Monday, 28 December 2015

Has Truth Indeed Become A Rather Scarce Commodity In The NPP?

Today's blog post results from a series of conversations with students from Jayee University College and Regent University College of Science and Technology. It is based on notes made from conversations that took place a month ago.

It is meant to be free advice for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) - and one humbly offers it to its leaders, with the greatest respect, because one believes that it is in the supreme national interest of Ghana to do so.

Every patriotic Ghanaian ought to offer support to those one-nation politicians, who joined the NPP because they treasure freedom, and  value the rule of law - and want Ghana to remain a united nation of diverse-ethnicity: in which no ethnic group is superior or inferior to another.

They also want Ghana to remain a tolerant and peaceful society, in a nation whose people share a common destiny, and  also share more or less the same DNA.

Let us support such tolerant and truly democratic NPP members - so that together we can empower them to roundly defeat those anti-democratic plutocrats who now control the NPP, and whose feudal mindsets make them believe that it is their birthright to dominate the Republic of Ghana - and a Divine right of theirs to rule our nation.

That foolish notion of theirs is  a 21st century absurdity in today's modern Africa. No sincere and patriotic Ghanaian should encourage such backward individuals. They are a danger to national cohesion - and to the long-term stability of Ghana.

The hypocritical Atta Akyeas and Asare Otchere-Darkos, who love the sound of their voices so, and laugh at their own jokes, are classic examples of the NPP's malevolent plutocrats.

Their antediluvian sense of entitlement, is arrant nonsense, of course: Ghana is not a feudal state - surprising though that might be to those geniuses and their collaborators.  On the contrary, our homeland Ghana is a unitary republic, which is an African democracy aspiring to become  a meritocracy. And it will, one day, God willing.

Incidentally, meritocracy, as we all know, is the greatest enemy of inherited privilege - that backward holder-back-of-progress. Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o. Asem ebeba debi ankasa!

Please read on:

It ought to be pretty obvious to any politician worth his or her salt, in today's Ghana, that there has been a  dramatic change in attitudes in many aspects of life, in Ghanaian society - as more and more of the younger generation have moved into top-level positions in many areas of our national life.

One such change in attitude, is the unwillingness of many ordinary people, to stomach high-level corruption amongst our ruling elites, any longer - because ordinary people who are  thinking-Ghanaians now clearly understand that high-level corruption poses a long-term threat to Ghana's stability.

Previously, most people in Ghana stoically accepted that nothing much could be done about high-level corruption. No longer, thank goodness.

It is a positive development in the Ghanaian polity that those in the NPP, who are acting as if their party is a replica of the North Korean Communist Party - which brooks no dissent whatsoever - ought to take into account, if they want to win power in the December 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Instead of instituting a reign of terror in their party to silence dissenters - and shielding those guilty of financial malfeseance in the disbursement of cash belonging to the NPP, ditto in operating its  bank accounts - would it not be far more beneficial to Mother Ghana, were the NPP's current leaders to commit themselves to a policy of publicly publishing the assets of all appointed NPP office holders, and their spouses, before and after their tenures' in office, should the NPP win power in the December 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections?

One hopes to hear Dr Bawumia,  apparently the NPP's anti-corruption campaigner-in-chief, making such a commitment unequivocably to Ghanaians, soon.

The NPP's leaders  need to clearly understand that most Ghanaians have also come round to the view that no  truly democratic party will demand that all its members toe the same line - and hound party dissenters who refuse to be cowed into accepting such a libertarian abomination.

Additionally, thinking-Ghanaians recognise that it is only when there is competition of ideas amongst politicians and political parties, that the best ideas come to the fore - and help move free societies forward.

That is why the NPP's leaders quickly need to find a face-saving way to restore Paul Afoko and Kwabena Agyapong to their respective positions in the party again - if they want Ghanaians to believe that the NPP is actually a truly united political party: that is committed to individual liberty, including the right to speak one's mind freely, without any repercussions.

There is absolutely no other way around taking such a decision for those clever plutocrats, alas. That some of them think that future appointments of Afoko and Agyapong as ambassadors, in an NPP government after any victory in the December 2016 presidential election for the party's candidate, will repair the damage done by the coup against the two gentlemen,  shows what poor strategic thinkers they are.

It appears that it has never dawned on them that they themselves could be sidelined too, by the growing revulsion amongst the NPP's fair-minded silent majority, against their arrogance and presumption: A major political party like the NPP can never be manipulated and used as a special purpose vehicle for one family clan's grandoise dreams.

And it  will serve them right, too, were that to happen - for their high-handedness in dealing with Paul Afoko and Kwabena Agyapong so capriciously, by using absurd trumped-up charges against them, in order to justify the unfair removal of the two gentlemen from their elected positions in the NPP's national executive council. Some democratic party. Amazing.

It is also important that the NPP's current leaders understand clearly that thinking-Ghanaians now never fail to understand that the leaders of a truly democratic party, will not ever adopt a power-at-all-costs election campaign strategy, and carry on as if "Dominating Ghana by any means necessary - fair or foul" happens to be their political philosophy and Machiavellian personal motto.

That is precisely why some thinking-Ghanaians will find it rather difficult to forgive those NPP leaders who vowed to make Ghana ungovernable -  and have proceeded to do so ever since their party lost power in the December 2008 elections.

They have disrupted life for millions of ordinary people across the nation, on many occassions, by funding sundry strikes and public demonstrations - some organised by  civil society organisations whose critics insist are mere legal fronts, which  in reality, are covert appendages of the NPP.

Once upon a time, in explaining how party cash had been utilised,  during a current affairs radio programme, the John Boadus actually admitted that the NPP had part-funded the dumsor vigil and the wonbgo demonstration.

Since many in today's NPP leadership speak with forked-tongues, is it not reasonable to say that perhaps only a forensic audit of party funds, can shed light on such clandestine payments?

Incidentally, although they signed and took party money for the same purpose, the John Boadus vociferously condemned Paul Afoko for allegedly funding a trip to Accra by his supporters - so that they could apparently come and demonstrate at the party's headquarters building in Accra, and elsewhere in the capital, in his support.

The double standards demonstrated in that instance by the John Boadus is so typical of many individuals in the nest of vipers that the NPP has now been transformed into.

And the monstrosity that sabotaging the nation-building effort (by funding strikes and demonstrations) represents, has even been extended to include contacting foreign governments, multilateral organisations and international companies, including banks - asking them not to deal with Ghana: as part of the long-term scorched-earth political strategy that they have adopted in their ruthless quest for power, since 7th January, 2009.

It will be recalled that the Hon. Kennedy Adjapong, the NPP MP for Assin North, in Ghana's Central Region, once proudly claimed - during a radio interview - that he  had asked the Chinese government not  to give Ghana the remaining balance of US$1.5 billion out of a US$3 billion loan promised to Ghana by the government of China. Incredible - and a member of Parliament, too.

Amazingly, that selfsame genius could not contain his delight, at stabbing his own country in the back. It seems to have completely escaped him that he only ended up denying the government the wherewithal to develop Ghana with. It was lost on him that development projects  actually help to improve the quality of life of the vast majority of the people who reside in marginalised communities in both rural and urban areas across the country.

"People get shot in China for such treasonable activities, do they not?" quipped a female Jayee University College student.  And quite right too, sayeth I.

That it is morally wrong to adopt a scorched-earth political strategy in order to win power, was summned up succinctly, by a young student from Regent University College of Science and Technology: "Winning power in a true democracy is not a matter of life and death. That is why the peace and stability of our country must  never be allowed to be sacrificed at the alter of greed-and-lust-for-power, just to enable a few selfish and overly-ambitious politicians to either retain power, or win it. Ghana is neither the private property of any Ghanaian politcal party, nor the plaything of any Ghanaian politician."

In light of all the above, if they want to secure the long-term future of their party, those fair-minded and principled individuals in the NPP, who view democracy as a way of life based on tolerance, and joined the party because they treasure individual freedom and value the rule of law, ought to fight back to take full control of their party - from the anti-democratic plutocrats with feudal mindsets: into whose grasping hands their party has now fallen.

They must prise the NPP away from those amoral and super-ruthless individuals, who think that dealing with financial malfeasance in the handling of a political party's financial affairs, is not a matter for the police to investigate, but an internal party matter - no doubt because they want such "sensitive matters" to be dealt with behind closed doors to suit the vested interests that now dominate the NPP.

No independent-minded and patriotic Ghanaian, who truly abhors corruption, will ever vote for any political party whose leaders talk endlessly about high-level corruption in the Ghana of today, whiles their own party's elected executives, who rightly insist on transparency and accountability in the handling of the party's financial affairs - and therefore proceed to invite the police to investigate financial impropriety that they have discovered - are hounded out of their positions in that selfsame party.

Is that not corruption and hypocrisy of the very worst kind?

Ghanaians are not fools. Playing fast and loose with a political party's funds is a very serious crime in any democratic nation that actually values the rule of law - and it is a serious matter that the police in our democracy ought to swiftly step in to investigate once it has been brought to their notice.

No one is above the law in Ghana - and politicians who say they believe in the rule of law, and preach endlessly against high-level corruption, must condemn party members guilty of  fraudulently handling party funds, and expel them from their parties - not molly-coddle them: and promote them to new leadership positions in acting capacities, instead.

 Dealing with such a crime can never be regarded by honest politicians as an internal party matter. Ever. Those who now dominate the NPP must take cognisance of that, since the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections now loom large.

And if the NPP's current leaders  truly believe in the rule of law, and value Ghana's stability,  then they must also ensure that the prevarication about the arms said to have been discovered at the NPP's headquarters building, ends - and encourage the police to thoroughly investigate how they got there.

Who wants Ghana to be ruled by a political party whose leaders acquire an arsenal? What exactly do they need arms for, one wonders?

There is yet another issue that the NPP's current leaders ought to confront immediately. The question many thinking-Ghanaians are pondering over is: What political party that truly believes in democracy will recruit thugs and set them up as a private security company, to hide their real purpose -  to intimidate their opponents inside their party and outside it?

Above all, the NPP's leaders must show the people of Ghana, that they really do abhor corruption - by openly acknowledging that those in their midst who engage in fraud in handling party funds, and operating its bank accounts, are committing serious crimes that the police must investigate.

Fraud is a crime - not a minor private party internal matter. Period.

