National Cathedral: Your ‘fake’ investigations ‘boring’ – Adjaye lunges at accusers; says ‘nothing hidden’

Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye & Associates has said the “fake” investigations being conducted by his accusers regarding his contract to design the National Cathedral are “sad” and “boring”.



In an interview with Accra-based Joy News, Sir Adjaye said: I just think that there is nothing wrong with healthy debate. Everybody should have an opinion and talk about how they feel about everything. Things should be allowed to be investigated and checked till everybody feels comfortable. There is nothing hidden or opaque. Everything is going through the system that can be checked through the government”.

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He lamented, however: “What is really sad and boring is when people just make accusations based on anything; that is not actually investigating”.

“Fake investigations are just really reflecting badly on the people who are investigating”, he said, adding: “I think all the information is in the public realm and people are ignoring to look at the information and they are saying things that are counter to what is out there in the public realm”.

In June 2022, opposition MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said: “Documents from the Office of the President confirm that in 2021 alone, President Akufo-Addo authorised an astonishing GHS32million of taxpayer funds to be paid to Sir David Adjaye & Associates Ltd for consultancy on his National Cathedral project. “GHS57 million so far; more to come”.

Deputy Finance Minister John Kumah later confirmed that the money was from the budget of the Office of the President.

He said: “Even though it may not be captured as a budget item because it is not under any specific MDA, it can form part of government expenditure as long as we have captured it in the budget that we were going to provide seed funding”.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the National Cathedral Secretariat, Dr Paul Opoku Mensah, recently said the amount paid directly to the Consultant, Adjaye Associates was GHS113.040.54.67 million.

Speaking at a bible-reading marathon on Monday, 2 January 2023, Dr Opoku Mensah clarified that all the funds allocated to the construction of the edifice have been accounted for to the pesewa and none has gone missing.

He said GHS339 of state funds has been expended on the cathedral as of December 2022.

Dr Opoku Mensah reported to President Akufo-Addo and the media at the event: “For purposes of clarity, I want to report a verbatim memo I sent on this issue dated 19 January 2022 and addressed to the Clerk of Parliament”.

“The indication was that the government has given us GHS339 million and we could account for GHS225 million leaving GHS114 million missing”, he noted.

“Here, I quote what I wrote to the Clerk: ‘As we indicated to the Committee on Thursday, December 15, 2022, the total amount paid by the government of Ghana to the National Cathedral project is GHS339 million. This total is made up of the following: the amount paid directly to the National Cathedral Secretariat is GHS225 million. The amount paid directly to the Consultant, Adjaye Associates & Design Team is GHS113.040.54.67 million. The two payments total GHS339.003.064.86’.”



Dr Opoku Mensah, thus, dispelled claims that some monies allocated for the construction of the cathedral cannot be accounted for.

“So, there are no missing funds that could not be accounted for. Secondly, the detailed account for these funds was provided to Parliament on 15 December 2022 by the Secretariat”.

“In the case of the accounting from the Secretariat, this involves among others, total payments made to the contractor, and total payments made to the Bible Museum and Biblical Gardens Design Team.”

He also expressed the secretariat’s displeasure at the “misrepresentation” of facts on the project by some Members of Parliament.

Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye & Associates
| Sir David Adjaye

“While projects of this nature will always have discontent, we are nonetheless concerned about the misrepresentations, particularly when it comes from Members of Parliament”, he mentioned.

“For instance, the continued misrepresentation of the contract to the consultants is worrying as none of the amount bandied around comes anywhere near the contract amount.

“Rather than 34% that they said we’d paid the architect, actually, the contract figure is 12.5% when the Ministry of Works and Housing allows for 15.5%. And the 12.5% will not change irrespective of what happens to the total cost”.

“More critically, the contract is not for an architect, but for a set of consultants’ services involving 15 international and Ghanaian firms of which Sir David Adjaye Associates is the lead consultant.”

In the 2023 budget, the government allocated a sum of GHS80 million toward the construction of the cathedral, however, the minority caucus succeeded in disapproving it.

The money was, however, reallocated to the communications and road sectors.

A few weeks ago, President Akufo-Addo said his decision to build the cathedral to the glory of God has more supporters than the ‘Sanballats and Tobiahs’ against it.

“Just like Sanballat and Tobiahs in the days of Nehemiah, there are some who do not share my views on the building of the National Cathedral”, the president said, adding: “I respect their right to differ but I am confident my decision [is backed] by the vast numbers of enthusiastic supporters of this project, whose spiritual dimension is limitless”.

The president made the comment on Sunday, 18 December 2022, when he delivered an address at the centenary celebration of the Ga Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, held at the Black Star Square, Accra.

The president noted that upon completion, the National Cathedral will serve not only as the country’s collective thanksgiving “to the Almighty for the blessings He has bestowed on our nation, sparing us the ravages of civil war that have bedevilled the histories of virtually all our neighbours, and the outbreak of deadly mass epidemics but also as a rallying point for the entire Christian community of Ghana, which represents seventy-plus per cent of the population.”

