The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has stressed that the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament had lied about the cost of the controversial chancellery in Oslo, Norway which the government is reportedly seeking to acquire.
The Minister reiterated her earlier position last week at a press conference in Accra.
“The press statement is to deepen your understanding of the facts behind the issues, the process in the acquisition of such facilities and what the precedence have been, the chronology of events and processes and finally, provide you an opportunity to seek clarification,” she indicated.
She emphasized that “the Minority’s assertion that an amount of $15million has been paid to purchase the property is false.”
According to her, “The Ministry wishes to state the following facts: that on the 20th of November, 2018, Controller and Accountant General transferred an amount of $3,199,506.13, an equivalent of GH¢15,337,157.52 to the Ministry for the purpose of establishing three new missions abroad- Guangzhou, China, Oslo, Norway, Port Louis, Mauritius.
She added that “the amount stated above is still in the custody of the ministry and not paid to any vendor or owner of any property abroad, the Minority’s assertion that the cost of the building has been inflated is false.”
It would be recalled that while contributing to the debate of the budget of the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday, December 16, ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament and NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu in the Volta Region, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, alleged that the ministry was seeking to purchase a six-bedroom property whose value had been inflated by over $8 million, equivalent to GH¢41.7 million.
Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa had explained that the NDC, through its internal investigations, had discovered that the six-bedroom apartment was sold at $3,598,108 in 2017, adding that the same property was being bought at an outrageous price of $12,218,487.
He alleged that in that country, a Norwegian financial newspaper by name Finansavisen, wrote about the sale of the property at the quoted price of $3.6 million in 2017.
Consequently, Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa held a press conference on Tuesday, December 17 to call on President Akufo-Addo to institute a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the matter, arguing that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its response, did not speak to basic issues he raised on the floor of parliament.
President Akufo-Addo indicated that he would not establish any independent commission of inquiry to investigate the matter.
The Majority New Patriotic Party (NPP) also rubbished the claims, describing them as false.
He said that North Tongu MP is seeking to waste government’s time with his allegations.
Checks indicate that the said building in Olso, Norway is 15-room apartment and not six-bedroom house as being speculated.
What Okudzeto may be referring to may be the residence of the ambassador which is a six-bedroom house valued at $3 million.
Justification For Opening Mission
The minister said that Ghana’s growing ties with Norway in areas of oil and gas and political cooperation had necessitated the establishment of a mission.
She said “there are over 50 Norwegian companies operating in the country, including the investors of Apollonia City.”
According to her, “It is worthy to note that Aker, a Norwegian Oil and Gas company, is investing an amount of $20billion in Ghana. 50 percent of the amount has already been invested. In addition, the Prime Minister of Norway is Co-Chair of the SDG’s with the President, so engagements with Norway have intensified.”
Following the decision of government to open a resident diplomatic mission in the Kingdom of Norway, the minister said she directed that an advance team be sent to Oslo to undertake preparatory works towards the establishment of the Embassy.
“A five-member team accordingly visited Oslo to undertake the exercise. Prior to the visit, the team met with the Norwegian Ambassador to Ghana on Monday, 15th October, 2018 to officially convey the decision of the Government of Ghana to the Norwegian Government about its intention to open a resident Diplomatic Mission in Oslo.”
“The team arrived in Oslo on Sunday 21st October, 2018. The team subsequently met officials of the host Foreign Ministry to begin the processes for the establishment of the Embassy. The members of the delegation were adequately briefed by the host officials on the procedures for establishing a diplomatic mission in Norway.”
“The delegation also met some selected African and non-African Missions in Oslo to learn from their experiences.”
The Missions, she mentioned, were South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Peru and Turkey.
“During discussions with officials of these Missions, they all advised the delegation to purchase properties right from the onset in view of the high cost of rent in the country. For example one African country is paying $45,000 a month in rent.”
Based on their recommendation, Ms Ayorkor Botchwey explained that the team widened its scope of search for properties to include outright purchase where possible.
She revealed that “during the search for suitable properties for use as chancellery and residence, the team observed that prices of properties in Oslo were indeed extremely high. For example, of the three properties identified as suitable for use as chancellery, two buildings were costing $9,500,000 and $13,000,000 respectively to purchase, while the third was for rental at a cost of $25,000 per month.”
She added that “doing the cost-benefit analysis on the three buildings,
the delegation was of the view that an outright purchase would be more
economical in the long term. Accordingly, the team recommended the
purchase of the property costing $13,000,000 in view of its location,
accessibility, structure, size, parking lots, among others.”
According to her, “With regards to the residence, the team also recommended the purchase of a property they identified in Ullern costing approximately $3,500,000.”
She said, “I wish to state on record that prior to the Foreign Affairs team’s arrival in Oslo, the proposed chancellery building was already under renovation, and was not being done at the instance of the Ministry.”
The said building was initially an office and later converted into a residence. The ongoing renovation is to restore the building back to an office complex.”