That is why it is so important that the NPP ought to be open and transparent about a number of issues raised by the suspended national chairperson, Paul Afoko, and the suspended general secretary, Kwabena Agyapong, before their suspension - including the accusations made against those alledged to have unlawfully disbursed funds from a reactivated once-dormant bank account at the Trust Towers branch of Ecobank.

What those playing Kweku-Ananse-politricks in the NPP - and have buried their heads firmly in the sand about the effects of their egregious acts of omission and commission on their party - ought to realise, is that the only conclusion that any sincere and independent-minded Ghanaian patriot, who reads the minority report written by Mr. Ohene Ntow, the chairperson of the ad hoc committee set up by the NPP's national executive council, which dealt with that particular issue, can come to, is that unfortunately truth has become a rather scarce commodity in the NPP. Pity.

Naturally, some might say that that is a moot point. However, the mere fact that some indepedent-minded Ghanaians, can come to such a conclusion about the real nature of today's NPP, speaks volumes about the lack of moral compass in some of their number that has led to a number of unethical decisions by the NPP's current leadership. Ditto the unprincipled actions carried out by a number of those who now dominate that party so completely. How unfortunate for Mother Ghana.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Prosecute And Jail All Those Who Broke Procurement Laws In Awarding The MMTL Bus "Rebranding" Contract

A sage from Walewale in the Northern Region once remarked that sun-filled wonders will never end in Ghanaian politics - and that that will always be the case till the very end of time.

So it is little wonder indeed that highly-placed public officials sanctioned the Metro Mass Transit Limited (MMTL) bus "rebranding" contract. Ghana's public-sector is replete with super-clever individuals who believe in making hay whiles the sun shines.

The question that needs answering by those who govern Ghana is: What exactly was the point in "rebranding" buses in a nation whose government cannot even pay salary arrears it owes many of its own employees for lengthy periods - especially when those selfsame buses could earn revenue for the MMTL from advertisers on a regular basis?

Whose priority was that foolish example of sycophancy gone mad as presidential and parliamentary elections approach - in this sleight-of-hand political marketing initiative paid for with oil cash and aimed at glorifying a President who is a humble man who as it happens is easily embarrassed by such arrant imperial-presidency-nonsense?

This outrage is an affront to a hard-pressed people struggling to survive on a daily basis - in a harsh economic climate resulting from the profligacy of their nation's spendthrift political class and upper echelons of the public sector.

Who exactly was it who undertook the influence-peddling that made this crooked deal possible - and who was the highly-placed object of that influence-peddling whose say-so eventually made a series of top officials swiftly sanction it when it made its merry way to the in-trays on top of their highly-polished desks?

It is amazing that there are individuals at the presidency, who apparently think that all they have to do, in order to end the controversy over the award of the fraudulent contract to Smarttys Management and Productions Limited to "rebrand" 116 MMTL buses,  is to find a super-clever narrative to justify it. Poor, souls.

If, that indeed is the case, then it would appear that it has never struck those genuises in President Mahama's inner circle, that hypothetically it is entirely possible for a president of Ghana, seeking re-election to a second term, with a legacy that any leader around the world can be proud of, to be still voted out of office - regardless of the fact that during that president's tenure he or she succeeded in turning the country into a veritable paradise on earth in which the citizenry enjoy a high standard of living as a result of their nation's booming economy.

Ghanaians are no longer prepared to be lied to and ripped-off by those who govern their country. Those who surround President Mahama ought to understand that this scandal is a vote-losing controversy that  is unlikely to disappear any time soon, unless the public is told the whole truth about it.

Perhaps, one day, in the not too distant future, when some of those geniuses surrounding President Mahama look back at the events leading to the defeat of their charge (in the event he loses the November 2016 presidential election, that is) they will come to realise that public anger over the "rebranding"  contract awarded to Smarttys Management and Productions Limited  - and incredibly paid for with some 3.6 million cedis out of Ghana's oil revenues - was a major last-straw factor in the President's defeat.

For many indepedent-minded and patriotic Ghanaians, that "rebranding" contract awarded to Smarttys Management and Productions Limited, is an outrageous example of the "Chopping Ghana small" mentality  - which makes powerful and well-connected individuals scheme to siphon off public funds into private pockets: through profiteering in executing government contracts.

It illustrates perfectly how high-level corruption - fuelled by the unparalleled greed of a well-connected few - is enabling a small group of individuals to rip Mother Ghana off successfully and send their net worth to stratospheric heights: at the expense of ordinary people.

Alarmingly, for thinking-Ghanaians, that crooked and unlawful contract was made possible, only because the money to pay for it came out of Ghana's oil revenues.

That evokes fear in many patriotic citizens that it is empirical evidence proving that oil revenues are being gradually dissipated through sundry clever rip-off schemes - and that our nation might now be suffering from the oil-curse.

That is why no amount of spin will be allowed to sweep this particular scandal under any red carpet. And any attempt at a cover-up will fail and end in ignominy.

It is symbolic of the abuse of power by our vampire-elites. And a hard-pressed populace - forever being asked to make sacrifice upon sacrifice for the common good by those governing their nation - is no longer willing to tolerate such shennanigans.

The many genuises at the presidency - such as the too-clever-by-half, smug, arrogant and amoral Stan Dogbes - had better awaken to that reality. Quickly.

Only the full and unalloyed truth about how a company owned by the narcissistic wife of a leading member of the National Democratic Congress ("that notoriously greedy Ibrahim Adams" to quote a fuming university student, who had been outraged that as chairperson of the ADB board, at a point  in time, a company he was associated with had applied for a hefty sum in US dollars as a loan) came to be awarded that "Chopping-Ghana-small" sole-sourcing contract, will satisfy an enraged public now thoroughly fed up with high-level corruption in Ghana.

There will have to be prosecutions in this matter. This is actually a litmus test for President Mahama - who needs to prove that when it comes to high-level corruption, no one is indeed above the law, in the Ghana he leads.

There should be forensic auditing of the entire process leading to the award of this particular contract - and all those who broke the laws governing the public procurement process to award it should be swiftly tried and jailed. Ghanaians are no longer prepared to tolerate high-level corruption in their country.

President Mahama must demonstrate that he has the will to fight high-level corruption - by making an example of the owners of Smarttys Management and Productions Limited. The survival of his presidency depends on it - and any failure on his part to act will spell doom for his re-election bid: as sure as day follows night.

That obviously unethically-run company and all its greedy directors ought to be blacklisted and permanently banned from bidding for government contracts in Ghana,  and banned from being company directors for life.

And they must also be compelled to refund the excess amount of Ghc1.9 million involved in their conscienceless and shameful rip-off of Mother Ghana - plus interest. Both the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Economic and Organised Crime Office should check their books thoroughly to ensure that they are tax-compliant.

Above all, all those who broke the laws governing the public procurement process, in awarding the 116 MMTL bus "rebranding" contract to Smarttys Management and Productions Limited should be prosecuted and jailed.

Only such an outcome will save the Mahama presidency's reputation, such as it is, in this shabby story of unfathomable greed and mean-spiritedness.

President Mahama will lose the votes of many independent-minded and patriotic citizens in the November 2016 presidental election if he allows those who perpetrated this monstrous fraud against Mother Ghana to get away with their egregious crime. Enough is enough.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Happy Holidays - And May 2016 Be A Better Year For All Ghanaians Than 2015 Has Been Thus Far

As the year 2015 draws to a close, one wishes all one's readers, happy holidays.

One's prayer for our homeland Ghana, in the coming year, 2016, is that the growing numbers of comfortably well-off Ghanaians, will follow the example of the membership of activist groups such as the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM), Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies (FRWB), Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG) and  #OccupyGhana - by getting off the proverbial fence: and electing to take a more active interest in how our nation is governed.

Middle-class Ghanaians  need to stand up for the less privileged in society by demanding more accountability from state institutions and those who manage them - so that our nation will be better managed.

Let us also resolve to support local industries that provide jobs for our people in 2016 on a more sustained basis.

And may those who manage the national economy see the wisdom in organising regular trade fairs in all the nations of West Africa for Ghanaian manufacturing companies to showcase their products to the people of those sister nations.

There is no reason why the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and the partially state-owned downstream oil marketing company, Ghana Oil Company Limited (GOIL), should not collaborate to sell TOR's refined petroleum products - refined from oil supplied by the GNPC -  in GOIL petrol filling stations, in places like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Togo and Benin.

It will  help improve our balance of trade and our balance of payments,  and thus help strengthen our much-weakened currency, the Ghana cedi, will it not?

At a time when global warming is impacting nations in Africa negatively, to ensure that present and future generations of our people can continue to enjoy a reasonably good quality of life, Ghanaians  must  not allow what is left  of our nation's natural heritage, to be destroyed by a greedy and selfish few.

Parliament needs to lead the way - by passing draconian laws to protect the natural environment. All those who infringe those laws must serve mandatory jail sentences - of not less than ten years with hard labour.

It is intolerable that wealthy criminal syndicate members can gang-rape Mother Nature so brutally, in the open, and still get away with that monstrous and abominable crime against humanity - because they are shielded by the protection provided by their powerful friends in high positions.

Yet, all of them are potential sponsors of tomorrow's home-grown terrorist organisations, and rebel groups, were  civil strife to ever occur in Ghana (God forbid).

That is precisely what happened in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the civil wars there, when diamonds, gold and timber were looted and traded for arms, by warlords and  rebel groups - in case that escapes the careless geniuses in charge of national security.

Elements amongst Ghana's wealthy criminal syndicates are the kingpins behind most of the  illegal logging, illegal gold mining and illegal sand-winning, now going on in all parts of our homeland Ghana.

It is resulting in the  destruction of  farmlands and forests, as well as the poisoning of soils, rivers and water bodies, across vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside - and it is all being done with total impunity.

Yet, at a time of global climate change, many of Ghana's political parties are strangely silent about the wanton destruction of the natural environment - although such environmental degradation actually poses an existential threat to our people and to the long-term sustainability of the national economy.

Incredibly, there are high-profile politicians in Ghana - from across the spectrum - who court those behind illegal gold mining by promising to legalise galamsey when they win the 2016 elections. Amazing.

Do they not see the harm those super-ruthless criminals have caused and are causing across Ghana, one wonders?

Above all, if Ghanaians want to see an end to high-level corruption, they must demand that political parties and politicians should be more forthcoming about the sources of their funding.

It is their marriage of convenience with vested interests that is the source of most of the high-level corruption that is slowly destroying our homeland Ghana - and damaging the future prospects of Ghana's younger generation.

