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The Mystery sale of Great Consolidated Diamonds - Part 3



JOSPNG GROUP FAILS TO PAY 14.8 MILLION TO DIC 

By Kwabena Adu Koranteng

It’s been over six months since investigations began into the sale of Ghana Consolidated Diamonds  as regards the mystery surrounding the sale of the state owned enterprise to the JOSPONG GROUP .
Today the Minister of Finance Seth Terkper has confirmed the failure of the JOSPONG group to fully pay for the cost of the state enterprise though documentations have completed and handed over to the owners to operate.
The minister of Finance Seth Terkper on 9th March 2015 announced in parliament that a meager sum of US$3.2 million  out of a purchase price of US$17 million  has been paid  to government for the sale of Ghana Consolidated Diamond company  to the JOSPONG group. The minister said the situation has put a strain on the country’s economy since the money could have been used by government to develop other sectors. Though the company is yet to fully pay for the cost of the diamond firm indication are that it has started operating and benefitting from the resources.
THE sale of Great Consolidated Diamonds has raised misgiving among the general public who claim that that due process was not followed.
Anti-corruption campaigners have also questioned the authenticity of the divestiture and the transaction process and called for nonpartisan investigations into the process to expose the rot in the deal.
Even state officials and new owners of the diamond enterprise cannot tell the real value of the company and how much the diamond company was sold three years after the dramatic change of ownership. Besides, new owners are unable to tell the general public how the sales transaction was done.
It will be recalled that at the official launch of the new enterprise in August 2011, Vice-President then, John Dramani Mahama who is presently the president of Ghana said the commencement of business by the new company “marks another milestone in the progress of the nation towards the enhancement of the living standards of our people, through the creation of jobs, socio-economic development, and the establishment of a peaceful and harmonious environment.”
Vice President John Dramani Mahama, who launched the Company, said it was gratifying to know that the company would invest over 100 million dollars in a five-year multi-phase programme to achieve its immediate objective of providing jobs for 2,000 workers and ultimately 50,000 people directly or indirectly.
He said the decision to diverse the GDC stemmed from the fact that the operations of the company proved to be unsustainable and as such could not pay its workers and its debtors. The Vice President assured Ghanaians that the commencement of operations of the GCDGL was a strong attestation of government’s commitment to invest in its own people and create jobs which would have a rippling effect in alleviating poverty and improving the standard of living for a better Ghana. He said GCDL intended to establish an integrated diamond mining and diamond processing industry and would bring on board a management team and consultants with in-depth expertise, knowledge and skills in business, finance and community development.
He said he was convinced that the new company would exploit the mineral resources for the improvement of the economy and for the transformation of Akwatia into an industrial hub of the Eastern Region.
He said the new company would reclaim over 40,000 hectors of land and converge it into large tracts of farm lands for commercial farming involving plantation of citrus, oil palm and cocoa, live stock, forestation of reclaimed lands.
it’s been over three years now and none of these promises made by the vice president then , now president , John Dramani Mahama to invest 100 million cedis to revive the company and employ 2500 direct workers and 5000 indirect workers have materialized. The roads are still in deplorable state. Aside that, more than half of the workers have been fired.
The Drama
When this investigator visited the company site at Akwatia in the Eastern region Between 14 and 21st October 2014, the place was virtually empty. Essentially, every activity had been brought to a halt. The site was very quiet. I saw few security men in Yellow GCDGL T-shirts and a small number of mechanical engineers at the company’s workshop working for other private miners.
In an interview with the Human Resource manager of Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited (GCDGL), Faustina Abena Obeng Dapaah, I asked her why the company’s premises were virtually empty “yes it’s ` quite here because we are not active now we are not operating. We are not producing. I then asked who owns the big diamond company, “Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong owner of JOSPONG GROUP of companies. How much did he buy the company and has he fully paid for it? I asked further? “I can’t answer your questions, the best person who can answer these ones is the managing Director of GCDGL, and anyway can I see your ID card”? She asked which I obliged and gave to her.
Prior to my meeting with the HR, I had visited theAkwatia DistrictAssembly, popularly known as the “Denkyembour District Assembly “and the district coordinator Mr. Eric Hini had informed me that GCDL owed the assembly a sum of GHC45, 000 on property rate and that the assembly would soon haul the diamond company to court should it fail to pay by the end of November this year. I made this known to the HR in my interview and her responds were “I don’t know anything about it why? If they have issues with us they must settle with us not the press or a third party. The District Chief Executive is even living in one of our luxurious apartments and doesn’t pay anything. He has lived there for two years and has not paid anything so I don’t know why he is saying that. She stated.
