The hot verbal exchanges which ensued between the Minority spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, was as a result of the former’s attempt to uncover an alleged rot at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Today has learnt.
Presenting a dossier on alleged inflated $12 million property in Norway to be used as Ghana’s Embassy on the floor of Parliament, Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa alleged that although the said property was bought at $3.5 million, the cost was inflated only a year ago.
Consequently, Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa, who doubles as the MP for North Tongu, attempted to present those documents in Parliament.
That move, Today was reliably informed, was to back his claim of financial malfeasance by the foreign affairs ministry.
However, that attempt by the MP was shot down by the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Aaron Ocquaye, who rejected his evidence, ruling that it was defective.
Interestingly, in a heated response outside Parliament, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, stressed that an offer for the purchase of the building was made but had not been accepted.
A summary of Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa’s allegation on the Oslo Chancery building reveals the address and location of the facility which is expected to be converted into a chancery for Ghana’s new Mission in Norway.
The address is as follows: Sigyns gate 3, 0260, Oslo, with Land Number: 215 and Title Number: 522. The building, which is a six-bedroom facility, was built in 1918—a 100- year-old property.
The MP went on further to claim that contractors were seen on site as recent as last week Thursday (13th December, 2018) carrying out renovation works.
According to him, records showed that a previous buyer—Lillian Olsson—bought the property in 2014 for 25,250,000.00 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) – equivalent to US$ 2,930,098.38
Meanwhile, according to a Norwegian financial newspaper—Finansavisen— Lillian Olsson sold the property in August 2017 to an unknown buyer for NOK 31,000,000.00 – equivalent to US$ 3,598,108.00
Interestingly, Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa said Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration had made presentation to Parliament’s Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that Ghana was purchasing this same building at a staggering NOK 105,180,000 – equivalent to US$12,218,487.13
And it was this latest purchase price by the ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration which appears to inflate the cost of the property by a whopping US$8,620,379.13.
The US$8,620,379.13 inflated figure by current exchange rate works out to some GHS 41,771,340.13.
The new purchase price has been described as “UNETHICAL” by Real Estate Brokers who had spoken to the Norwegian press on the matter.
The North Tongu MP further alleged that other associated costs of this purchase presented to Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs had also been grossly inflated.
According to him, their checks in Norway for the cost of Registration of Documents is NOK 525 and not NOK 50,000 as claimed by the ministry—a rip off by some NOK 49,475 – equivalent to 5,743.03.
Additional checks in Norway, Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa noted, revealed that Structural and Evaluation Reports were not charged separately as that was part of the agency fees.
“Therefore, the NOK 40,000.00 (US$ 4,645.38) charged after a pricy NOK
2,500,000.00 (US$ 290,519.00) agency fee is another example of how scandalous this whole transaction is,” Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa alleged in his summary of allegation.
Another strange transaction cost, he revealed, was the NOK 90,000 legal fees which “our contacts in Norway tell us ought not to feature in this transaction. This explains why the second transaction – the purchase of the Ambassador’s Residence has no legal fees in its cost breakdown.”
Furthermore, the minority spokesperson noted that it was disquieting that despite the “outrageously inflated transaction; US$16,500,000.00 was the amount brought to Parliament for approval as the total cost for the purchase of the two facilities “(that is the Chancery at NOK 105,180,000 and the Ambassador’s Residence at NOK 25,775,000 = NOK 130,955,000 – equivalent to US$15,197,995.62). This means clearly that the total cost for the transaction was also inflated by over US$ 1.3 million.”
“It is instructive to note that funding for these purchases is the US$50 Million loan facility bequeathed to the current Government by the former Mahama Administration. As per the Foreign Ministry’s own documents to our committee, they are also purchasing a Chancery, Residence and paying for a Relocation Cost in Paris all at US$ 5,256,133.35. In Geneva they are purchasing a Chancery for US$ 3,024,706.00, a Residence in the Vatican for US$2,031,178.32 and a Chancery in Tel Aviv for US$ 4,500,000.00. It is curious that the Oslo transaction is outlandishly higher than all these in cities where properties are considered far more expensive than in Oslo.
…Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance in a document submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee reveals that on 20th October, 2018, an amount of GHS 15, 337,152.58 was released to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cater for the “Establishment of Diplomatic missions in Oslo, Norway and Consulate-General in Port Louis, Mauritius and Guangzhou, China,” Mr Okudzeto-Ablakwa’s statement noted.