We can end the phenomenon of crooks-in-high-places stealing taxpayers' money, and getting away with it, by compelling all politicians who are appointed into government as ministers to publicly publish their assets, and those of their spouses. And they ought to do so before assuming office - and immediately after their tenures' end

It will definitely stop unsuitable individuals from going into politics with the sole purpose of  siphoning off taxpayers' money into their own pockets - and encourage patriotic, honest and well-qualified individuals, with solid track records, who are world-class in their respective fields, to venture into politics to serve Mother Ghana selflessly and diligently.

It will be interesting to have an opportunity to listen to responses elicited from the many so-called "communications team members" of political parties - who assail our ears daily on the airwaves of Ghana's many FM radio stations  with their hypocritical analyses of issues of concern to ordinary people - were they to be asked to tell Ghanaians whether or not they would be willing to publicly publish the assets of both themselves and their spouses.

Precious few of those smug and arrogant indivduals would dare do so - because of the ill-gotten wealth some of them have already accumulated, whiles their parties have been in power.

Naturally, if, on the other hand, they currently happen to find themselves in the political wilderness, their hope, is that they will also be able to accumulate yet more wealth too,  should their party's candidate win power in the 7th November, 2016 presidential election. Heaven help us.

Well, Amanfuo, having finally got all the above off one's chest, one will now rest one's case, so to speak. Yuletide, beckons!

Happy holidays, dear reader - and may 2016 be an even better and more peaceful year, for all of us, than 2015 has been thus far.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

We Will Still Speak Out Even If There Is A Climate Of Fear In Ghana And Persecution Of The Regime's Critics - Should The NPP Win Power In November 2016

It is extraordinary that ethical issues that border on near-criminal conduct, which would sink the political careers of many a politician, had they arisen in any of the Western democracies, are often glossed over by the Ghanaian media.

It has led to the unfortunate situation in which individuals who should never be allowed to govern our nation - because of character failings resulting from their lack of a moral compass - still do so regardless.

The result is the incidence of high-level corruption that we have witnessed in all the regimes that have governed Ghana since the 4th Republic came into being.

Any independent-minded, sincere and patriotic Ghanaian, who actually cares about the well-being of our nation, and the welfare of all its people, who reads the statement issued by Mr. Ohene Ntow, on 18/12/2015, entitled, "Reaction To Nana Akomea's Statement On The Ad Hoc Committee Of The NPP National Executive Committee", will wonder why the Peter MacManus, Freddie Blays and John Boadus are still leading and active members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The double standards of those who now dominate the NPP is truly shocking - as is their Kweku-Ananse-mendacity. One fears for the safety of our Republic, and for its future as a peaceful nation, if they ever get to govern it.

The NPP's director of communications, Nana Akomea's sophistry, in reacting to Ohene Ntow's minority report, after the work of the ad hoc committee set up by the party's national executive council - by saying that disbursement of funds from the NPP's Ecobank bank account at the Trust Towers branch, were solely for the Talensi by-election, when he knew perfectly well that that was not factually correct - truly plumbs the depths of political chicanery.

That dissembler would not last five minutes as a politician in any of the Western democracies - yet he is a kingpin in a party now sadly dominated by Tammany Hall Boss Tweed-style politicians. Carpetbaggers, to a man.

To quote an old acquintance of mine, "Kofi, the question we must ponder over is: If even before it wins power, a super-ruthless cabal in the NPP - made up of amoral plutocrats who by their Machiavellian conduct have shown clearly that they  do not really believe in democracy - can disregard the wishes of those delegates  who cast votes to elect the suspended national chairperson, Paul Afoko, and the suspended general secretary, Kwabena Agyapong, at Tamale, by using absurd trumped-up charges against them to remove them from their positions, then should Ghanaians not prepare for a fear-laden and intolerant 4-year period, starting from 7th January, 2017, during which persistent critics of the governing party in Ghana, will be hounded and persecuted, if not worse, should the NPP's candidate win the 2016 presidential election?" End of quote.

Well, some of us might say that that is a moot point. In any case, at some point, this blog will  reproduce Mr. Ohene Ntow's statement for readers - so they can read between the lines: and see the hypocrisy and duplicity of some of those who now control the NPP, and the danger they represent to Ghanaian democracy, and to continued peace in our country, as well as to the long-term stability of our homeland Ghana.

When the upholders of truth and principle are hounded in a political party, which potentially could win power tomorrow, Ghanaian society had better beware. It is not a good sign.

Not when those doing the hounding are dissembling and intolerant individuals, with feudal mindsets, who have an arrogant sense of entitlement,  which makes them think that dominating our homeland Ghana is their birthright - and a Divine right.

How can a few selfish individuals be allowed to proceed as if a major political party like the NPP can be manipulated and used as a special purpose vehicle that is a mere instrument for the attainment of an end sought by an overly-ambitious and super-ruthless family enterprise: the election of their family's hope for the presidency of Ghana?

That cannot be right - and must not be allowed to happen. Not in a genuine democracy.

If the fight to dominate the opaque and debt-ridden NPP is a fight about who ultimately controls the party's finances, then perhaps it is a harbinger of the kind of future ordinary Ghanaians  can expect, should the NPP win power.

Alas, there are some who insist that it will be a bleak future in which greed and impunity will reach new heights, as some of the members of our ruling elites plunder our nation's wealth to replace the vast sums they have lost over the years, since 2008, till date, in funding the NPP's election campaigns - whiles a physically much-weakened leader, who though incorruptible himself loses his authority, and looks on helplessly, as some of those in his inner circle disregard him and do exactly as they please.

We saw that happen with the honest and incorruptible President Mills. The unfortunate results of that tragedy are there for all to see today. Could it happen again, if there is a change of government, in January 2017, one wonders?

The question is: Will those who say that Ghanaians will experience life in a cowed nation, in which a climate of fear exists, and persistent critics of the regime in power are persecuted in unprecedented fashion,  be proved right - if the NPP's candidate for the 2016 presidential election wins power and assumes office after 7th January 2017?

Those of us who are foolish and unwise to such an extent that we fear nothing, and no one, will certainly not allow anyone to cow us, should the NPP return to power again after the 2016 presidential election. They will have to kill us first to shut us up.

And since our consciences are not for sale at any price, to either politicians or political parties, no one can buy us off too. We will always criticise their regime as long as it is in the national interest to do so, when they come to power. We are hereby serving them notice.

No matter how dangerous the climate of fear in a Ghana under the next NPP regime, and no matter how pernicious the persecution of persistent critics of that selfsame regime, we will continue to speak out against elite-thievery and the divvying up of our nation's  wealth by a vampire-elite, regardless. Hmm, Ghana - asem ebeba debi ankasa.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Did President Mahama Ever Meet With The AMERI Group's Umar Farooq Zahoor - And If Yes, When And Where, Did They First Meet?

The controversy surrounding the AMERI Group's agreement with Ghana will not end as long as a number of key questions remain unanswered.

In dealing with those questions, the geniuses at the presidency whose knee-jerk reaction is to spin their way out of trouble, must not make the same mistake that President Nixon's aides made when the break-in at Washington's Watergate Hotel was first discovered and reported by the American media: elect to dissemble.

It could easily lead to the unravelling of the Mahama presidency.

This is a very serious matter, in which  a fraudster who is a fugitive from justice in Norway and Switzerland, appears to have  taken their regime and Ghana, for a gigantic ride.

Consequently, in dealing with questions to do with the AMERI Group's agreement with Ghana, they must be guided by the dictum:  "Honesty is always the best policy".

It would be a grave error of judgment on their part to seek refuge in the nonsensical face-saving denials by the AMERI Group's office in Ghana that their Umar Farooq Zahoor is not the Umar Farooq Zahoor being sought by Norwegian and Swiss police.

He is one and the same person - and the whole deal was cooked up by him. And Sheikh Ahmed bin Dalmook Al Maktoum is as much a victim of Umar Farooq Zahoor's as Ghana is. Umar Farooq Zahoor abused his friendship with the kindhearted UAE Prince Ahmed Al Maktoum - and used him for his own selfish ends.

To begin with one of the questions that President Mahama's administration must answer is: How did the AMERI Group end up obtaining a contract to supply 10 mobile gas turbine generating sets to Ghana?

If the whole point about free enterprise is that one risks one's capital so as to make profit, then why should Ghanaians tolerate an opaque deal, which guarantees fat profits for the AMERI Group for five years - but offloads all the risk involved in its venture to generate electricity for sale in Ghana, to electricity users, and, ultimately, to taxpayers here?

Is that not the socialisation of private risk, I ask - so why should any patriotic individual agree to allow Ghana to be saddled with such a free-market abomination: because public officials whose job it is to protect the national interest at all material times in such instances stopped thinking when they fell under Umar Farooq Zahoor's spell?

Would the AMERI Group dare take such a proposal to the British government of Prime Minister David Cameron - or to the government of any of the EU member states? Would they not be laughed out of town?

And would there not  be a flury of articles by right-wing columnists in neo-liberal-tilting newspapers there asking to have their heads examined by psychiatrists - for having the effrontery to propose such outrageous terms in their business model to supply electricity to UK and EU consumers?

Those who are ensconced in the first class carriages of the Mahama administration's gravy train, must not think that they can get away with this particular pure nonsense on bamboo stilts. If it was their own money would they give it away so freely?

Umar Farooq Zahoor's crookedness has everything to do with this scandal - and Ghanaians will not tolerate the attempt to rip Mother Ghana off yet again. Enough is enough.

The Mahama administration must tell the nation who approached who first: Did Ghanaian government ministers first approach the AMERI Group, and, if yes, when exactly did they meet with executives from the AMERI Group, and where?

And who were the executives from the AMERI Group who represented the company at that initial meeting? Was Umar Farooq Zahoor present at that initial meeting - and what executive position did he hold in the company at that time?

Did President Mahama ever meet with Umar Farooq Zahoor - and where and when did they first meet? Did they discuss Ghana's energy crisis - and who initiated that conversation?

Was the possibility of the company represented by Umar Farooq Zahoor supplying Ghana with a gas-fired power plant discussed at any stage by President Mahama with Umar Farooq Zahoor?

And when exactly did President Mahama first know about the AMERI Group being given a contract to supply Ghana with 10 General Electric TM2500+ mobile gas turbine generating sets, and who in his administration first appraised him of the full facts to do with that particular contract?

Finally, why, if the AMERI Group's Umar Farooq Zahoor did actually meet with President Mahama, did those in charge of national security, not conduct a background check on him, with both Norwegian and UAE security officials, before allowing him to meet with the President of the Republic of Ghana? Hmm, Ghana - enti yeawieye paa enia? Asem  ebeba debi ankasa.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The AMERI Group's Profiteering: Why does Ghana Not Seek Redress By Approaching The Emir Of Dubai?

The Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Emir of Dubai, His Royal Highness Sheikh  Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has a well-deserved global reputation for being honest, firm, fair and dynamic.

Those  are the personal qualities that have enabled HRH Sheikh Mohammed Maktoum to shape the economy of Dubai in particular, and the rest of the UAE generally, in such spectacular fashion.

Sheikh Mohammed Maktoum will be horrified to hear that a company belonging to a member of  the Dubai Royal Family, the AMERI Group, engaged in profiteering in a deal with Ghana - a nation suffering from debt distress and the debilitating effects of  an acute power crisis on its economy.

Sheikh Maktoum, who is a just ruler, and a man of honour, is likely to take steps to remedy the situation, if approached by a joint-delegation made up of the most senior members of Ghana's Parliament's committee on finance, and those from the mines and energy  committee, as well as leaders of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI).

Dubai did not build its worldwide reputation as a global hub of international business through shady business deals - and its ruler will not countenance egregious profiteering by a UAE company if brought to his notice.

The Emir of Dubai will not tolerate the idea that a Norwegian conman with Pakistani roots, Umar Farooq Zahoor, a fugitive from justice sought by Norwegian and Swiss police for a series of frauds, running into tens of  millions of dollars, took advantage of his friendship with His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, to rip Ghana off, in providing the country with 10 General Electric TM25000+ mobile gas turbine generating sets with a total output of  256 MW.

The AMERI Group is said to have outsourced the power project to a third party - in a separate deal it struck with  the METKA Group of Greece: a Turkish subsidiary of which, Power Projects Limited,  is executing the project in Ghana on its behalf. The Greek conglomerate is apparently earning in excess of US$360 million from its Ghana power project deal with the AMERI Group.

To resolve what is a clear-cut case of profiteering, in a fraudulent scheme (which therefore cannot be set in stone as a valid contract) designed by a criminal mind abusing his friendship with a member of the Dubai ruling family,  to rip the Republic of Ghana off, why does Ghana not appeal directly to the Emir of Dubai to intervene in the matter, and get the AMERI Group to change its mind, and instead of the US$510 million 5-year build operate and transfer agreement it signed with Ghana, rather accept  full and fair final payment of US$220 millions or thereabouts for the 10 General Electric TM2500+ mobile gas turbine generating sets it contracted to provide Ghana with  -  and for which our nation which will take a loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to purchase?

Given the situation our nation currently faces, the AfDB, will definitely be happy to provide long-term concessionary funding to Ghana, which will enable it to pay the AMERI Group off - with a sum that equals the current prevailing international market price, for the General Electric TM2500+ mobile gas turbine generating sets it provided the nation with: so that our country can take full possession of those 10 confounded mobile gas turbine generating sets.

Perhaps in meeting with the Emir of Dubai, HRH Sheikh Mohammed Maktoum,  over the issue, the Ghanaian delegation from Parliament and the AGI, could also point out the fact that joint-venture partnerships between private-sector companies from Ghana and Dubai could process organic cocoa beans in Ghana for export to the Gulf and Middle East regions  - and the regions further  beyond both those areas in Asia.

Ditto joint-venture partnerships between Ghanaian and UAE companies to grow organic fruits and vegetables in Ghana for export to the UAE and those selfsame markets mentioned above

 Perhaps out of this disaster, Ghana and the UAE could build mutually beneficial economic relationships, amongst their two peoples.  Could the UAE not neutralise most of its considerable carbon footprint through joint-venture REDD+ agro-forestry tree plantations in Ghana, I ask? And would that not create wealth and jobs in both nations?

Let Ghana's Parliament and the AGI take leading roles in resolving this wretched AMERI Group 10 mobile gas turbine generating sets rip-off deal that takes our country for such a gigantic ride, creatively - by appealing directly to the Emir of Dubai, HRH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: who might broker a just a settlement that results in an outcome that is fair to all the parties involved in this shabby tale of unparalleled ruthlessness and unfathomable greed.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

We Must Ensure That COP21 Paris Agreement Climate Funding For Ghana Does Not End Up Being Siphoned Off Into Private Pockets

The historic Paris Agreement,  reached at the summit meeting of the 21st session of the United Nations Framework  Convention On Climate Change  Conference Of The Parties (COP21), which took place in the French capital of Paris, has been hailed around the world with just reason.

It really is global in scope - encompassing all the vulnerable island states surrounded by the world's oceans, as well as nations in all the continents of our biosphere. It was signed by representatives from a total of 192 nations who attended COP21.

For the first time, virtually all the nations of the world have committed to cut carbon emissions, under the Paris Agreement, which comes into effect in 2020. The goal of the Paris Agreement, is to ensure that Global temperature increase will be kept below 2C and limited to figures a great deal below 1.5C.

The agreement strikes a balance between the inherent right of nations to develop their economies to ensure a high standard of living for their people, and the pressing need for humankind to protect our only home, the planet Earth.

It promises developing countries $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. Progress on the Paris Agreement's implementation will be reviewed every five years.

Unfortunately, although nations like Ghana have not contributed much to the phenomenon of  global warming, our country nonetheless is being severely impacted by global climate change.

We are now experiencing extremes in weather - evidenced by long drought periods and severe flooding across the country during rainy seasons.

It has resulted in Ghana's  hydropower generating plants not being as reliable in supplying cheap electricity to the nation as they once were.

And every year, flooding results in tragic deaths across the country - and it causes damage costing hundreds of millions of cedis to properties in villages, towns and cities nationwide.

The change in weather patterns has also had, and continues to have, a negative impact, on the agricultural sector - and it ultimately threatens food security in  Ghana.

Above all, global climate change could affect the quality of life of present and future generations of our people, if we don't plan well, and put in place suitable mitigatation measures.

We need to protect what is left of our country's natural heritage much more effectively, if future generations are to, at the very least, enjoy the same quality of life and standard of living as today's generation of  our people do - if not better.

Parliament must pass tough new laws that will deter the greedy and selfish few, now busy destroying Ghana's natural heritage by felling trees illegally, winning sand illegally and mining gold illegally across the countryside in all the ten regions, for private gain at society's expense, with such impunity.

We must counteract the possibility of creeping desertification to the north of our borders, by encouraging private-sector investment in agro-forestry tree plantations countrywide - with special emphasis on the three northern regions, and the Eastern, Central and Brong Ahafo regions.

There is also an urgent  need for Ghana to implement disaster-risk reduction measures and build disaster resilience into our system.

By using the simple technology of mixing melted plastic waste with bitumen, for example, we can build plastic roads. They last three time longer than ordinary roads, bear heavier loads, remain pothole-free during their entire lifespan, and, aren't washed away by flash floods, because plastic is impermeable to water.

At a time when Ghana is being negatively impacted by global warming, it is a cost-effective way, to climate-change-proof our entire road network, going forward into the future.

For the Paris Agreement to benefit Ghanaian society, generally, civil society organisations in Ghana that play an advocacy role and campaign for sustainable development, need to work closely with private-sector entities, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), for example, which is playing a leadership role in encouraging Corporate Ghana to commit to sustainability initiatives in their CSR budgets.

It is such alliances  - and a sustained interest in the subject by the Ghanaian media, which ought to effectively play its societal watchdog role in this instance, by monitoring the implementation of the Paris Agreement by our ruling elites - that will help ensure that any climate finance under the COP21 Paris Agreement, which is meant for Ghana, does not succumb to public sector-led high-level corruption:  and eventually end up being siphoned into private pockets.

The  COP21 Paris Agreement's climate funds are meant to help build up our nation's defences against what is an existential threat - not to enrich Ghana's crooks-in-high-places and their thieving-proficient private-sector cronies through fraudulent climate-change mitigation initiatives and ghost low-carbon development projects.


Our ruling elites are capable of anything. Some of us have long memories: We have not forgotten the fraudulent sale and purchase agreement for Valco to a non-existent partnership, International Aluminium Partners - purported to be a joint-venture between VALE of Brazil and Norske Hydro of Norway, but both of which vehemently denied any such partnership to purchase Valco when spoken to by Reuters - that was railroaded through Parliament by the corrupt and hypocritical New Patriotic Party regime of President Kufuor in 2008.

Nothing much seems to have changed under the present National Democratic Congress regime of President Mahama, either- and high-level corruption still persists  in Ghana today.  Some believe it is even worse now. Yet, if our nation is to progress, we must tackle the nation-wrecking greed of our ruling elites head on,  and take drastic measures, to finally end impunity in Ghana.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Should Iran's ARD Not Collaborate With SADA To Create Wealth In Rural Ghana - In The Regions Served By SADA?

Between 2009 and 2010, a number of varieties of rice from Iran were planted by the Iranian NGO, Agricultural and Rural Development  (ARD), at Takpeli and Yayayo in Tamale.

Apparently the most successful variety was the Khazal.

The lead person for the rice-growing experiment in the north of Ghana, was an ARD agricultural engineer from Iran, Mr. Ali Jabari. The idea was that the Khazal, which had been found to be the most suitable for conditions here, would be grown on a large scale.

The plan was that some of  the harvested  Khazal rice variety would be exported to Iran and the rest sold locally.

Unfortunately,  Mr. Ali Jabari left Ghana for Iran  shortly after the end of the experiment in 2010, and the idea eventually fizzled out: a victim of US-led economic sanctions imposed on Iran by Western nations.

Since sanctions against Iran are being progressively lifted the question is: Why does the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) not ask  the ministry of food and agriculture to approach the Iranian ambassador to Ghana, on its behalf, and request that Mr. Ali Jabari is brought  back to Ghana and seconded to SADA?

 If that is done, Jabari can act as a liaison between SADA and the ARD  - which can enter into an agreement to go into large scale commercial farming of the Khazal rice variety in the three northern regions as well as the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions: using a network of smallholder out-growers to achieve economies of scale.
It will help reduce rural youth unemployment if an out-grower scheme could be added to such a project - in which young people who join the Youth In Agriculture initiative can opt to form cooperatives in the aforementioned regions to go into rice farming: and be supported to grow the Khazal variety of rice.