On my way back from the company’s main yard with my tour guide, Mr. Robert Bosompem, we met the District Chief Executive for Akwatia, Honorable Kwabena A. Abroquah in his plush state of the art Nissan Patrol SUV on his way the GCDGL apartment which he has been occupying. I introduced myself and he asked me if I had gotten all my information about the company which I said yes. I then told him about the debt owed the district assembly by GCDGL, which he confirmed. He however became furious when I informed him about the revelation by the HR that he has been staying in one of the company’s luxurious apartment for two years and not paying anything to the managers .” why should he tell you all that . Yes its true I have been occupying their apartment for two years for security reasons but they haven’t told me to pay anything to them so I can’t get up and pay anything. They must request and then I will pay. He said this and sped off.
Back in Accra I booked an appointment with the managing Director of Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited, Mr Kwaku Antwi Addai Boasiako as directed by the HR Manager in Akwatia. On Tuesday 28th October I managed to meet him in his plush Roman ridge office after several attempts. In our interactions I asked him how much the state enterprise was bought by his employer, Dr Siaw Agyepong and whether he has fully paid for the asset and if it received parliamentary deliberation, rectification and approval? Our check at the parliament indicated that the transaction was not sent to parliament for deliberation rectification and approval.
He declined to comment and said he is not in a position to answer the questions.” The best person who can give you answers is the owner and shareholder himself. I have not been mandated to tell you anything “he said.
Mr.Boasiako told me to contact oneMr. Boate, the operations manager of JOSPONG Group of companies to help me with answers to these questions. He also promised to relay the information to the shareholder, that’s Dr Siaw Agyepong. l called Mr. Boate several time but he did not responded. He later replieda text message I sent him indicating he would not be in a position to help and that I should contact one Barbara Mensah, head of corporate affairs and marketing with the JOSPONG GROUP.
When contacted, Barbara Mensah requested for a letter explaining why I wanted to meet the shareholders. This was submitted with another questionnaire which was made available to the CEO OF JOSPONG andsubmitted in his office at Asharley Botwe. Barbara later called to inform that she cannot help but a gentleman called Kojo Williams who works with a Public Relations and Communications Company called Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) would be in a position to answer these questions. Kojo Williams called to request for a copy of the questionnairebut failed to call back two weeks after it was sent to him.
So our question is who is prepared and ready to tell Ghanaian’s how much Ghana’s only diamond company was sold and where the money is after it did not receive parliamentary deliberations and approval.
Interview with Nana Akufo at the Divestiture Implementations Committee.
On the 30th of September 2014, I visited the Divestiture Implementation committee (DIC) as part of my investigations and met Nana Akufo, the administrator. During the interview he said the JOSPONG Group has paid some amount of money to government but not fully settled the total amount. He said the payment is being done in in phases but declined to disclose how much has been paid as of this year .
He further requested for a questionnaire as regards the issue of parliamentary approval of the sales transaction but failed to return it. He claimed his executivechairman; Dr Agambilla came for the questionnaire and did not return it. Several calls to either Mr. Akufo or Dr Agambilla failed. “My boss is not the Type you can pick a phone and call anytime you want so you will have to wait when its ready we will call you “he told this investigator.
CIVIL SOCIETY’S VIEW ON THE SALE OF GCD
THE Executive Director of The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) Dr Steve Manteaw in an interview over the sale regarded this investigations as very difficult with the view that “the JOSPONG GROUP has tried as much as it can to hide every necessary information from the sale of GCD from the general public; who are the real owners and shareholders of the company. “My brother you have delved into a very difficult area. I have also been investigating the company and the transactions for sometime now and have been getting little information. The little one I have is even bad.
“A check at the Ghana revenue authority, Bulk Tax Payers unit indicates that Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited has no fact file there,” an indication that it has never paid corporate and other taxes since the divestiture.
According to Dr Manteaw, the JOSPONG GROUP has not fully paid for the transactions. I know that they have not fully paid for the sales transaction and nobody even knows how much they have paid as of now. They have decided to keep mute about this. it is their communication strategy to keep the media away. If they refuse to respond they are certain it will keep people away from knowing the truth.
Dr Manteaw expressed worry that the company, JOSPONG GROUP, owners of Zoomlion Ghana limited, a waste management firm hasentangled it in several doubtful and questionable political deals,and including an oil block the owner has recently acquired which is being secretly investigated.
