Years after Akufo-Addo-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) then in opposition, heavily descended on the erstwhile John Mahama administration and lambasted it for buying some aircrafts for Ghana Military under shady circumstance, documents have emerged showing how the Akufo-Addo government, is also using single source process to purchase six new aircrafts for the Ghana Armed Forces under a very suspicious circumstance.
The procurement processes, which had already started since July 2021 per documents cited by The Herald, mentioned Messrs. Aero Vodochody Aerospace A.S of Czech Republic as the supplier of the six aircrafts to the government of Ghana at 18, 565 million Euro for one, for the relatively new aircrafts which are yet to be tested in the African terrain.
The six units Light Attack Aircraft, L-39NG, would be supplied to the military at a total cost of a whopping 111,393 million Euros, including provision of technical services as a package.
The manufacturer of the L-39NG, has said that it was mainly “designed primarily as a basic and advanced jet trainer, the L-39NG can also perform a variety of other missions including light combat, close air support, counterinsurgency and reconnaissance”.
They are being used by only the Czech Air Force pilot training, with the “Republic of Senegal contracted with Aero initially for four aircraft in light combat configuration”. It is currently difficult to get any good review on the aircrafts in terms of its efficiency and durability as it’s relatively new in the defense industry.
It is unclear, the basis on which the supplier has been handpicked, when there was no competitive bidding.
It is also unclear, why no agency or middlemen are mentioned in the transaction, as many of such deals normally go through third parties and not directly through the government to the manufacturing company.
But what is more bizarre, is the discovery of inconsistencies in the dates of procurement letters and correspondences between the Cabinet –Office of the President and the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), suggesting the government might have kick-started the procurement processes long before notifying the PPA.
In a letter dated July 21, 2021, the Cabinet through its Secretary, Mercy Debrah-Karikari, not Defense Ministry led by Dominick Nitiwul wrote to the PPA requesting for approval of the deal.
The letter, was titled; “Request For Approval For The Agreement Between The Government Of The Republic of Ghana, Represented By The Ministry Of Defence, And Aero Vodochody Aerospace A.S Of Czech Republic for the Supply of Six (6)L-39NG Aircraft and Provision of the Technical Package Services For the Ghana Armed Forces”.
It said that “Cabinet at its Tenth Meeting held on Thursday, 15th July, 2021 considered a report of the Cabinet Committees on Governance and Legal Matters, and Security on the above Memorandum submitted by the Minister for Defence”.
Among others, the letter stated that “The Memorandum requested Cabinet to consider and approve the Agreement the Government of the Republic of Ghana represented by the Ministry of Defence, and Aero Vodochody Aerospace A.S of Czech Republic for the supply of six (6) L-39NG Aircraft and provision of a technical services package for the For the Ghana Armed Forces”.
“Cabinet approved the Memorandum for the consideration of Parliament. I would be grateful if you could take requisite action on the decision by Cabinet,” the letter stated.
Interestingly, PPA’s reply to the Cabinet letter strangely had a completely different date which is July 14, 2021, raising serious suspicion in the minds of many.
The PPA letter captioned; “RE: Approval to Use Single Source Method of Procurement to Procure Light Attack Aircrafts for The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF)”, was signed by its AG. Chief Executive, Frank Mante, somehow cautioned the Cabinet to ensure that all documentation regarding this procurement is appropriately kept to facilitate future procurement and tax audits.
Many have questioned, as to why the PPA, had approved the deal on July 14, 2021, even before Cabinet approved it on July 21, 2021.
Some have argued that, if indeed the government has not approved the need to buy the aircrafts, on what basis did the PPA endorse the deal?
Again, PPA, had approved the deal on July 14, 2021, meanwhile on August 18, 2021, the Attorney General wrote to caution the Ministry of Defense for not adhering to the PPA Act.
But the AG’s letter, had sparked other concerns with some asking “if the Procurement Authority had indeed, been given green light to the agreement and they have undertaken all the necessary steps to authenticate and approve the deal, how come the Attorney General later on, would find fault with the process?
PPA approved the deal on July 14, when it had not cited the Indicative Term Sheet from the Ministry of Finance. The indicative term sheet could only be available on July 22, 2021.
Is the PPA now invisible and with predictive abilities such that it could predict that the Indicative Term Sheet from the Ministry of Finance was a done deal so went ahead to approve of the deal without the necessary due diligence?
In August this year, Janes, a trusted global agency for open-source defence intelligence, reported Ghana’s defence minister had sought parliamentary approval for the procurement of six L-39NG aircraft from the Czech company Aero Vodochody on 2 August.
The parliament’s order paper for that day showed the deal is worth EUR111 million (USD132 million) and covers associated products and services and a ground-based training system as well as the six aircraft.
The Ghanaian media reported that the acquisition is now being reviewed by parliament’s Defence and Interior Committee.
The L-39NG is based on the L-39 Albatros that is still widely used in both the trainer and light attack roles, but has a new lighter airframe, a more powerful and efficient engine, modern avionics, two additional hardpoints on the end of its wings where fuel tanks were located on its predecessor, and an undercarriage that can handle unpaved airstrips.
The increased efficiency of the engine, reduction in weight and drag, and new fuel system gives it a maximum range of 1,900 km without external fuel tanks, 800 km farther than the L-39, according to Aero Vodochody.
The company says the aircraft will have similar operating costs as a turboprop and announced in March that life cycle testing showed it has a service life of up to 15,000 flight hours, three-times longer than the L-39.
It announced in April 2020 that Senegal had ordered four L-39NGs, making it the first military customer for the new aircraft after orders from several companies, including LOM Praha, which trains the Czech and other air forces.
In August, the company told Janes that the Senegalese aircraft would be delivered in 2020-21, but that timeline has slipped as no aircraft have been delivered to any customers yet.
The L-39NG represents a new generation of modern and cost effective jet trainer based on the historical heritage of the proven and reliable L-39 Albatros. The L-39NG design reflects valuable input from our customers and is in accordance with the current and future needs of air forces around the world. Designed primarily as a basic and advanced jet trainer, the L-39NG can also perform a variety of other missions including light combat, close air support, counterinsurgency and reconnaissance.
L-39NG is currently destined for two customers – Czech Pardubice based Flight Training Centre operated by state owned company LOM Praha s.p. and Republic of Senegal. The Flight Training center will procure four aircraft that in pure trainer configuration that will be used for Czech Air Force pilot training. The Republic of Senegal contracted with Aero initially for four aircraft in light combat configuration.
Another potential customer where the Letter of Intent was signed is SkyTech of Portugal. Aero is running several campaigns in Asia (e.g. Thailand and Philippines) and in CEE region (e.g. Slovakia and Hungary).
For now, it remains unclear, whether value for money is paramount to the Akufo Addo government in these acquisitions.
More to come!