Trade and Industry Minister, Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen, has cleared the air about the brouhaha generated by the allegation of extortion of monies from expatriate business persons desirous of sitting on the Presidential High Table during the recently-held Ghana Expatriate Business Award event in Accra, dismissing any wrongdoing.
In a statement on the issue in response to a query from President Akufo-Addo, the minister said that the president was only invited to the function as a special guest of honour – an invitation which he said the president graciously honoured.
“The president was invited as a Special Guest of Honour and he graciously accepted the invitation and attended the event,” he said, explaining that neither he (Alan) nor any of his staffers had anything to do with the organization of the programme.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) had raised issues that the expatriate business community paid to have dinner with the president.
Furthering his explanation, Mr Kyerematen said, “The management and organization of the event were initiated, directed and coordinated by the event organizers – the Millennium Excellence Foundation (MEF) – and facilitated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in line with its commitment to enhance public-private sector collaboration.”
The structure, form and content, including the distribution of sponsorship package for the event, according to the minister, are solely attributable to the organizers.
In the response letter, signed by the deputy minister of trade and industry and sighted by the media, Mr Alan Kyerematen stated that he had no link to the sponsorship package.
The minister asserted that in his outfit’s bid to ensure the financial integrity and accountability of the programme, which was agreed upon by the event organizers, insisted that all monies raised in respect of the event be paid into an account held by the ministry.
“It is therefore difficult to imagine how a government institution seeking to extort monies from individuals would insist on issuing official receipts,” he pointed out.
Continuing, Mr Kyerematen said that the organizers were specifically instructed not to collect monies to place persons/organizations on the Presidential High Table for the event – and according to him, they provided assurance that they would not breach the instruction.
“It is worth noting that all the business executives who were seated at the Presidential High Table who incidentally were chief executives of some of the top tier corporate entities in Ghana, already have had direct access to the president and do not need to pay monies to interact with him,” he stressed.
An audit of the event, he said, indicated that an amount of GH¢2,667,215.00 was raised against an expenditure of GH¢2,367,426.06.
“None of those who sat on the Presidential High Table made a contribution of $100,000 prior to the event as being alleged,” Mr Kyerematen emphasized, adding that from available information to the ministry, there was no extortion or indication of the sort, from any expatriate as being peddled about.
The nomination and selection of the award winners was done by an international audit firm – KPMG – the minister disclosed.
The resounding success of the programme, he indicated, found space in the remarks of the expatriate business personalities who graced the event.
Following the brouhaha over the alleged extortion, President Akufo-Addo demanded a written explanation from the minister, according to Information Minister Mustapha Abdul Hamid.
In a correspondence yesterday, the information minister explained that the trade minister’s response to the president’s demand on the allegation indicated that there was no extortion.
“The facts, as reported to the president, do not disclose any wrongdoing on the part of the minister or any government official,” Mr Hamid pointed out in his correspondence to the media.
Continuing, he said, “The president has therefore asked him to put forth the facts before the Ghanaian public.”
By A.R. Gomda