The construction firm at the centre of the $64 million infrastructure expansion project at the University of Ghana, Africa Integras, has said the current Vice-Chancellor of the university did not raise any objection to the project at the negotiation stage.
The firm alleged that the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu before his appointment was part of a series of meetings held prior to the contract’s approval.
[contextly_sidebar id=”b2g2y3uwyVvAWEYf4frPiPGGAHmcVgil”] The contract, which was signed under the former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ernest Aryetey, was meant for the construction of academic and residential facilities for the school.
The contract was however halted by the current university leadership with the support of government.
Speaking on Citi TV’s Face To Face, the CEO of Africa Integras, Andrea Pizziconi, said several attempts to re-engage the university on the issue have been futile.
“There were about 25 or 30 of the senior management [staff] of the university that attended [the meeting], so he would have been at that meeting and there were few other meetings [that we held]…I don’t recall him asking any question. My understanding is that subsequent to that meeting he raised no concerns about the progress. It was well before he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor,” she said.
The CEO also rejected claims that the university was likely to be privatized as a measure to prevent it from breaching the contract.
Education Minister, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, once suggested that the University of Ghana risked being privatised if it failed to meet its obligations in the agreement.
But Andrea Pizziconi insisted that Africa Integras had other means of ensuring that the contract was adhered to without privatising the university.
“There is nothing in the contract that gives us any right to operate the university whatsoever. That is not what we do. There is no mechanism in the contract that allows us to enforce the contract,” she added.
UG could be ‘auctioned’ over $64m deal – NAPO
The Minister of Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, in an interview with Peace FM’s Kwame Sefa Kayi in February 2018 indicated that the University under the previous government, entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with Africa Integras to invest US$64 million in the construction of 1,000 new students’ hostel beds for undergraduate and post-graduate students at the Legon campus.
He explained that under the agreement, the University of Ghana was expected to pay a total amount of 10 million dollars to Africa Integras every year for a period of 25 years.
The project he said was structured as a 25-year Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract.
Mr. Prempeh, however, indicated that the school had in recent times defaulted in the payment – a situation he believed could lead to the school’s assets being seized.
“University of Ghana might be put up for sale because it entered into an agreement and the school is unable to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract. Under this contract, Legon is expected to pay 10 million dollars every year for 25 years. If Legon is unable to settle this loan, its assets will be seized,” said the Minister.
The Minister also clarified that the agreement was not signed under the current government, adding that the school failed to hold consultations with the government at the time before sealing the deal.
“They went for a $64 million loan for the construction of some hostel beds for undergraduate and postgraduate students and they failed to inform government about this loan. They did not tell government anything” he claimed.
UTAG defends UG’s move
But the the then Local President of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Henry Agbanu, disagreed with the Minister’s position, explaining that once the school was not receiving financial support from government, it had no option than resort to loan agreements from external sources.
“We know that because of the infrastructure challenges facing the University, and the University has been struggling to find ways to solve problem. Remember that the University is a public institution which should be funded by government but over the years government funding to the universities have dwindled.”
“So far, all that government does is to pay emoluments of workers. No capital investment; no administrative cost, nothing; and so universities are left to struggle and cope with the problems they have. At a point at the University of Ghana, there were about six, seven students in a room and it was an eyesore when you came to the campus and you went to the students’ room, you will never want your child to be educated in such an environment so the University in its wisdom thought it will be necessary to build hostels for students to occupy,” he added.
By: Farida Yusif | citinewsroom.com | Ghana