The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) North Tongu and Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, on Monday accused the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of buying a property in Oslo, Norway, for the Ghana Mission at an inflated price.
He said the current owner of six-bedroom property being converted into a chancery for Ghana’s new mission in Norway, bought it at $3.6 million in 2017, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was procuring the property at $12 million.
Mr Ablakwa, who was contributing to the debate on the approval of budget estimates for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the latest purchase price by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration appeared to inflate the cost of the property by a whopping $8,620,379.
“Records show that a previous buyer Lillian Olsson bought the property in 2014 for 25,250,000 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) equivalent to $3,598,108.
According to Norwegian Financial newspaper known as Finansavisen, Lillian Olsson sold the property in August 2017 to an unknown buyer for BOK 31,000,000 equivalent to $3,598,108.
“Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has made a presentation to Parliament’s Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that Ghana is purchasing this same building at a staggering NOK 105,180 000 equivalent to $12,218,487.
He called for a probe of the procurement process because it was fraudulent.
The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, had to suspend sitting for about an hour for the House to consider the authenticity of the documents Mr Ablakwa was relying on.
During the break, there was a near confrontation between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Anyaa/Sowutuom and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, and the NDC MP for Ningo-Prampram, Mr Samuel Nartey George, at the Speaker’s lobby in Parliament on Monday.
Ms Botchwey was engaged in heated debate with Mr Ablakwa questioning him why he did not approach her on the issue before bringing the matter to the House.
She said Mr Ablakwa should have asked her whether she knew about it and what measures had been taken about it.
Just as Ms Botchwey and Mr Ablakwa were having the exchanges, Mr George stood at a distance with his phone and filmed the exchanges.
But Ms Botchwey claimed that Mr George was recording the heated exchanges with his phone and so she went towards his direction and raised her hand at Mr George.
Mr George started shouting that Ms Botchwey was trying to assault him, and indicated that he would report her conduct to the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye.
The MPs around had to step in to prevent Ms Botchwey and Mr Georege from engaging in fisticuffs.
Speaking with journalists at a press conference later, Ms Botchwey denied attempting to assault Mr George and indicated that the raising of a her hand a gesture but not an attempt to attack Mr George.
“It was a gesture with my hand. It was not definitely an attempt to assault him”, she said.
Ms Botchwey said Mr George was invading her privacy, which was against her fundamental human rights.
When the House resumed, Ms Botchwey explained that she had even suspended moves for the procurement of the property in Oslo due to the huge disparities in the valuation of the property.
She said a state agency in Norway valued the property at $11 million but a newspaper in that country put the value at $3 million.
Not even one corner gas been spent on the property. We have not paid a penny for it.
“Last week I got wing of the fact that there was some discrepancy in the price of the property. The document that we received which was an article in a newspaper in Norway put the price very low in terms of the valuation”, she said.
Ms Botchwey said when five high level directors went to do the investigation they came back with a public document which put the valuation at $11.5 million.
“Immediately I asked them to stop or stay all proceedings on the transaction. As at last week, I had no intention of continuing the purchase.
“Norway is a very expensive place and properties are very expensive there. So I asked them to start looking elsewhere or temporally we should rent for both the chancery and the residence”, she said.
The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, who presented the committee’s report on the budget estimate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, saud the Ministry was making every effort yo use the meagre resources at its disposal in achieving value for money, representing the good images of the country abroad and improving on service delivery.
After the submissions, Parliament approved GHc465,576,872 as budget estimate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration for 2019 fiscal year.