That will provide sustainable livelihoods for tens of thousands of young people in the disadvantaged areas where SADA works - and help cut down on the hundreds of millions of dollars used to import rice into Ghana.

It will also help to improve Ghana's balance of trade - as some of the Khazal rice grown here will be exported to Iran. 

The ARD ought to follow the example of NGO's from the West - such as the Dutch development organisation, SNV, which is now establishing commercial  ago-forestry plantations across Ghana - and move away from aid programmes to undertake commercial ventures instead.

What stops the SADA/ARD partnership from greening the areas covered by SADA, using the same Khazal rice project base-of-the-pyramid business model, for growing
trees such as teak and redwood, for example, in REDD+ agro-forestry plantations that can earn regular carbon credit cash payments for poor rural communities, from nations like Norway?

Ghana has now reached a stage in its development where it needs more trade opportunities - rather than having to continue relying on foreign aid programmes.

Ghana and Iran have excellent relations. There are many mutually beneficial low carbon development projects that the ARD and SADA can jointly implement - which could be funded with soft loans from Iran. Such sustainable development projects will enable the level of poverty in the areas that SADA covers to be swiftly reduced.

Above all, any Iranian government funding for joint SADA/ARD projects will be carefully scrutinised by the Iranian Embassy here to ensure that none of the funds are siphoned off into private pockets -  but rather benefit both organisations and the rural communities that they will work with across the regions that SADA covers.

There are many green economy joint-venture business opportunities that ARD and SADA can exploit and create wealth in the rural areas in all the regions of Ghana that fall under SADA's remit.

Those currently in charge of SADA ought to be creative - and move swiftly to take up this simple idea: and use it to revive their moribund organisation for the sake of the millions of families now suffering untold hardship in the disadvantaged areas SADA covers.

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Time Has Come To End The Egregious Profligacy Of The Upper Echelons Of Ghana's Public Sector

"Frugality is founded on the principle that all riches have limits."
                                       - Edmund Burke.                                    

If only our ruling elites understood that in spending taxpayers' money, they must be frugal at all material times, it would make a huge difference to public finances in Ghana.

The reckless abandon with which so many of those who work in the public sector spend taxpayers' money, is akin to a nation-wrecking-toxin that destroys prosperity.

And the many civil society groups that advocate for a more transparent and accountable system in Ghana, such as #OccupyGhana, ought to try and find an immediate antidote to it - if our homeland Ghana is to stand a chance of becoming a prosperous nation.

It is disconcerting that in a nation that is strapped for cash - to the extent that our country currently is - and in which millions of families struggle to survive on a daily basis, so many public-sector entities can pay out huge sums as rent advance, for example,  to private  landlords in  Ghana for office and residential accommodation.

Yet, if those monies actually belonged to those selfsame public officials paying out those outrageous sums as rent advance, they would probably elect to build themselves offices and homes with those funds to increase their personal net worth,  instead -  rather than use what effectively amount to small fortunes to pay rent advance to private landlords.

Examples of unjustifiable spending abound in the public sector - yet public officials guilty of making what in effect are disloyal payments seldom face sanctions. The time has come to end that impunity.

And should all private-sector entities that collude with public-sector officials to overcharge public institutions and organisations, not be blacklisted and banned from bidding for government contracts, permanently - and their directors barred for life from being company directors in Ghana?

There are said to be all manner of fraudulent sole-sourcing procurement schemes that enable private-sector suppliers of goods and services,  to the public-sector, to collude with public officials to siphon off taxpayers' money into private pockets.

Why, for example, have the board members and managing director, of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), still not been fired for being so careless with the bank's money - and asset-stripping that hapless state-owned entity built with the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary people, on top of their monstrous chicanery, I ask?

What self-respecting institutional investor that is a bank shareholder in the United Kingdom, for example, would tolerate the kind of irresponsible spending, which Ghanaians have been witnessing at the ADB? So why the deafening silence from corporate good governance advocacy organisations in Ghana about the rot at the ADB?

The question we must pose is: When exactly  will President Mahama's regime end that pure nonsense on bamboo stilts at the ADB -  and at other state-owned enterprises, as well as public institutions and organisations in Ghana, afflicted by a similar malaise?

Ghana's Parliament needs to sit up and take its oversight responsibilities for the nation's public sector much more seriously.

Ordinary Ghanaians are thoroughly fed up with being overburdened with taxes  - just so that spendthrift public-sector officials can dissipate tax revenues with impunity.

Enough is enough. The time has now come to end the egregious profligacy of the upper echelons of Ghana's public sector.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Parliament Must Pass Tough New Laws To Save The Remainder of Ghana's Forests

Ghana's Parliament needs to quickly pass tough new laws, which will enable the minister responsible for the protection of the remainder of Ghana's  forests, to confiscate to the State,  all the equipment and vehicles, used by illegal loggers throughout Ghana.

It is instructive that the new draft law designed to curb illegal gold mining that compels the minister responsible for mines to confiscate all the equipment, products and accoutrements used by illegal gold miners, has sent shock waves, through the heavy equipment hiring sector - and many of those hiring out their excavators to illegal gold miners, are suddenly withdrawing them from galamsey sites across the country.

A similar new law targeting all those involved in illegal logging -  and the entire value chain of the  illegal chainsaw lumber business - ought to ensure that in addition to having their vehicles and equipment confiscated by the State,  all those arrested and prosecuted for their involvement in the illegal chainsaw lumber value-chain, are made to face mandatory jail sentences of not less than 15 years with hard labour, if their guilt is proven in the law courts.

All state officials, including those of the Forestry Division of the Forestry Commission (FDFC), and those working for the security agencies, who are prosecuted and found guilty of aiding and abetting illegal loggers;  and the rest of  those involved in the value-chain of the illegal chainsaw lumber business, must also face mandatory jail sentences of not less than five years.

At a time when Ghana is being impacted so negatively by global climate change, it is only such a tough new law, which will  make it possible for our country to halt the rapid loss of Ghana's remaining forest cover.

For those who are intimately familiar with our forest reserves, what is occurring in them is horrifying and truly apocalyptic - and the helplessness of the poorly-renumerated FDFC officials on the ground who have to confront those working for the wealthy criminal syndicates busy destroying our forests with such impunity, is heartbreaking.

That painful reality, was driven home forcefully to me last night, when I had a phone call from an Akyem Juaso  informant, at around 8 pm, informing me that illegal logging was going on in the area of the Atewa upland evergreen rain forest at Akyem Juaso, known as "Thompson" and "François" - which border FDFC reserve boundary pillars numbers:   92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97 and 98.

Some of us have fought to stop such egregious crimes against Ghanaians, for nearly 20 years now, at great personal risk. However, today, at age 62, though the spirit is willing to continue that  fight, one's body is too ill and weak,  to continue doing so.

One is therefore now concentrating on putting together a proposal for a crowdfunding campaign, to secure funds to start building what will be the longest forest canopy walkway in the world - with 16 bridges and measuring over a thousand meters long, in the first quarter of 2016.

One's hope, is that the income-generating opportunities  for micro-entrepreneurs in Akyem Juaso, Saamang and Osino, who will be able to cater to the needs of the thousands of visitors who will  travel to Akyem Juaso to traverse the canopy walkway weekly, will lead to a complete halt in the illegal logging, illegal gold mining and illegal hunting now destroying an area of rainforest designated a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA), which is the watershed for three major river systems - the Densu, Ayensu and Birim - and provides  valuable ecosystem services to millions in southern urban Ghana in terms of their drinking-water supply.

The forest canopy walkway will enable the Chiefs and people of Akyem Juaso to turn our section of the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest, into a living laboratory that will serve as a global centre of excellence, for biodiversity researchers from all over the world.

As someone who is aware of the massive destruction being caused by illegal loggers in the Atewa upland evergreen rainforest - despite the valliant attempts by a poorly-resourced FDFC to try and  halt the egregious harm being done there - I can now see that only the passage of tough new laws by Parliament will save the remainder of Ghana's forests.

In the meantime, the Forestry Division of the Forestry Commission, and those in charge of national security, should monitor the activities of one Yaw (Tel: 0201353146), who is allegedly a leading illegal logger producing large quantities of chainsaw lumber, in the Akyem Juaso section of the Atewa Range upland evergreen rainforest.

 It is amazing how as a people we seem to forget that the brutal civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, were fueled by selfish and greedy people just like the Yaws of our country.

When apprehended, the security services ought to obtain permission from the law courts, to examine the bank accounts of such super-criminals, whose niche is felling trees illegally to produce bush-cut chainsaw lumber - and they will see just how much in taxes they are evading:  on top of  their rape of our forests that constitutes a crime against humanity at a time of global warming.

The Yaws of our homeland Ghana are just like the ruthless and amoral individuals in Liberia and Sierra Leone, who were prepared to maim and kill  tens of thousands of their fellow human beings, in order to get their murderous hands on diamonds, timber and gold.

The fact of the matter is that the illegal loggers, illegal gold miners and illegal sand-winners, in the Ghana of today, are potentially tomorrow's  rebels and terrorists - in case that horrifying possibility escapes the geniuses currently in charge of national security in our country.

The question that those currently in charge of national security must answer is: Why, when there is only one route out of the forest at Akyem Juaso, for those who produce the illegal chainsaw lumber in the forest, to evacuate their bush-cut lumber to Osino, have they not posted  honest and patriotic men and women permanently along the road from Akyem Juaso to Osino junction,  to photograph/video all such truckloads of illegal bush-cut chainsaw lumber, and arrest those transporting them?

If Parliament finally passes tough new laws, which will make it possible to arrest and prosecute all public officials aiding and abetting those involved in illegal logging - as well as all those involved in the entire value-chain of the illegal bush-cut chainsaw lumber business - one doubts very much if the destruction of the Atewa forest will continue at the same rapid pace it presently is.

In light of the suffering millions of people are experiencing, as a result of extremes in weather caused by global warming, Ghana's Parliament needs to act quickly, before Mother Nature turns her wrath on Ghanaians, and exacts her revenge on present and future generations of our people - as just punishment for the ongoing brutal gang-rape that she is being subjected to, by illegal loggers, illegal gold miners, illegal sand-winners and illegal hunters, with such impunity.

Has The Nkrumahist Political Movement Been Permanently Emasculated?

Has the Nkrumahist political movement  been so penetrated and neutralised by neocolonialism's fifth column, in Ghana, that it is now permanently emasculated?

