The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has denied signing an agreement for the procurement of a Chancery and Ambassador’s Residence for its mission in Norway.
The Ministry in a statement copied to citinewsroom.com said although it has expressed interest in some properties in Norway, it is yet to enter into an agreement with the owners of the properties, contrary to claims by the minority in Parliament.
The Minority in Parliament, led by its Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa leveled claims of cost inflation against the ministry over the conversion of a 100-year-old 6-bedroom house in Oslo Norway, into Ghana’s new mission in Norway.
Ablakwa alleged that the property was bought by a certain woman for $2.9 million in 2014 and sold to an unknown buyer for $3.5 million in August 2017, and so it was surprising that the ministry in a presentation to the Foreign Affairs committee said it was purchasing the same building for $12.2 million in 2018.
He therefore urged the Speaker, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, to admit a document he presented to back his claims of an inflated contract, but the Speaker ruled that the evidence is not admissible because the documents are not verifiable.
The sector minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, denied the allegations on the floor of Parliament, saying the Ministry had already backtracked on that particular property and wad looking elsewhere.
The Ministry’s statement on the matter said,
“[It] has not signed any agreement to purchase the said properties; that is the Chancery and the Ambassador’s Residence. The Ministry expressed interest in two properties in Oslo and as required by the Public Procurement Act, commenced due diligence on the properties with the Assistance of a property Valuer and a reputable Lawyer with expertise in the acquisition of properties for Diplomatic Missions.”
The statement added that “The ministry strongly rejects the unfounded claims by the Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and a section of the Minority that seeks to give the erroneous impression that the Ministry was engaged in some fraudulent transaction with the owners of the two properties,” the statement added.
Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, who was confronted on the matter in Parliament on Monday said following a publication in a Norwegian newspaper alleging an inflation of the price of the Chancery by the owner, she had ordered that processes for the acquisition of the two properties to be discontinued.
“Mr. Speaker, we obviously realized that this was the same property that had been recommended by my officers. Last week Wednesday, I stopped them from going ahead to proceed on any act of acceptance. So as we speak, Mr. Speaker, I am even told that the Landlord is going ahead with others. No money has exchanged hands; and we don’t have a contract that will bind us to purchase that property; and it’s on hold, and I have instructed and directed that we look for other properties, and if we do not find properties, we can at least start renting for both the chancery and the residence, whiles we look for an appropriate property to buy. So Mr. Speaker, that’s the state as we speak now” she explained.
“Mr. Speaker, I have taken note of all the issues that have been raised, and as a Minister, I take responsibility for everything that is done in the ministry under my watch. Mr. Speaker, I would like to state this on record, that I will not superintend over any act of corruption or wrongdoing or outrageous inflation of figures or fraudulent activities that will end in the loss of funds to the Ministry and by extension the state” she added in Parliament.
Sam George, Ayorkor Botchwey in ‘near fight’ in Parliament
There was a near altercation in the foyer of Parliament on Monday, between the Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Sam George, and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, also MP for Anyaa Sowutuom over the matter.
Citi News’ Duke Mensah Opoku reported the Foreign Affairs Minister was addressing some Minority MPs ostensibly explaining the Ministry’s budgeted expenditure on the Chancery when she heard Sam George making catcalls and taking a video record of her engagement with Okudzeto Ablakwa and some minority MPs.
The Minister was however held back by her security detail and the Chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Frank Annoh Dompreh, averting a possible physical challenge. She was heard hurling insults at Sam George, who was also heard saying that he was going to seek audience with the Speaker.
Read the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s full statement below: