Thursday, 8 October 2009
Kufuor personally negotiated Vodafone deal
...Ministries of Finance and Communications sidelined
...How sale price of $900m was arrived at still a mystery
...As national security is warned about Vodafone’s phone-tapping capabilities
By dailyEXPRESS Reporters
dailyEXPRESS’ extensive enquiries, over several weeks, have confirmed that former President John Kufuor personally met with senior Vodafone officials and negotiated details of the 70% sale of Ghana Telecommunications Company (GT) to the British firm, Vodafone.
Sources privy to the involvement of the Ministry of Communications in the negotiations have also confirmed that the former Minister, Dr. Benjamin Aggrey-Ntim, was only brought in after the deal had been concluded “and he was instructed to ensure that the various institutions bring about legitimacy to the deal and a conclusion of the Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA).”
The deal struck during meetings between President Kufuor [solely representing GT and the government of Ghana] and Vodafone Chief Executive Arun Sarin, Gavin J. Darby, CEO of Vodafone Americas and other senior Vodafone executives at different times, handed over GT together with the National Fibre Optic Backbone for an under-market value of US$900million despite a higher offer at the time from Telekom South Africa.
The dailyEXPRESS can confirm that the meetings took place between November 2007 and about April 2008 in Accra and London. According to a Ghana High Commission- UK source, Ambassador D. K. Osei, then secretary to President Kufour and one Menna Rawlings of the British High Commission in Accra are the only persons known to have joined Mr. Kufuor at different times in the high level meetings with the Vodafone CEO and his lieutenants.
Queried about their involvement in the evaluation and negotiations that arrived at the sale price of US$900million, our sources at the Finance and Communications Ministries said they were never involved. It was also disclosed that at the time the presidency ‘instructed’ that the two ministries finalise the deal, the Communications Ministry had received further communication from Telekom SA with an offer that was higher than what the presidency was forcing on the Ministry. That offer, though brought to the attention of the President was ignored.
With Telekom SA unhappy about the handling of its offer which was higher than that of Vodafone and what has now been found to be a deliberate decision not to respond to their offer and other letters, many people who were privy to the 70% sale of the enlarged GT group have renewed concerns about the lack of transparency in the entire process.
And as the public await the details of the Vodafone Review Committee, some interested persons are hoping for answers to the under-hand dealings that probably went on and what they describe as the ‘sidelining of state institutions like the NCA, the ministries and the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC).’
A former Vodafone official speaking to our contacts in the UK has also confirmed that at a meeting between them and the Government of Ghana in June 2008, the then Minister for Communications, Dr. Aggrey-Ntim, informed the meeting that they were only required ‘‘to find a way to implement decisions already reached by a higher authority.’’
The minister, according to our briefing, made it clear that his ministry was only co-ordinating the exercise since ‘a higher authority’ has concluded the negotiations. The meeting which discussed an agenda drawn up and presented by Vodafone was therefore required to find out how to go about transferring to Vodafone the national fibre optic backbone which President Kufuor instructed should be given out.
The meeting, which our source said was attended by a technical adviser from the Ministry of Finance and a senior official from the NCA, also discussed how to go about the Sales and Purchase Agreement “so that it embodies the decisions reached by President Kufuor and the Vodafone CEO.”
Our UK contacts could not confirm claims that huge sums of money were made available to ensure that the deal receives the required approvals. A Ministry of Communications source also explained that he is unaware of any payments to the NCA and the DIC to get the statutory approvals despite the failure to go through the processes. He however indicated they are aware that the Vodafone officials, worried about the increasing opposition to the deal at the time, were very desirous of an early conclusion to the approval processes, including approval from Parliament.
The dailyEXPRESS has also picked up signals that suggest that the late Finance Minister, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, was also sidelined during all the negotiations. Information available to this paper has confirmed that when the presidency decided to bring in the finance ministry, it was the then Minister of State Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei who was involved.
Meanwhile, the National Security Apparatus and the NCA have been alerted of the unlawful phone-tapping capabilities of Vodafone in other countries. It is expectd that National Security managers and the NCA will take action to prevent Vodafone from repeating its crude, dangerous and unacceptable phone-tapping of government officials and other innocent Ghanaians here.