According to Kwesi Pratt Jnr., the inconsistencies in the submissions of K.T. Hammond as far as the matter is concerned gives course for worry because it leaves many questions unanswered.
“…as at now, nobody can be accused of any wrong doing…as at now, what is happening is that, based on the documents available, based on the testimony people have giving and so on, there are holes which need to be filled. There are questions which are crying for answers. We need to probe further in order to establish the full facts involved in the sale of the GNPC Drill Ship.
“I think it is very clear. You have Mr. K.T. Hammond who says that he personally went to London to sell the ship and that after selling the ship; he pays Societe Generale $19.5 million, paid legal fees and others a million dollars and brought $3.5 million to Ghana. First he claims that he paid it to President Kufour and changes his story and says he paid it to the Minister of Finance. This is the story of Mr. K.T. Hammond, former Deputy Minister of Energy,” Kwesi Pratt Jnr. recounted.
Speaking on Metro TV’s ‘Good Morning Ghana’ programme, last week, Mr. Pratt further questioned how K.T. Hammond was able to pay Societe Generale since he was paid by banker’s draft and whether he had the authority to do the payment.
“…if indeed it is true that Mr. K.T. Hammond sold the ship on behalf of the Government of Ghana, as he claims and he was paid by banker’s draft, how did he discount the bankers draft to enable him to pay Societe Generale? Did he have the authority to do what to do? If he was paid by banker’s draft, he would have been paid $24 million. In what capacity did he break it down?” the veteran Journalist further quizzed.
Meanwhile K.T. Hammond has blamed the need to sell the Drill Ship on the “financial incompetence” of Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, the then Chief Executive of the state-owned oil company.