No one paid to sit close to President at the expat awards – Victor Gbeho

VICTOR-GBEHO-1AMBASSADOR James Victor Gbeho, the Non Executive Chairman of the Millennium Excellence Foundation (MEF), organisers of the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA), a subject of a Parliamentary enquiry, has debunked claims that anyone paid monies of various sums in order to sit close to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the awards ceremony.


It has been alleged that the GEBA, organised in collaboration with the Trade and Industry Ministry in December 2017, charged expatriate business owners between US$25,000 and US$100,000 to sit within certain a perimeter to the President.


But Ambassador Gbeho said “the Millennium Excellence Foundation did not coerce or levy any person or institution to come up with a sum of money that would enable them sit next to the Head of State.”


Ambassador Gbeho, a former President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was answering questions before the five-member Parliamentary Committee constituted to prove what has now been known  as the ‘cash for seat’ scandal.


According to him, all those who made contributions with the view of sponsoring the awards event did so willingly under no duress and that no company was excluded from the event for not sponsoring the event in their own small way.


“The Foundation found voluntary sponsors to support the first class event that was held. It did not sell seats for cash nor was any expatriate firm excluded from the attendance of the event because it did not sponsor. Indeed, it is a fact that most of the VIP seated on the presidential table did not pay sponsorship or the alleged $100,000 before the gala event,” he stated.


He said in the almost three decades history of the MEF, its expertise in fund raising was “unequalled” describing the allegations of extortion as carefully calculated to “impugne the integrity of the foundation.”


He said at every step of the organisation of the event, transparency prevailed and that awardees on night were not determined by how much they contributed towards the programme.


Ambassador Gbeho, a former envoy to the United Nations Secretary General in West Africa, extolled the virtues of the President of the MEF, Mr. Arshin Morton as an asset to Ghana and advised against moves which could affect his desire to do more for the country and humanity.


Mr. Morton, on his part confirmed that “it never happened,” referring to claims of demand for money for a seat near President Akufo-Addo at the GEBA.


Demonstrating the sitting arrangement on the night, Mr. Morton said 20 attendees were at the Presidential table and of the number which includes other dignitaries, “nobody paid US$100,000″ prior to the event.


He disclosed that two award winning entities gave “ex-gratia” contribution (after awards) to support a “noble course.”


The organisation of the awards, contrary to earlier claims that it was conceived by the Trade and Industry Ministry, he said, is a “brainchild” of the MEF and only sought endorsement from the government through the Trade and Industry Ministry.


Speaking to some of the documents used in ‘cross-examining’ him, Mr. Morton said some of the exhibits filed earlier by those who have appeared before him were “foreign” to him and “doctored.”


Some of them, he said, were signed attachments from the ministry to the potential sponsors in sealed envelopes which he had no knowledge of.


The committee is expected to conclude its public sitting today and submit its report to the House for adoption or otherwise on Wednesday 24, 2018, a day after the House reconvenes.


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