The Minister-designate for Trade and Industry, Kobina Tahir Hammond, has rebuffed the decade-old perception by a section of the public that he was compromised in the sale and purchase of Ghana National Petroleum Authority’s drill ship in 2001.
Hesaid the country must rather be thankful to him for beating down the demand of Corporation’s debtees from $47 million to $19.5 million.
Mr Hammond, MP, Adansi Asokwa, has long been fingered by elements of the opposition National Democratic Congress of complicity in the sale of the ship to defray a judgement debt awarded against Ghana by a London court.
A Judgement Debt Commission chaired by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Yaw Apau had found that “the payment of the $19.5 million instead of the $14 million earlier on agreed (with French Bank, Societe Generale) constituted financial loss to the Corporation and Ghana”.
But confronted with questions on the findings at his vetting in Accra yesterday, Mr Hammond who was the deputy Minister of Energy at the time of the sale said he did nothing untoward in the matter.
“I put it to everybody here: when is it in recorded history that a deputy minister of three months at post sells a state asset like a ship?
“I was in office for just three months and you can imagine that no decision can be taken at my level. Every twist and turn I was given executive instrument some which were signed by the AG.
“Of the $47 million, following my arrangement and going around, they decided that instead of the $47 million, they would collect $19.5 million,” Mr Hammond told the Committee.
His claim was in response to questions by members of the minority on the committee who sought to know his role in the sale of the ship and portions of the government White Paper on the report of the Committee which indicted Mr Hammond and urged the Economic and Organised Crime Office to launch criminal investigations into the matter.
Giving explanation to what led to the sale of the ship, Mr Hammond said upon coming into office by the John Agyekum Kufuor government in 2001, it was realised that the GNPC had been ran aground and a decision had been made by the corporation
at the time to go into hedging, a transaction he said was a gamble.
As a result of its unfruitful investment into oil and gas discoveries, the corporation was saddled with a $47 million debt.
“In June 2001, the Ministry of Energy was informed that from the activities of the GNPC, there was a debt of $47 million that GNPC had created.
“They had entered into an agreement with a company called Societe Generale in France and in the process, the drill ship had been collateralised between 1994 and 1998 before we came to power.
Owing to the indebtedness, he said the ship was impounded in Aman, India by the French bank prompting a decision by Cabinet.
“At Cabinet, my minister brought up this issue and the Attorney General at the time considered the issue and was very clear in his mind that the position of Ghana was hopeless. So there was no way pleading the case but to settle.
“I was informed that since I was a practising barrister at the Bar of England and Wales, and this matter was pending in the court of England, it was suggested that I should go and find out what we could do,” he narrated.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI