Alan Jabs Ablakwa Over ‘Cash For Seat’ Saga

Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen, yesterday challenged the wrong notion that expatriate businessmen who sat with President Akufo-Addo at the high table during the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards were made to pay $100,000 as a levy before being granted the opportunity to sit there.

The minister appeared before the ‘Cash for Seat’ committee set up by the Speaker of Parliament to probe the claim by the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) that the ministry extorted monies from expatriate business people before being given the opportunity to share the same table with the president at the event – which was organized at the Movenpick Hotel in Accra on December 4.

He was mad with Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu in the Volta Region, for claiming that the money paid by the expatriates was extorted.

Mr Kyerematen said Ablakwa could not make value judgement on the allegation and at the same time call for a probe.

He said nobody was forced to pay any money and that some of the business persons who sat with the president never paid a dime.

During cross-examination by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for New Juaben South and member of the committee, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, the minister said nobody was asked to pay anything and that people who sat on the presidential high table only decided to make voluntary contribution towards the successful organization of the event.

He went further to say that out of the 17 people who sat on the high table, only seven people made various contributions – not up to $100,000 – before the event, while three others also made contributions after the event.

According to Mr Alan Kyerematen, it was only the chief executive officer (CEO) of Interplast Group of Companies, Saied Fakhry, who voluntarily donated an amount of $100,000 towards the programme; and even that money was paid after the event.

The trade and industry minister indicated that the reference being made to Mr Saied Fakhry by other witnesses who appeared before the committee as one of the people who paid $100,000, is very erroneous because he (Fakhry), who is the only person who paid that amount, did so because of his special relationship with the president.

“Mr Chairman, I really find it very intriguing for our friends in the minority to say that these were levies imposed on expatriate businesses because Mr Fakhry has been a long time friend of President Nana Akufo-Addo. In fact, Mr Fakhry has known the president for over 40 years and  has even hired the services of the president as a lawyer before,” he said, stressing that because of that existing relationship between Mr Fakhry and the president, the former decided to make that donation as part of sponsorship for the programme.

He said there was someone who sat on the table and paid as low as GH¢13,000 as donation towards the successful organization of the event.

According to the minister, those who sat on the high table with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo were himself (Alan Kyerematen); Carlos Ahenkorah, Deputy Trade Minister; Ashim Morton, President of Millennium Excellence Foundation (organizers of the programme); Amarh Hari, Chief Executive of IPMC; Ashok Mohinani, Chairman of Mohinani Group; Salem Kalmoni, Chief Executive of Japan Motors; former President Jerry John Rawlings and his wife; Saied Fakhry; Roshi Motman, Chief Executive of AirtelTigo Ghana; Jim O’Brien, Founder and Executive Chairman of Zenith Bank Group and Bhagwan Khubchandani, Chief Executive of Melcom Ghana.

The rest were David Haper, Chief Executive of Geodrill Ghana; Mike Tacwani, Chief Executive of B Pipe Plus Ghana; Yofi Grant, CEO of GIPC; Yeo Ziobeieton, Chief Executive of Unilever Ghana and Ishmael Ashitey, Greater Accra Regional Minister.

He said the NPP government, being a champion of the private sector development, easily bought into the idea of the Millennium Excellence Foundation of organizing this event to reward private business people who had contributed immensely to the development of the country.

He said the Ministry of Trade and Industry therefore went into agreement with the Foundation under a written Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), spelling out all the conditions under which the event would be organized, with the Foundation taking sole responsibility of mobilizing funds.

The minister indicated that the expatriate businessmen were very happy about the event, which the ministry was even contemplating doing it every two years together with a private partner.

Mr Kyerematen explained that at the event, the Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Henry Oroh, who gave brief remarks, was overwhelmed by the success of the programme and the motive, which was to help attract more private investments into the country.

The minister said there was nothing fishy about the event and that there are official documents covering every aspect of the programme, including all monies collected.

The minority members on the committee, Dr Dominic Ayine and James Klutse Avedzi, had tried very hard to pin the minister down on the involvement of the presidency in the organization of the event, but he said the presidency had nothing to do with the organization of the programme, even though it (presidency) was officially informed about it.