… As Jubilee House renders Peter Amewu and Board useless
The Herald, has picked up some disturbing reports about the Akufo-Addo government’s handling of the Ghana Railway Development Authority.
The Authority, has fallen prey to certain elements inside the Presidency, who are using it for their selfish ends, including keeping a retired Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ernest Yaw Owusu in office on a post-retirement contract running into five years.
There is currently confusion between the Ministry of Railway Development and Jubilee House as to who has absolute control over the Authority, including the actions of its CEO, who is reported to have authorized the payment of 100 million Euros to a contractor, without approval of the board led by Dr Martin Amogre Ayanore.
The CEO also failed to confirm the quantum of work done to warrant the huge payment. Insiders have observed that the payment far exceeded work done by the contractor which had earlier pocketed some €68 million from the project cost.
The government is constructing a 78-kilometer section of the Western Railway Line from Manso to Huni Valley.
The contractor for the project, is at site working. A €500 million loan facility has been secured from the Deutsche Bank for the development of the project with an initial advance of €68 million paid to the contractor as mobilization to ensure the construction of a new standard gauge.
However, the claim that the CEO had paid some 100 million euros to the contractor without authorization from the board has been contested with reports that the payment made so far is in the region of €190 million inclusive of the €68 million paid to the contractor as mobilization.
It further emerged that the CEO of GRDA cannot authorize payments by himself; the loan is a GoG loan therefore every payment is authorised by the Ministry of Railways Development (MoRD) and the Ministry of Finance.
Moreso, there’s serious scrutiny before a payment is made, and even after all the Ghanaian authorities approve, it still needs the approval of the lending bank and its insurers.
Additionally, there’s no obligation by any SOE CEO to ask for the board’s approval before certification is granted; once a project is duly approved and the contract is signed, the CEO acts within the confines of the agreement with respect to payment.
The Railway Authority CEO had long attained his compulsory retirement age of 60 years, but efforts by the Ministry to let him go have been met with resistance from Jubilee House with several Post-retirement contracts running into five years.
Documents sighted by The Herald, revealed that Mr Owusu, has been issued with various post-retirement contracts to stay on till December 15, 2024.
Mr Owusu, got his initial post-retirement contract for two years that expired in December 2021. This was followed by another two-year contract which took effect from December 16, 2021 and ends on December 15, 2023.
But even before his last two-deal ends, he has been issued with a year’s contract to stay on till December 17, 2024 to bring his post-retirement stay to five years.
Insiders believe Mr Owusu is serving certain interests at the presidency, hence the decision not to let him go. What is strange is that the one-year post-retirement contract was issued by the Presidency, through Nana Bediatuo Asante, the President’s Secretary without any input from the Railway Ministry.
Correspondence sighted by The Herald revealed that, the Railway Ministry wants Mr Owusu out from the Authority and ordered him to proceed on leave, but the Presidency, wants him to stay and has, therefore, torpedoed the sector ministry’s directives, as well as the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy suspending the granting of approval for Post-Retirement Contract Appointments.
A letter dated April 28, 2022, and authored by one Patrick Nomo, a Chief Director at Finance Ministry, gave Financial Clearance to the Contract Appointment for Mr Owusu.
It referenced a letter numbered JA 311/322/01 dated January 11, 2022 from the Railway Ministry saying “in view of the approval from the Office of the President, financial clearance is hereby granted you to pay the emoluments of Mr Yaw Owusu, the Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Railway Development Authority, who has been granted a two-year post-retirement contract”.
It said “This post retirement contract takes retrospective effect from 16th December 2021 and terminates on 15th December, 2023”.
It advised that “the Ministry of Railways Development is to ensure that a succession plan is put in place to enable a suitable candidate understudy the Chief Executive Officer before the expiration of his contract, adding “by a copy of this letter, the Controller and Accountant-General is requested to effect the payment of his salary from the date of assumption of duty”.
