By A. A. Yayra
Even though the Akufo-government has bowed to public pressure to back down on plans to construct a proposed 450 capacity edifice for the legislature at a cost of a staggering 200 million dollars, classified information from the seat of government indicates that, long before the public protestation, the Finance ministry had made some financial commitments for the start of the roundly criticized project.
Information available to The Witness indicates that though Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has said the Akufo-Addo government was unaware of the proposed Chamber, and has accordingly rescinded its decision, the government, through the Finance Ministry and, with the concurrence of the Parliamentary Service Board, paid the architectural firm that designed the new Chamber, Adjaye Associates, a whopping $1.3 million dollars.
The sum, this paper was reliably informed, was paid in three tranches to the architectural firm of which the Finance Ministry promised to pay an outstanding one hundred and fifty thousand dollars by the end of this month, a claim both the Public Affairs department of Parliament and Communications department of Adjaye Associates declined to confirm nor deny when contacted by The Witness.
Sources in both government and parliament told The Witness that, a decision to pay the sum, was taken after the Speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Prof Mike Aaron Oquaye, and members of the Parliamentary Service Board briefed the President and a team from the government treasury led by Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta, on the tender process that led to the selection of the firm of the British-Ghanaian architect, Sir David Adjaye.
The Witness gathered that even though Adjaye Associates submitted a bid higher than the two other companies that also submitted bids, the tender committee, on the recommendations of the Institute of Engineers and connoisseurs of the construction industry decided to engage Sir David Adjaye’s firm due to the company’s reputable and globally acclaimed status.
Adjaye and Associates, this paper was briefed, had to compete with a foreign, and a local architectural firm to “grab the construct.” According to insiders, Sir David Adjaye, aside his company’s good standing in the world of architecture, found favor with the tender committee due to his good relationship with the Akufo-Addo government which has so far earned him similar juicy contracts.
Sources say the Finance Minister was convinced once Parliament had approved the budgetary allocation for the proposed Chamber, government needed to fulfill its financial obligations for the architectural firm to start work.
It was at the meeting to brief the President that the Speaker informed President Akufo-Addo that Parliament would be privileged to have him cut sod for the commencement of the project of which he (President Akufo-Addo) agreed, the source narrated.
“It was on the basis of this discussion that the Speaker’s letter dated June 19, 2019 was written inviting the President for the sod cutting ceremony… The architect is not a charity organization to have designed the proposed Chamber for free. He was paid for it. And the President, Finance Minister and all those who matter in government are aware of the payments,” the source alleged.
The source explained that the project “is to be funded partly by government and a facility from India. As we speak, government is yet to take steps to get the Indian facility approved by parliament but as the Speaker said the last time, allocation was made in the budget for this project and that was where money was drawn to pay the architect.”
Speaking during the unveiling of the design of the project, Prof. Oquaye disclosed that the President will be the one to cut the sod for the commencement of the project, saying “the President in principle has actually agreed to come and cut the sod the moment we are ready. So, you could see that there’s a lot of goodwill for this project.”
However, following public outrage and threats of demonstrations, Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, in a sharp contrast, said the Executive arm of government has not been engaged on plans to build the new chamber for Parliament. “From the Executive perspective, I am not aware that the Executive has been engaged on this idea” he noted.
The Information Minister’s denial apparently provoked the Speaker of Parliament’s office, forcing it to release a letter the Speaker wrote to brief and invite the President for the sod cutting ceremony, to the media.
When The Witness contacted the acting Director of Public Affairs of Parliament, Kate Addo; she could not confirm nor deny whether monies had been paid to the architectural firm, except to say “…that I can’t tell, the matter is still hanging. There are a lot of issues coming up and Speaker is not around…so if you could wait for a while. When Speaker returns, we’ll address all the issues. For now, I can’t say anything about what you’ve asked. When Speaker comes, you’ll hear from us.”
The Communications Manager for Adjaye Associates in Africa, Lungi Morrison, when contacted by this paper could also not speak to the issues, insisting that questions relating to the payments be emailed to her for prompt response. As at press time yesterday, she had not responded to the questions emailed to her as promised.
Source: The Witness Newspaper