That most ordinary people in Ghana, now clearly understand how beneficial the rule of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP) government actually was to ordinary people, in terms of their quality of life and the overall well-being of Ghanaian society, is no longer in doubt.

The question Nkrumahists must ponder over is: At a juncture in our history, when the failed sell-out-to-foreign-interests-and-their-local-lackeys neo-liberal policies pursued by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and New Patriotic Party (NPP) regimes, have finally awoken ordinary Ghanaians to the reality of Ghana's condition today, and they can now clearly see the sense in the transformative pro-Ghana policies of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's CPP government, why is the Nkrumaist political movement still not united under the banner of their mother party, the CPP?

It is now pretty obvious to many independent-minded and patriotic Ghanaians that both the NDC and the NPP (two sides of the same debased counterfeit-coin-of-disaster) are beholden to the vested interests that fuel and benefit from the massive corruption that has turned our nation into a sharply divided one that exists mainly for the benefit of a powerful and selfish few with greedy ambitions - to paraphrase President Nkrumah of blessed memory.

Such Ghanaians understand that only the egalitarian pro-people and pro-Ghana policies of President Nkrumah, which enabled the sons and daughters of poor families from even the smallest hamlets to become lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses, architects, etc., etc., who provided the expertise and leadership needed to power the transformation of Ghana, are what will save the Ghana of today.

The truth of the matter, is that it is only a united Nkrumahist front, under the banner of Nkrumah's original party, the CPP, which can form a government capable of rescuing Mother Ghana from the clutches of the Tammany-Hall-Boss-Tweed-style NDC/NPP politicians, whose hidden agenda, is to  transfer what belongs to all Ghanaians and should therefore benefit each social strata in Ghanaian society, equally, into the hands of a few powerful people.

One's prayer, is that at a time when our homeland Ghana desperately needs a government that puts the national interest ahead of party advantage, and promotes the welfare of ordinary people at all material times, necolonialism's fifth columnists who have penetrated the Nkrumahist movement, and are preventing the merger of the People's National Convention (PNC), the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), the Progressive People's Party (PPP), and the CPP, will no longer be able to stall a merger of all the Nkrumahist parties in Ghana, under the banner of their mother party, Nkrumah's CPP.

Friday, 27 November 2015

An Old Ghanaian Writer's Observations

A few days ago, I listened to an early morning sermon on Peace FM, by Apostle Dr. Opoku Onyina,  the chairperson of the Church of Pentecost in Ghana.

It was such a moving and inspiring sermon - in which he lamented over the trashing of what is left of our nation's natural heritage: and spoke of the need for us to be better stewards of the natural environment.

I have seldom heard anyone make such an impassioned plea for protecting Mother Nature - using relevant passages in the Bible to illustrate his salient points.

At a time when global climate change is negatively impacting our country, it would make a huge difference, if other pastors who preach on the airwaves of radio stations across the nation, daily, also followed Dr. Opoku Oyina's shining example.

That would make many more Ghanaians aware of the urgent need for us to protect our forests, rivers, and water bodies (both  above ground and in the underground water table), from the greedy and selfish criminal syndicates engaged in illegal logging, illegal gold mining, illegal sand winning and hunting.

Apostle Opoku Onyina definitely deserves to be commended. He is a true man of God indeed. He has shown that he truly cares about the future of our nation and the well-being of present and future generations of our people. He is a good shepherd.


Dr. Ezenator Rawlings must not allow her budding political career to be destroyed even before it starts - by allowing the unfortunate impression to be created that away from the public eye, she is a selfish and vindictive woman, who refuses to allow her children's father to play a role in their lives.

All children need the love and presence of both parents to become well-adjusted adults.

Although we don't know her side of the story, the idea that children with a father like Herbert Mensah, a role model for many young professionals in Ghana,  and elsewhere in Africa, are being denied the opportunity to have their father's love, simply because their mother has issues with him, does not make for a good political narrative, for a young woman who is incorruptible and could easily become president of Ghana one day - if she works hard to embrace and champion the causes that actually matter to ordinary people.

If she cares enough about her career in politics, Ezenator Rawlings would be wise to settle her differences with Herbert Mensah over their two children out of court quickly - and allow him to get access to them regularly during school holidays and some weekends too when practicable.


A brilliant young acquaintance of mine, who attended one of the best private universities in Africa, Ashesi University, showed that he is indeed the product of a university that actually produces well-rounded individuals who value ethical behaviour at all material times, when he made a number of observations about the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The internal wrangling in the NPP, he said, showed how it no longer was a party that libertarians who had a moral compass could join - and it was certainly no longer attractive to even he who was a committed supporter.

It was now controlled, he said, by a ruthless and powerful few, who were so sure that their party's candidate  would win the 2016 presidential election, that they had thrown caution to wind, in their attempt to take full control of the party well before the November 7th, 2016, presidential election.

He said he felt that no lie appeared too blatant  for them to deploy in that quest - and that they were prepared to sink to the lowest depths, morally, to achieve the ends they were seeking.

In his view,  the NPP's intolerant amoral-brigade-of-plutocrats did not actually believe in democracy - which is why they were orchestrating the vilification and demonisation of all those they perceived to be standing in their way.

To him that was not the  way to run a political party that claims that it stands for individual liberty and the rule of law. And worst of all was the hubris that had resulted in NPP extremists actively  engaging in sabotaging the nation-building effort, so that the party could win power with the support of a disgruntled electorate - fed up with having to struggle daily to survive in a harsh economic climate.

It was a  disgraceful and treasonable political  strategy for a supposedly democratic political party to pursue, in his view.

And he felt that it was grossly unfair to Mother Ghana and to ordinary people - whose lives were being turned upside down by the endless strikes and public demonstrations that were creating such uncertainty in the national economy.

Above all, to him, it  was an extremely foolish strategy, that was clearly rebounding on the party: "A political party whose leaders invoke God's name in their election campaign, and say "The battle is the Lord's", whiles at the same time looking the other way, as some of the extremists  in their midst sabotage the nation-building effort of the selfsame country they seek to govern, will only end up incurring God's wrath - the unfortunate results of which we are witnessing, as a party that  many thought would win power and govern Ghana for four years after 7th January 2017, unravels before our very eyes. It is so unfortunate." Pity, sayeth I.


Perhaps it has never occurred to Asamoah Djan, the current captain of the national soccer team, the Black Stars, that he could use his popularity with the fans of the football team he played for in the UAE, and is currently playing for in China, to negotiate deals to manufacture best-quality own-brand dark chocolate in Ghana, for the biggest supermarket chains in the two nations, to sell to chocolate consumers.

And he could also set up a plant here to manufacture bamboo toothpicks - and establish a bamboo plantation to feed it with all the needed raw materials it requires. His bamboo toothpick plant could supply Ghana and the rest of West Africa with all the toothpicks consumers in our part of the world need, could it not? And create jobs for young people too.

And would such manufacturing enterprises not provide him with all the cash he needs to engage in the philanthropic acts he so enjoys engaging in - to the pleasant surprise of the many beneficiaries of his munificence? Just an old foggey's two-pesewas.

Whoever designed the ghastly ceremonial uniforms currently worn by the Mounted Constabulary of the Ghana Police Service, did a great disservice to Ghana. They are dreadful esthetically.

The old ceremonial uniforms that the mounted constabulary wore before it was replaced with the current monstrosity, were esthetically more pleasing.

President Mahama must encourage the top brass of the Ghana Police Service to change the present dress uniform of the mounted constabulary - and ask them to order a new one: with design inspiration coming from the fugu top and baggy fugu trousers tucked into the long brown traditional handmade  boots worn by traditional male Damba dancers in the north, plus their traditional navy-blue hats.

That really would be perfect - and show part of our rich and diverse cultural heritage to the world, every time a new envoy accredited to Ghana presents his or her credentials to the president at the Flagstaff House. The dress uniform of Greece's presidential guards, for example, is based on traditional Greek sartorial design, too. Just my two-pesewas.


When our ruling elites say consumers should be prepared to pay "realistic tariffs" for electricity, why don't they tell us what exactly is the "realistic tariff" per kilowatt hour, which we ought to pay, to make it worthwhile for independent power producers to invest in power plants in Ghana?

Since the cedi is in freefall, if they state the figure in a stable currency such as the US dollar (20 cents  per kilowatt hour for example),  would that not have a positive psychological effect on users of electricity in Ghana: who would be able to see clearly whether or not they were being fleeced by power providers in Ghana,  by simply going online to  compare electricity tariffs here, with tariffs elsewhere in the world, I ask? That shouldn't be too difficult a task for our ruling elites, should it? Hmm, Ghana...

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

We Must Not Allow The GNPC To End Up Like Petrobras - A Hapless Victim Of High-Level Corruption

It is instructive that Ghana has turned to Brazil for a number of its infrastructure projects: As it happens both nations are dominated by corrupt ruling elites.  And, interestingly,  ordinary people in the two nations, have become thoroughly fed up with the unparalleled greed of their vampire-elites.

Since the Brazilian business world has now become a byword for corruption we need to keep the spotlight on projects funded with loans from Brazil that are executed by Brazilian construction firms - and scrutinise them closely: to ensure we are not also being shortchanged by our ruling elites.

A number of companies in Brazil, including the country's top five engineering firms, faced charges of overcharging  Brazil's  state-owned oil company, Petrobras, by over 1.2 billion dollars, in sundry inflated contracts.

The question is: In a nation such as Ghana, in which politicians routinely resort to single-sourcing projects - so that they can pick and choose companies that will benefit them personally, and benefit their political parties too - how do we know that those Brazilian engineering companies executing contracts here, are not also grossly overcharging Ghana?

For the benefit of anti-corruption campaigners in Ghana, this blog is reproducing an article from the online version of Bloomberg Markets, which outlines the case against the firms accused of overcharging Petrobras, and bribing its executives and a number of Brazil's leading politicians, to enable them get  away with the massive rip-off of Brazil's state-owned oil company.

One's hope, in reproducing this culled article from Bloomberg Markets, is that it will alert anti-corruption campaigners, such as #OccupyGhana, and enable them take the necessary steps needed to ensure that the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), is not allowed to suffer a similar fate - in which crooked Ghanaian politicians and corrupt top public officials collude with private-sector entities (local and foreign) to rip-off the GNPC massively too.

In reading the story, it is hard for one to avoid coming to the conclusion that Ghana's rich and powerful dominant-elites,  seem  to operate in similar fashion to those in Brazil, in their determination to divvy up our nation's wealth, regardless of the consequences.