Another letter dated December 15, 2021 and signed by Nana Bediatuo Asante, Secretary to the President, referenced a December 10, 2021 letter from the board chairman of the Authority, I am pleased to inform you that the President has granted you a further two-year contract of service as Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Railway Development Authority effective 16th December, 2021 to 15th December, 2023.
One other document by Desmond Boateng, Chief Director of Railway Ministry, is in the custody of The Herald. It revealed that the Board Chairman of the Railway Authority, had on October 4, 2023 expressed concerns on the post-retirement contract for the CEO to the Ministry.
The Chief Director’s letter dated October 5, 2023, stated amongst others thing that “…I have been directed to inform you to take the necessary action to request Mr Yaw Owusu, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Railway Development Authority to proceed on leave prior to the end of his post-retirement contract which ends on the 15th December, 2023.
“It would be appreciated of you could kindly ensure that a comprehensive Handing Over Note is prepared and made available by Mr Owusu before his exit. Please kindly extend to Mr Yaw Owusu the Ministry’s appreciation for his contribution to the development of the Railway Sector and also wish him well in his future endeavours.
Interestingly, four days after the Ministry’s letter, Nana Bediatuo fired a letter to John Peter Amewu, the sector minister, saying “the President has taken due notice of the contents of your letter, including the position of the Board of Directors of Ghana Railway Development Authority regarding its proposal for Mr. Ernest Yaw Owusu to proceed on three (3) months ‘ leave prior to 15th December 2023, when his current contract ends. However, after careful deliberation, the President believes that exceptional circumstances in the railway sector require a different course of action.
The President’s secretary said in his October 9, letter that “given the substantial progress of the ongoing railway projects at various stages of completion, the President is determined to consolidate these efforts and ensure their successful completion. In the light of this, the President had decided to make an exception and extend the contract of Mr Ernest Yaw Owusu for another year. This extension is intended to provide the necessary leadership and continuity to bring these critical projects to fruition”.
The letter added “The Office of the President will take the necessary steps to formally issue Mr. Owusu an extension of his contract before his current contract ends on 15th December 2023.
True to his words, shortly after Nana Bediatuo’s letter, October 10, 2023, just the next day, he issued another letter to the Railway Authority CEO, saying “I am pleased to inform you that the President of the Republic has granted you a one-year Contract of Service of Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Railway Development Authority effective 18th December, 2023 to 17th December 2023.
Other documents showed that discussions toward getting rid of the Railway Authourity CEO, had started as far as September 28, 2023 with the Board Chairman of the Authority being written to by the Chief Director of the Ministry on the post-retirement contract of the CEO.
The letter referenced the existing post-retirement contract and said that “We wish to draw the board’s attention to this and apprise them with all the relevant correspondence with the Ministry from the Office of the President and the Finance Ministry (MoF), and also a subsequent self-explanatory circular from the MOF to all Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDA) on the subject matter as attached for your perusal.
“We also wish to draw the board’s attention to Section 4. 26.4 (b) of the Human Resources Management Policy Framework and the Manual for the Ghana Public Services on Compulsory Retirement which is relevant for administration purposes and states that “the Public Servant shall be advised of the terminal leave and any other entitlements six (6) months before the date of compulsory retirement of the that Public Servant, but failure by the organisation to give the advice shall not affect the Compulsory retirement”.
The continuous appointment of the Railway Authority boss is that it goes contrary to the government’s policy on the engagement of retirees. A letter from the Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei Asare, referenced the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, submitted and approved by Parliament for the year 2022 fiscal year.
Portions of the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy stated that the Government has, with immediate effect, suspended the granting of approval for Post-Retirement Contract Appointments, except in cases where the skills of the retiring officer are in short supply and unavoidably needed”.
“In view of this, we are unable to grant financial clearance Post-Retirement Contract Appointment at this stage.
Many have argued that the continuous stay of the CEO of the Railway Authority in office, is a waste of time and resources as he has not displayed any exceptional expertise to warrant his stay, hence can easily be replaced.