Mrs. Hannah Owusu Koranteng, associate Director of WACAM, a nongovernmental organization in the mining industry also in an interview called for an independent,nonpartisan team to be established to investigate the sale of Ghana Consolidated Diamonds to Dr Siaw Agyepong. We want clarity on some of these things. Youcan’t just sell or buy a state enterprise which belongs to the people of Ghana and then hide the documents covering the sale from the real owners of the assets. There ought to be transparency in the process. We need to know the cost of the asset, how much it was sold and where the money is” she questioned.
Plight of the workers
Immediately after the divestiture of GCD TO THE JOSPONG GROUP, ALL THE 840 WORKERS of the company were declared redundant and retrenched. They were paid their end of service benefits. Few months afterwards those that were seen to be loyal to the new management were recalled to their positions under a new service conditions and salaries of between GHC300 and GHC500.According to honorable John Quansah, assembly man for akwatia and contract staff of the company.
Speaking in an interview with this investigative Journalist in the presence of other workers, he said “they only paid our end of service benefits. they did not pay our transportation and other insurance benefits that we need to enable us get out of this place and the apartments we are staying in. some of us want to leave to our various destinations. We can’t cope with the working conditions here. Currently the company has employed452 workers out of the initial 870”.“Since the company is inactive and is not operating, we are unable to generate income to pay our salaries. So we are made to sell scraps from the old equipments, sand and stones generated from the mining of diamonds.Even though GCDGL has recently acquired license to mine both Gold and Diamond in Akwatia and surrounding towns, it has decided not to get into active mining due to the high cost of production. Instead, the management of the company is awarding portions of the concession to individual to engage in a small scale mining system called “Tributary”. As part of the tributary system,the individualminers are contracted to pay 25% of their earnings to the company every month from their profits”.
“We are informed that a new investor from china called PM is on his way to take over the management of the company from the current management that is said to have consumed the initial investments pumped into the operations of the company through huge salary payments and conferences in luxurious hotels and fat bonuses”.
“Our problems here are lack of modern technology, financial gaps and the use of obsolete equipments. Currently, we are paid between GHC300 ($100) and GHC 500(us$180) a month. Whiles management members and the board of directors take between GhC 13,000(US$4,200) and 15,000 cedis (US$5,000) a month.
Reacting to the salary disparities, Managing Director of GCDGL Mr. Mr Kwaku Antwi Addai Boasiako explained that workers are paid based on their qualifications, andexperienced whichincludes the number of years that a person has worked and I don’t see anything wrong withit.
Views of the traditional leaders of Akwatia on the sale of GCDL.
Nana Adwoa Owusua, (Asona Hemaa) Asona Queen mother of Akwatia said prior to the sale Akwatia Diamond Company (GCD) was supplying water to the entire communities within the enclave. “The company was giving us electricity as well and gave our children scholarship to study from the primary to the university and other tertiary institutions and did other corporate social activities. Since the company changed hands they have stopped providing us with these facilities. The water is not flowing, we use borehole for wash and cooking and then drink pure water to survive. We pay the light bills ourselves when our children and husbands have been laid off and are unemployed. They take their security men round to arrest the youth who are doing small scale mining. The new owner is making life unbearable for us in Akwatia. Everything has gone bad in this town. There are no proper toilet or drainage facilities here, the rate of armed robbery and prostitution has increased in Akwatia, Boadua and surrounding communities. All the farmlands have been destroyed and turned to mine lands deriving us of our livelihoods.
We knew nothing about the sale of GCD. Nobody was aware until it was sold. As regards how much it was sold and where the money went to I can’t tell .they have retrenched all the active workers and put in their own people who will worship them. Noting was given to the town for community development.
We have a population of 55,000 and there is no good drinking water to supply us. Presently in Akwatia we need good drinking water to survive and a library for our students and good roads to convey our pregnant women to the hospital.
Nana Kofi Ampofo, is the (abusuapaning) title head of the ruling Abrade family of the abrade Family in Akwatia.
Speaking in an interview, he said Akwatia Diamonds was established in 1913 and was managed by the colonial masters like the apartheid system in South Africa. “They captured and seized huge portions of lands from our forefathers who were illiterates at the time. In spite of that they operated the mines well l. they gave us jobs and scholarship and other social amenities like schools, water, electricity, golf course among others .Recently, we heard that government wanted to sell GCD because it wasn’t making profit. Nobody sat with us over it to deliberate over it .in 2011 we were there when people came from Accra to celebrate the changeover. I don’t know how it was done and how much it was sold and where the money went. They went ahead to retrenched all the workers and put their own people at post. This is injustice and I want investigations to be conducted on it to expose the rot associated with the sale. The transaction should also be reversed and the company given to the people of Akwatia to manage.