Civil society anti-corruption entities need to intensify their fight against high-level corruption in Ghana, before it erodes our country's moral fabric completely, and finally ends up ruining our beautiful and pleasant country. Please read on:

The Betrayal of Brazil

As a massive corruption scandal unfolds, Brazilians are facing some stark truths: The powerful and connected are still dividing the country’s riches among themselves. The past decade’s economic miracle was in large part a mirage. And the future is again on hold.

Ricardo Stuckert/PR; Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images
Then-president Lula, with his hand on the wheel, at the groundbreaking for Petrobras’s Abreu e Lima refinery in 2007 (left). A protest in the streets of São Paulo on March 15. More than a million people marched in Brazil’s cities on that day.

In mid-2013, Brazilian federal police investigator Erika Mialik Marena noticed something strange.
Alberto Youssef, suspected of running an illicit black-market bank for the rich, had paid 250,000 reais (about $125,000 at the time) for a Land Rover. The black Evoque SUV ended up as a gift for Paulo Roberto Costa, formerly a division manager at Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras. “We were investigating a money-laundering case, and Petrobras wasn’t our target at all,” says Marena. “Paulo was just another client of his. So we started to ask, ‘Why is he getting an expensive car from a money launderer? Who is that guy?’”

Marena had spent the previous decade building cases against money launderers, and Youssef had been a perennial target. He’d been arrested at least nine times for using private jets, armored cars, clandestine pickups by bagmen, and a web of front companies to move illicit cash. But Youssef had been spared serious jail time by testifying repeatedly against other doleiros, Brazilian slang for specialists in laundering unreported cash.

The Petrobras connection suggested Youssef was into something bigger. Marena and her partner, investigator Márcio Anselmo, dug into Costa from offices in the modern glass-and-concrete federal police headquarters in the city of Curitiba, 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of São Paulo. A dozen more investigators and prosecutors joined, and the case grew so big that Brazil’s attorney general set up a task force in temporary office space across town.

By March 2014, federal judge Sérgio Moro had begun rounding up dozens of suspects. (In Brazil’s justice system, a judge formally charges a defendant, approves major steps in the investigation by police and prosecutors, hears the evidence, and then decides whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.) They were accused in Moro’s court of participating in a bid-rigging scheme of astounding proportions. For years, prosecutors have alleged in Moro’s court, a cartel of Brazil’s biggest and richest builders fixed a vast swath of the world’s seventh-biggest economy, subverting competition in the oil industry and, possibly, the huge public works programs that drive growth and employment.

Brazilians are riveted by the scandal, nicknamed Operation Carwash because some funds were laundered through a service station. Moro has ordered more than a dozen dragnets so far, and the arrests of executives, bankers, politicians, and bagmen, marching some to jail past a phalanx of television cameras. One suspect took his private jet to Curitiba to turn himself in.

Another spent his last hours of freedom in a hotel suite on Rio de Janeiro’s fabled Ipanema beach to avoid being taken from his home handcuffed. The arrested shared four holding cells in Curitiba police headquarters with unenclosed communal toilets. Some slept on mattresses strewn on the bare floor. A dozen have confessed to making or accepting payoffs and rigging contracts, some in videotaped testimony that is posted online.

One former Petrobras manager, Pedro Barusco, described taking almost $100 million in bribes; he’s since returned most of the money in a bid for leniency.

Since March 2014, prosecutors have accused more than 110 people of corruption, money laundering, and other financial crimes. Six construction and engineering firms have been accused of illegal enrichment in what is known as a noncriminal misconduct action. On April 22, Moro delivered the first convictions. He found Costa and Youssef guilty of money laundering, including the Land Rover purchase. Moro gave both men reduced sentences—two years’ house arrest for Costa and three years in prison for Youssef—for cooperating with prosecutors.

All of that is something of a preview of the big show: Prosecutors say they may accuse some of Brazil’s largest builders with running an illegal cartel. “It’s been clearly proven in this case that there was a criminal scheme inside Petrobras that involved a cartel, bid rigging, bribes to government officials and politicians, and money laundering,” Moro wrote in sentencing Costa and Youssef. “There will be a cartel indictment,” says Carlos Lima, a lead prosecutor in the case. “I don’t like to get ahead of myself and say this will happen, but it will. It’s just a matter of time.”

Judge Sérgio Moro
Judge Sérgio Moro
Rodolfo Buhrer/La Imagem/Fotoarena

Dilma Rousseff and Lula
Dilma Rousseff and Lula
Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images
In filings in Judge Moro’s court, prosecutors have named 16 companies that allegedly formed a cartel to fix Petrobras contracts between 2006 and 2014. The list includes some of Brazil’s largest construction and engineering firms, including Camargo Correa, OAS, UTC Engenharia, and the biggest of them all, Construtora Norberto Odebrecht. All of these companies deny being part of a cartel, except Camargo Correa, which declined to comment.

Petrobras says it knew nothing about the bid rigging and is “collaborating” with authorities in the investigation. As to whether it was the victim of a cartel, “the company is certain,” Mario Jorge Silva, Petrobras’s executive manager for performance, said at an April 22 news conference. In financial filings, Petrobras says 199.6 billion reais’ worth of contracts were rigged by the alleged cartel.

For years, a co-owner of the engineering firm UTC called members to meetings at his offices in São Paulo via text messages, according to testimony and documents submitted in Moro’s court. The participants were greeted by an assistant, who handed out name tags.

At the meetings, executives took copious notes detailing how the alleged cartel would divvy up Petrobras contracts, at inflated prices. One builder put together a 2½-page encoded guide for group members that describes contract bidding as a soccer tournament, with leagues and teams. Another document drawn up by a group member lists the chosen winners of upcoming bidding for 14 contracts for a refinery, with the title Fluminense Final Bingo Proposal, using a nickname for the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Prosecutors say the builders got away with it by paying kickbacks, usually 3 percent, on every contract. Petrobras estimates that the graft added up to at least 6.2 billion reais, much of which, prosecutors say, was funneled into the war chests of the parties that backed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of the country from 2003 to 2010, and his handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff. Lula and Rousseff haven’t been charged with wrongdoing, but special prosecutors have opened criminal investigations into more than 50 members of congress and other politicians implicated in the corruption scheme.

It’s not just the drama of the snowballing scandal that holds Brazilians’ attention. There is a growing resignation—and anger—that Brazil, a country that seemed so close to joining the ranks of the world’s developed nations, isn’t going to pull it off. Lula inspired the country with promises of a “new Brazil” that would leave behind five centuries of poverty and corruption. Brazilians now understand that behind Lula’s message was a rigged, corrupt game that enriched a few and hobbled the country’s ability to compete.

A corruption scandal is the last thing Brazil’s economy needs: It’s already mired in the worst four-year slump in a quarter century. Finance Minister Joaquim Levy is trying to close deficits to avert a catastrophic downgrade of Brazil’s credit rating to junk. He proposes to cut social programs that serve millions of people.

Perhaps more serious, the scandal has corroded Brazil’s democracy, weakening Rousseff’s government so much it doesn’t have the clout to get major legislation through congress. Rousseff’s approval ratings slid to 9 percent in April, the worst for a Brazilian president ever. On March 15 and again on April 12, throngs of people poured onto the streets of Brazil’s large cities, demanding an end to corruption and the impeachment of Rousseff. The spoiled fortunes have revived, with a new bitterness, an old, popular refrain: “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.”

One muggy February morning, Antônio Delfim Netto sits in his office in an old stone house in São Paulo, incredulous over the reach of the Petrobras scandal. But perhaps the 87-year-old economist shouldn’t be surprised. In a way, Netto laid the foundation for Brazil’s intertwined world of politics, business, and finance.

In 1969, at the height of the military dictatorship that took power after a coup in 1964 and ruled Brazil until March 1985, Netto, as finance minister, designed a policy called market reserve. It gave Brazilian builders a lock on government contracts by shutting out most foreign competitors. Tax breaks and subsidized credit followed.

The military commanders had plans for huge public works to tie together the vast, uninhabited expanses of Brazil, and a few family-owned builders got the big contracts. “We needed the builders to be strong and completely loyal to Brazil,” says Netto, his broad torso dwarfed by his big wooden desk. Two-dozen framed caricatures of Netto by Brazil’s most famous cartoonists cover the walls, and some of his tens of thousands of economics books fill a shelf.

As Netto engineered protectionist policies, the builders cultivated ties to the dictators, according to the National Truth Commission, which issued a report in December about abuses during the military dictatorship. Camargo Correa, implicated in the current scandal, was among the companies that won favor by helping fund Operation Bandeirantes, a campaign to hunt down and torture suspected insurgents in the 1970s, the commission concluded. One of the operation’s victims was Rousseff, who was then a young member of an armed leftist opposition group. She was arrested and tortured. (Netto said in a Truth Commission hearing last year that he had no knowledge of any torture.)

Antônio Delfim Netto
Antônio Delfim Netto
Marcos Issa/Bloomberg
Construtora Norberto Odebrecht, the largest builder in Latin America by revenue, is perhaps the most adept of all Brazil’s builders at intertwining business with politics. That has been the case since 1944, when Norberto Odebrecht, then a soft-spoken 24-year-old engineer, convinced a state bank to bail out his father’s bankrupt construction company, Emílio Odebrecht & Cia., in the city of Salvador in northeastern Brazil. Norberto then created the company that bears his name, which absorbed the operations of his father’s business. The construction company is now part of Odebrecht SA, a conglomerate with 15 divisions spread across 21 countries.

Petrobras was critical to Odebrecht’s growth in the 1950s and 1960s. The company won a slew of Petrobras contracts to build pipelines, canals, power plants, and oil wells across Brazil’s northeast. One of Odebrecht’s first big jobs outside the northeast was Petrobras’s 27-story headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, completed in 1971. The imposing concrete monolith is across the street from the sloping dark-glass headquarters of the state development bank, BNDES, which Odebrecht also built.

The military dictatorship continued to steer contracts to Odebrecht, including those for Rio’s international airport and the Angra Nuclear Power Plant. Odebrecht also worked political ties to win business outside Brazil, starting with contracts to build a hydroelectric plant in Peru and reroute a river in dictator Augusto Pinochet’s Chile. In 1981, four Odebrecht executives flew to Moscow on a trade mission with Netto, who was planning minister at the time. Odebrecht wanted the government’s help swaying the Soviets to persuade allies to give it business, Netto says. The trip helped produce major contracts in Brazil and Peru and Odebrecht’s first project in Angola. “There’s nothing strange about any of that; it’s what governments do for their companies all the time,” says Netto.

