Andrew Weir, a journalist with Africa Confidential has disclosed how in 2014 then-President John Dramani Mahama breached procurement processes to order that a new harbour terminal management contract at Tema be handed to a particular company.
Weir shed more light on his investigative piece when he appeared on a Wednesday night (April 14) news analysis programme on Accra-based Citi TV.
GhanaWeb monitored his submission on ‘The Point of View’ show where he pointed out Mahama’s role in halting a tendering process and the current government’s refusal to decisively act despite a ministerial report making damning conclusions about the deal between the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, GPHA, and the Meridian Port Services, MPS.
“I wondered why Akufo-Addo had not tried to blame President Mahama for it because the most interesting revelation in it (the ministerial report) in one of the first pages which is that the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority was in the process of sending out tenders to construct and operate the new container terminal.
“There had been a lot of interest, there had been an awful lot of work done by many private companies to qualify… and then suddenly on November the 14th 2014, President Mahama says stop.
“And he ordered (instructed GPHA) to stop the tender process and to give it all to MPS (Meridian Port Services), I don’t know Ghana laws but I understand that competitive tendering is a requirement for government procurement so the big question right there; the issue is not recorded and it’s a secret,” he added.
According to him, he was motivated by the leaked report and also what had happened in the intervening period.
He further underscored how Bollore logistics, a beneficiary in the said deal operates ports, container management and also in alliance with the biggest shipper of containers, Maersk; remained an influential player in the operation of the terminal 3 facility at the Tema Habour.
Excerpts of Face2FaceAfrica report: How a French billionaire gained control of Ghana’s largest port
In a special report, Pan African publication- African-Confidential- uncovered how Bolloré’s firm, Bolloré Africa Logistics, won the right to build and run a state-of-the-art container terminal at Ghana’s Tema Port.
The report described the new container port of Tema as a “lifeline not only for Ghana but for landlocked Burkina Faso and Mali, through their 70% owned joint venture with the Ghana government, Meridian Port Services (MPS)”.
The agreement, which was signed under the administration of then-Ghanaian President John Mahama, became a subject of a ministerial investigation following his defeat in 2016 to President Nana Akufo-Addo, who secured a second term in December 2020.
The ministerial committee report said the French billionaire and his partners persuaded Mahama to award MPS a new container terminal contract in secret, in breach of the country’s procurement laws.
It also said MPS overstated its planned investment which won tax holidays worth $832 million from Ghana’s parliament and that the agreement surreptitiously cut Ghana’s equity in MPS to 15% after first agreeing to 30%.
The committee’s report further claimed that Bolloré and his partners persuaded the government to allow it a monopoly on handling containers, “putting thousands of jobs at other port concerns at risk and driving up prices, and to set tariffs”.
The committee’s report also showed how Bolloré and his partners reduced the fees payable to the government over the life of the concession by $4.1 billion.
To this end, the committee concluded that the deal did not inure to the benefit of Ghana and recommended for a renegotiation which the Akufo-Addo administration ignored.
“The terms of the agreements between MPS and the state are so tilted against Ghana’s interests, concluded the report, delivered to ministers in February 2018, they should be renegotiated immediately. Yet the much-criticized contracts are still unchanged,” Africa Confidential said.
Africa Confidential further reported that the history of those relations shows “serious ethical professional deficiencies” with the result that “the engagements have to be carefully and deliberately reviewed”.
The newsletter noted that President Akufo-Addo inherited the situation when he won the 2016 election and “instead of blaming the scandal on his predecessor he has chosen to leave the contracts as they stand while friends and officials of his New Patriotic Party (NPP) take up posts with MPS.”