In a period of four years about three state enterprises have been sold to private institutions and individuals when in actual fact the Ghanaian is capable of managing his own affairs. The Trust Bank was sold to ECOBANK, Merchant Bank was sold to FORTIZ and Ghana Consolidated Diamonds was sold to the JOSPONG GROUP of companies.
JOSPONG GROUP FINALLY REACTS
The JOSPONG Group of companies, owned by Mr Joseph Siaw Agyapong has reacted to the ongoing investigations into the sale of Ghana consolidated Diamonds which has been described by experts as lacking transparency.
The statement reacts to a questionnaire submitted by this Journalist to the company as part of the investigations to clarify issues related to the sales of the company.
The three page statement signed by Mrs Barbara Mensah, Head of Corporate Affairs and Marketing with the JOSPONG Group of Companies said the agreement for the purchase of Ghana Consolidated Diamonds was agreed with the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC).
“We assure you that we followed due process, guidelines and regulations provided to regulate the sale and purchase of divested state companies. We are determined to use this opportunity to turn around this company to make it a vibrant and profitable organization that will once again create jobs and impact livelihoods of the communities in the company’s jurisdiction
“We are happy to have been given the opportunity to challenge our expertise to rejuvenate GCDGL and unearth its potentials. Indeed since we took over the mine in 2011 a lot of investment has been made on our part to resuscitate the mine and bring it up to international standards
GCDGL has also focused on meeting the necessary regulatory, engineering and restructuring works necessary for bringing the old mine back to life. All local and international certifications that are required to facilitate the operation of the mine as a world-class mine have been regularized
“Our goal is to regularize, modernize and upgrade GCDGL’s mining credentials and certifications to internationally accepted levels. This is an important step in the successful operation of any viable mine. As part of engineering works ongoing, GCDGL has replaced many old and obsolete equipment and machinery at the mine. As successful mining is largely dependent on equipment and machinery, we are investing heavily in upgrading equipment on the mine to achieve production successes”, the statement noted.
“Our current activities regarding the mine go beyond the mine itself. We are excited about what we are also achieving with the former employees of the mine, some of them have been successfully re-engaged. As part of our resettlement plan for retrenched employees, GCDGL has supported many former workers of the mine and residents of surrounding communities to undertake alternative sources of livelihood.
We however believe that putting the mine on the right footing to generate taxes for government, create employment and support the surrounding communities should be of interest to you
The statement indicated that “Since we acquired the mine in 2011, Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited has followed a five-year development plan to bring the mine on full stream. Milestones under this plan include; undertaking feasibility studies which is now completed re-evaluation of the resource rehabilitation of offices and accommodation, rehabilitation of the plant for processing of Tailings Developing regulations and structures for product purchase from small scale diamond miners etc. In the community, efforts are ongoing to rehabilitate the Akwatia Government Hospital to serve the town and its surrounding communities “
“The last phase of the plan is to bring the entire mine on-stream and undertake development of farms and other non-mining projects. Our commitment to turning the mine around for the benefit of the communities and other stakeholders. We wish to state that we are excited to have had the opportunity to turn the company around “
According to the statement “We expressed our interest in the company at a time when it had been closed down and was under care and maintenance. It will interest you to note that the Company was put on divestiture in 1987 and after numerous unsuccessful attempts by the GoG to sell; it was closed down in 2007.
In 2011, the GoG accepted the bid by Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited to buy the company. We believe that such a great national asset can be turned around but will require a lot of investment to achieve that We are determined to make the mine successful and we are working towards that. Since its acquisition, the company has undergone tremendous changes and has commenced the journey to being the leading homegrown and sustainable mining concern operating to world-class standards”.
“We remain committed to our values of Responsibility, Integrity, Excellence, Innovation and People-centered which guide the way we operate. We also remain committed to maximizing land-use to benefit our Business, the Communities and other Stakeholders during and beyond mining. We appreciate the interest you demonstrated in our organization. We are able to provide the following responses to your questionnaire and request you publish same. Regarding figures, we suggest you contact the Divestiture Implementation Committee” it noted.
Interestingly, the statement fails to tell the value and the cost of the state enterprise at the time it was purchased by the JOSPONG Group. In the final part of this investigation, this journalist will tell the general public the real cost of the state enterprise at the time it was purchased by JOSPONG, the real shareholders of the company, including majority and minority shareholders and the incoming Chinese investors , stay tuned.

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