Norberto’s son, Emílio, became CEO of the company in 1991. Shortly after that, São Paulo’s state governor, Mário Covas, introduced Emílio to a leader who’d been jailed 90 days by the military regime: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Corinthians Arena, in São Paulo, built by Odebrecht
Corinthians Arena, in São Paulo, built by Odebrecht
Agencia Estado via AP Images

Marcelo Odebrecht, who succeeded his father, Emílio, in 2008, tells the story in an interview at Odebrecht’s São Paulo headquarters. “He said, ‘Emílio, this is one of the politicians with the brightest future in Brazil. It’s worth knowing him,’” Marcelo says. “Since then, we have always had interaction with Lula.”

Odebrecht poured money into political campaigns, including Lula’s, mirroring a practice by all the major builders. The builders being investigated in the Petrobras scandal legally contributed 344 million reais to political parties in 2014, an election year. About half went to the three parties implicated in the scandal, according to Brazilian election records. The share of Odebrecht and its subsidiaries was 88 million reais, most to the three parties.

Marcelo Odebrecht says his company has contributed to about 150 members of congress. “If you believe in a guy who’s going to be important and can support you in congress, you have to support him,” he says. “If you are someone who contributes to someone, at the least he’s going to give you a meeting and listen.’’

After Lula won the presidency in 2002, in the biggest landslide ever in Brazil, Odebrecht grew rapidly. Lula and his Workers’ Party promised a revolution that would take Brazil to the next level, with bold public works projects at the center of his plans. Odebrecht was awarded some of the biggest contracts.

Early on, Lula introduced Marcelo to Rousseff, who was then energy minister. “We interacted with her a lot,” Marcelo says. “We’ve always had a relationship of trust.”

Lula had foreign policy goals as well; he talked of transforming Brazil into a sort of superpower for the developing world. That meant new business for Brazilian construction companies in places such as Cuba and Ecuador, funded with subsidized financing from BNDES. Under Lula and then Rousseff, Odebrecht projects outside Brazil were showered with 5.5 billion reais of BNDES financing from 2009 to 2014, more than any other Brazilian company except for the aircraft maker Embraer.

Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of Construtora Norberto Odebrecht
Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of Construtora Norberto Odebrecht
Ricardo Stuckert/PR
Odebrecht has not been charged in connection with Operation Carwash; neither has any individual employed by the company. “Odebrecht never participated in cartels, whether in contracts with Petrobras or any other government or private client,” the company said in a statement to Bloomberg. Nevertheless, the company is being investigated, with other builders, in at least three criminal and regulatory probes. In November, Moro ordered federal agents to search the homes and offices of two Odebrecht executives. The searches did not result in charges being filed.

One of those executives was Márcio Faria. According to sworn testimony in Moro’s court by Youssef, the convicted money launderer, Faria negotiated with Costa a 20-million-real payoff for 4.5 billion reais in Petrobras refinery contracts the company won in December 2009. Youssef said the bribe was funneled to politicians.

Faria, now a director of an Odebrecht industrial engineering division, referred questions to Odebrecht. Faria didn’t do anything illegal in business dealings with Petrobras, Odebrecht said in a written statement. “Odebrecht denies making any payments or deposits into supposed accounts of any executive or ex-executive,” the company said, referring to Petrobras.

Since Lula left office, on Jan. 1, 2011, Odebrecht has flown the former president outside Brazil as a paid speaker at events for clients and business groups. “We are trying to strengthen the country’s image,” Marcelo says. “I see that everywhere in the world.”

Federal prosecutors have opened a preliminary influence-peddling inquiry into whether Lula used his connections to persuade BNDES to provide subsidized financing for Odebrecht projects. Lula, Odebrecht, and BNDES each denied any wrongdoing.

Netto, the economist, has advised every president save one in the past three decades. He understands how power is wielded in Brazil. Still, he says, he’s astounded by the cartel that is alleged to have penetrated Petrobras. “What’s shocking is how a cartel colluded with the state in Brazil’s most important company,” says Netto, shaking his head in disbelief. “But I don’t have any regrets for what I did. Those companies built modern Brazil.”

Lula at Abreu e Lima in 2009
Lula at Abreu e Lima in 2009
Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento/flickr
In early September 2007, Lula trudged through a driving rain at the construction site at Petrobras’s Abreu e Lima refinery in northeastern Brazil’s Pernambuco state. Wearing white work gloves and a Petrobras hard hat, he climbed onto a backhoe and helped steer the machine’s steel bucket into the red earth, breaking ground on the project. Petrobras would build Abreu e Lima with financing from then–Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a socialist like Lula, to turn that country’s tarlike crude into fuel for Brazilians. (Venezuela later backed out of the agreement.) Every real would be spent wisely by Petrobras, Lula said, and Rousseff, then Lula’s chief of staff and chairman of Petrobras, would make sure of it. “They used to say that Petrobras didn’t have to justify spending to anyone,” Lula said. “But today I will put Dilma Rousseff on top of it.”

In the months after Lula’s visit, prosecutors say, the cartel made plans for Abreu e Lima. In April or May 2008, Rogerio Araújo, then a director of Odebrecht’s industrial engineering division, handed Barusco, executive manager of Petrobras’s engineering division, a list of cartel members to invite to bid on the refinery contracts, Barusco said in testimony in the criminal case in Moro’s court. Araújo, now an executive in Odebrecht’s industrial engineering division, denied through a company-issued statement being part of a cartel or committing any wrongdoing. “Odebrecht vehemently denies allegations made by a confessed criminal,” the company said.

Within two months, Barusco signed a plan to seek bids on 12 packages of contracts, which were later awarded to the companies in the alleged cartel. Central to the scheme were the alleged cartel’s partners inside Petrobras. They charged builders kickbacks of up to 3 percent for the right to fix a contract, Costa and other witnesses testified. The graft, they said, was divided among three political parties and the executives themselves, via payments funneled through Alberto Youssef and other intermediaries.

Soon, government auditors began warning that contractors were vastly overcharging for Abreu e Lima. That brought the matter to Homero de Souza’s tiny cubicle in the Consultancy, congress’s in-house auditing arm in the labyrinthine legislative annex in Brasília. Souza, a senior Consultancy auditor, recommended that congress block funding for the project. “It was so obvious, this pattern of theft,” says Souza. “I’d never seen anything on the scale of Abreu e Lima.” Congress’s Irregular Works Committee recommended excising the refinery from the 2010 federal budget, effectively halting work, and congress voted to approve. Lula vetoed the recommendation, assuring Petrobras the funding it needed to pay the builders to forge ahead.

The refinery rose at a time when Brazil seemed to have no limits. Record prices for oil, iron ore, soy, and other commodities exports; a roaring currency that made consumer goods more affordable for the growing middle class; and plummeting interest rates were fueling a boom that almost tripled the size of the economy during the Lula years. A wildly successful welfare program pulled 40 million people out of poverty.

By the time Lula turned over power to Rousseff, Brazil’s giddy boom had fizzled, revealing a foundation built on good fortune (those high commodities prices), corruption (including a vote-buying scandal that reached up to Lula’s top political lieutenants), and a near-doubling of the national debt, to $1.2 trillion. When Rousseff traveled north to inaugurate Abreu e Lima, in December 2013, there was little to celebrate. The refinery had cost Petrobras $18.5 billion, eight times the original budget. Instead of policing the project, Rousseff failed to disrupt what might be one of Brazil’s biggest single cases of corruption ever.

Abreu e Lima in 2014
Abreu e Lima in 2014
Paulo Fridman/Corbis

Rousseff says she knew nothing about the alleged cartel scheme. “This isn’t an issue of management, pure and simple. The Petrobras board was comprised of very qualified businesspeople,” Rousseff told Bloomberg in April in a one-hour interview at Planalto, the presidential palace in Brasília. “None of us even saw a sign. Everything points to a cartel and the corruption of some employees.”

Maria das Gracas Foster, an old friend of Rousseff’s who became CEO of Petrobras in 2012, has also said she didn’t know what was going on. Late last year, Foster launched a massive investigation. She also temporarily banned more than 20 companies being probed in the scandal from doing business with the company; that led directly to three big builders­­—Galvão Engenharia, Grupo Schahin, and OAS—filing for bankruptcy. In February, Rousseff forced out Foster, along with all of her top management.

Under its new CEO, Aldemir Bendine, Petrobras is seeking reimbursement for damages from the companies in the alleged cartel. It is also, it says, establishing a new compliance, governance, and risk division. “We are embarrassed,” Bendine said on April 23. “We are cleaning up mistakes.”

The scandal has all but crippled the company. In February, Moody’s Investors Service chopped its credit rating to junk. In April, Petrobras took charges of 44.6 billion reais, most for overpriced and unfinished refineries that were the target of the alleged builders’ cartel. The writedown caused a 21.6-billion-real loss for 2014. Bendine is trying to sell $13.7 billion of assets to raise cash. It’s a stunning change of fortune from the Lula heyday, in 2010, when Petrobras raised a whopping $70 billion by selling stock to investors.

Everyone in Brazil knows the Portuguese term for the inefficiencies that hold back the economy: custo Brasil, or Brazil cost. When it comes to the ease of starting a business, Brazil fell seven spots this year to 167th in the world, behind Uganda, according to the World Bank. Corruption will cost the economy as much as 120 billion reais this year, says José Ricardo Roriz Coelho, competitiveness director at Fiesp, the country’s biggest industrial association.

An increasingly independent judicial branch may finally stop the alleged Petrobras cartel from driving up costs and siphoning funds from the investments the country sorely needs to compete, but the damage it caused won’t be undone quickly. And the problem goes beyond Petrobras. Last year, the Brazilian antitrust regulator fined cement makers 3.1 billion reais for operating a cartel for years. Recently, the regulator launched investigations into cartels that may have rigged the market for school supplies and medicine. The custo Brasil is growing harder and harder to bear.

A protest outside Petrobras headquarters in Rio de Janeiro
A protest outside Petrobras headquarters in Rio de Janeiro
Ale Silva/Demotix/Corbis

This story appears in the June 2015 issue of
Bloomberg Markets. With assistance from Anna Edgerton in Brasilia; David Biller, Yasmine Batista, and Peter Millard in Rio de Janeiro; and Francisco Marcelino in São Paulo.""

End of culled article from Bloomberg Markets.