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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Corruption in Ghana: ¢115.9bn vanish at Songor Salt Project

...As IMC Chairman Quit After Creating Mess

Songor Salt Project (SSP) at Ada in Greater Accra, once-upon-a-time the showpiece of Ghana's emerging salt industry which has over the years showed prospects as the new economic back bone for the nation is now gasping for its breath of survival.

Thanks to corruption and reckless dissipation of the resources of the company under the run-away chairman of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) Mr Joseph William Biney, the Project could not raise funds to pay salaries of its staff. Biney who has a track record of running down companies threatened to deal ruthlessly with THE SUN when reached some months back to comment on the deplorable state he left the salt company.

"If you write any negative article about me you will be dealt with in Court. I have left SONGOR SALT PROJECT and so why should you question me about developments in the company”, he charged and hanged the phone.

Biney, alias Joe Willie was appointed chairman of the SSP IMC in 2001. He took over the reins of administration from Mr. Baffoe Bonnie, when all was moving on well while the NPP was in power. The company's workers say, well within the last eight years he has succeeded in running the company aground much to everyone’s surprise.

Prior to his appointment to chair SSP, Biney's company, Agro Tree, a cocoa purchasing firm had gone bankrupt. The company's property in Tema was finally liquidated while he took the lucrative office as Songor Salt boss.

Biney who ignored sound and useful advice offered him by THE SUN while in office on countless occasions and rather viewed this paper as his number one enemy, would have to tell the whole nation what led to the current deplorable state the company has found itself in, when indeed he had the chance to build from where his predecessor left off.

THE SUN learnt that when he and his IMC came into office in 2001, their predecessors who took office in 1992 had left the Company with a spacious warehouse, three bungalows at Tema Communities 18 and 20, and also undertaken ¢3 billion (GH¢ 300,000.00) electrification project for some communities around Songor Lagoon at Ada.

In 1998 the same management bought 20% shares from the former director of the Company, Mr. Aleixs P. G. Panagioteupolos, when he was leaving the country at the cost of 2.5 billion (GH¢ 250,000), and also acquired many other properties for the Company.

Yet again according to findings undertaken by THE SUN, before leaving office in 2001 the former administration left behind an amount of ¢2.1 billion and huge salt deposits for the Company.

However when the Biney-led IMC took over in 2001, they decided to purchase cars for themselves and have since run the Company aground.

THE SUN learnt that apart from a school block that was built by the current administration for the people of Loloyan at the cost of ¢400 million, not much has been achieved.

Insiders swear that Biney ignored and kicked against useful advice even from the local Union of the company to dispose off most of the old vehicles and equipment, and rather spent huge company resources on questionable maintenance. The example is when the chairman of the IMC spent over ¢400 million on two old Tata buses, and later sold them on April 2008 for a paltry ¢43 million.

THE SUN has gathered that between 2001 and 2007, the IMC spent a total of ¢46 billion (GH¢46,000) for hiring bulldozers excluding fuel or diesel), even though a brand new bulldozer could have been purchased at the much lower cost of ¢2.6 billion, all because apparently someone stood to gain a kick-back from the arrangement.

Again between December 2002 to May 2004, management spent ¢427 million to engage six security dogs and their guards from Delta Security, while at the same time engaging Police and the factory security.

THE SUN gathered that during a durbar on January 16, 2004, held at the factory's warehouse the management told the workers that, they were able to make about ¢48.9 billion.

From 2004 to 2007 the total sales made amounted to ¢67 billion, bringing the total sales to ¢115.9 (GH¢11,590). However, in 2007 when the workers asked about the state of affairs of the Company, the IMC chairman Joe Willie made them believe that their coffers were in the red.

The paper learnt the IMC spent ¢57 million to purchase equipment for the building of a clinic, which is out of use. THE SUN has learnt that the IMC also blew about ¢150 million on two trips to Spain and Brazil in October, 2005 to purchase a washing plant that-never-was.

In May 2005, the IMC chairman was said to have informed the local Union that salt worth ¢1.5 billion and daily shipping books were missing and that the Company could not produce data on the transaction whatsoever. No arrests have however been made. In all workers of the company are questioning the whereabouts of over ¢115.9 billion being funds belonging to the Company that has vanished into air. -

Dominic Jale (THE SUN)

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