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HOW JOHN MAHAMA HAILED THE $140m SAGLEMI HOUSING “CHOP CHOP”

Politics

Checks done by the Daily Statesman show the extent to which former President John Dramani Mahama went to tacitly justify and applaud a unilateral variation of the original agreement for building what has since become understood as the corruption-laden Saglemi housing project.

Checks done by the Daily Statesman show the extent to which former President John Dramani Mahama went to tacitly justify and applaud a unilateral variation of the original agreement for building what has since become understood as the corruption-laden Saglemi housing project.

On June 16 2016, during one of his “Accounting to the People” tours, the then President “applauded the progress of work on the project”, which was said to be 80 per cent complete, but without any on-site utility infrastructure.

Congratulations

Mr Mahama congratulated Construtora OAS Ghana Ltd, the local subsidiary of the Brazilian firm undertaking the project, for its “successful partnership” with his government in making efforts at “resolving the accommodation problems in the country”.

Having been allowed by the Mahama government to get the original agreement altered ‒ and thereby ostensibly shortchanging the Ghanaian taxpayer ‒ Andrew Clocanas, chairman of the Brazilian company, wrote: “This is a milestone in the housing industry in Ghana. Nothing of this magnitude has ever been achieved. We are building a complete city, which will have industrial and recreational facilities, schools, shopping malls and other amenities, as well as security.

“The government played its role in securing 1,200 acres of land at a very low rate. In return, up to 40 per cent of the houses will be sold at subsidised rates for low-income earners to afford.”

The then President and his appointees described the project as “the most ambitious housing project in West Africa”.

“Criminal” variation

Mr Mahama applauded loudly at a time when he had made possible what now appears to be a criminal variation of the original agreement, to the detriment of Ghana.

The US$200 million housing deal was struck to give the country 5,000 homes at an average cost of $40,000 per unit. This, however, was altered to 1,502 homes at the same cost, without recourse to Parliament.

The cost of building 1,502 homes should have been $60.08 million, a sign that the country was being shortchanged to the tune of $140m.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo, has advised the Minister of Works and Housing, Samuel Atta Akyea, to refer the matter to “the appropriate authority for criminal investigations”, given that there is no “valid explanation” for the alteration of the terms of the original deal.

Information available to the Daily Statesman shows that processes for criminal investigation have already been triggered.

Incriminating

Following a letter from the Works and Housing Minister requesting advice on the way forward for the project, the AG critically reviewed all the documents on the project available.

According to Ms Akuffo, the outcome of the review confirmed that both the executive and parliamentary approvals for the project were for building 5,000 housing units at a total cost of $200m.

“From documents reviewed, there is no evidence justifying the variation of the scope of the Agreement in the First and Restated Agreement signed by the then Minister, Hon Collins Dauda, which reduced the number of housing units to be constructed from 5,000 to 1,502 even though the price remained US$200,000,000,” she said in her response to the Minister of Works and Housing.

According to the AG, the Minister was under an obligation to resubmit the new agreement to Parliament for approval, “since the First and Restated Agreement witnessed substantial reduction in the scope of the Agreement from 5,000 housing units to 1,502 housing units”.

No agreement

The Attorney General’s letter argued that the failure of the former Minister to resubmit the agreement to Parliament for approval “therefore renders the First and Restated Agreement null and void”.

The chief director of the Ministry of Works and Housing, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, who signed the restated agreement with Construtora OAS Ltd, had no capacity to do so, Ms Akuffo said.

She added, “There is no evidence that the Chief Director, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, was clothed with the capacity” to review the deal.

The AG concluded that once there is no evidence to confirm that the chief director was authorised by the Minister to review and sign the agreement, whatever he did “on this ground is also null and void and of no legal effect”.