The Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen has expressed fears that the ‘cash for seat’ scandal could threaten Ghana’s attempts to mobilize investments from the international community.
In his concluding statement to the committee probing the matter in Parliament on Friday, Mr. Kyerematen said Ghana’s reputation risked incurring serious damage because of the allegations that his Ministry charged expatriates to sit by the President at the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards (GEBA) in December 2017.
However, according to the Minister, the absence of any adverse findings after the committee finishes its work could redeem Ghana’s image in the eyes of the international community.
“It is our hope that we go throughout this process and by the grace of God, no adverse finding are established. It will be a matter of deep regret that as a country, we have had to endure a controversy that has the potential of making very significant damage to our international reputation.
“If in the minds of the international public, it is indeed the case that the government of Ghana is extorting money from expatriates, do we not believe or appreciate the impact it will have on Ghana’s capacity to mobilize investment into this country?” Mr. Kyeramaten questioned.
The Minister also reiterated his assertion that there was no wrongdoing and stressed that: “I have not heard or seen any individual make a specific allegation in respect of extortion or levies.”
Mr. Kyeramaten appeared before the Committee of Friday, a day after the Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak also gave their testimonies.
The Ministry of Trade was alleged to have charged between $25,000 and $100,000, to enable expatriates to sit close to the President at the awards ceremony, which was organised by the Millennium Excellence Foundation.
The allegation was first made by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, in Parliament in December 2017.
Mr. Mubarak said the fees charged at the Ghana Expatriate Business Awards were not approved by Parliament, adding that the monies were also not accounted for in the Internally Generated Funds [IGF] of the Ministry’s accounts.
The issue was further reinforced by Mr Ablakwa, who suffered verbal assaults from Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah over the matter.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry initially dissociated itself from these allegations.
The Trade Ministry, in a statement, said it played no role in determining prices for seats at the event and clarified that it only facilitated the implementation of a new initiative by the Millennium Excellence Foundation.
The organizers of the Awards had also explained that no one paid to sit close to the President and that the amount was raised from sponsorship through a fundraising at the event.