Addressing the congregation, which included the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rev. Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah Mante, the asked the Ga Presbytery, and, indeed, all Christians, to continue to pray for Ghana’s peace and unity, so the nation can move forward in unity.

“I need the support of every Ghanaian, together with the prayers of the church, to help me and my government carry out our mandate successfully. Pray for me so that Almighty God will continue to give me wisdom, strength, courage and compassion to enable me to execute my duties as a good leader. With Him, all things are possible, as the battle is the Lord’s. For this, too, shall pass”, President Akufo-Addo said.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh, recently said the National Cathedral is not a sensible project to undertake in the midst of an economic crisis.

In his view, the government could use the site for the project, for a more sensible venture.

Speaking at a roundtable organised by the Citizen’s Coalition in Accra on Thursday, 15 December 2022, Professor Prempeh said making allocations for the cathedral in the 2023 budget beats his imagination.

“When you are in a crisis, you can do exceptional things, I don’t see anything in the budget to suggest that this is a crisis and that this is being done as an emergency measure,” Professor Prempeh said.

“This is not the time for vanity projects but we have preserved a vanity project in the form of the cathedral. I was expecting that this being a crisis period, we will reflect on that decision and say: ‘even if this is sensible to do at all’ – and I do not think so – that it will not be the appropriate period or we will change the idea to something else”.

“There is a lot that we can still do with that site which can make sense”.

“So, generally it is a missed opportunity in terms of seeing this as a crisis moment and seeing it as a moment to reset the button”, Prof Prempeh noted.

“I think we have not quite done that”, he stressed.

“It looks to me that it is purely an emergency thing targeted at the IMF to approve a loan, as opposed to something that is going deep into the structure and our governance,” Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh admonished in his assessment.

Prof Prempeh is in good company with pressure group OccupyGhana which recently recommended that the government suspend all public expenditure on the National Cathedral considering that the country is going through an economic crisis.



“Whatever arguments there might have been to support spending now-non-existent money on the proposed National Cathedral, have been eroded by the dire straits that the nation faces”, the group said in a statement.

“Our current situation makes the continued commitment in the budget to spend GHS80m on the cathedral, look like a vanity project”, it noted.

OG said: “We lose nothing by suspending expenditure on that project until the economy recovers”.

The National Cathedral was a personal promise made to God by then-presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo if he won the 2016 election.

Read OccupyGhana’s full statement below:

Our ref: OG/2022/054

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 7 December 2022

GHANA’S CURRENT ECONOMIC SITUATION – OUR FURTHER THOUGHTS AND PROPOSALS

OccupyGhana has noted, with considerable concern, the Finance Minister’s announcements on restructuring portfolio investments.

While IMF support depends on the proposed ‘haircuts,’ they are extremely painful to the many Ghanaians who have participated in these investments.

Simply, under this government’s watch, Ghana has become broke under circumstances that were avoidable and are inexcusable and unpardonable.

As we stated in our press release dated 28 October 2022 (Our ref: OG/2022/050) and titled GHANA’S CURRENT ECONOMIC SITUATION – OUR THOUGHTS AND PROPOSALS, the nation would not be in this situation but for the government’s failed, risky economic strategy that borrowed heavily from the international market to fund expenditure, pay maturing debt, support the cedi and possibly control the effect of the depreciation on inflation.

This risky strategy effectively relied on good fortune and extremely astute economic management, both of which failed.

Thus, although the government would seek to blame the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war for this disaster, it cannot evade or avoid the fact that our debt was unsustainable even before these external factors kicked in and compounded an already precarious situation.

TWO BROAD COMMENTS

We have two broad comments on the announcements that request Ghanaians to forego legitimately earned funds to help the government out of the disaster it has created.

First, we consider the finance minister’s announcements as nothing more than an offer from the government to institutional portfolio investors to accept new terms that vary the terms under which the latter acquired the government’s securities.

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We think that the government has no power under the law and the Constitution to unilaterally impose fresh terms on portfolio investors; negotiation and the mutual consent of all parties will be required.

Second, notwithstanding the claims that individual investors are insulated from the proposed ‘haircuts,’ the millions of Ghanaians whose funds (pension or otherwise) have been invested by institutional fund managers in government securities, will be the ultimate losers in this new offer.

That is because those fund managers will simply pass the cuts on to their clients and customers.

There is simply no way to understate the terrible consequences that this state of affairs has caused and will cause to Ghanaians.

That is why we believe that any offer to the citizens, who are already hit with the multiple effects of inflation and cedi depreciation, to essentially bail the government out of its self-afflicted disaster, must come with an acceptance of failures and a firm commitment to do better.

TEN RECOMMENDATIONS



We, therefore, recommend 10 things that the government may act upon.

First, reduce the number of government appointees by at least fifty per cent.

This may be achieved by consolidating several ministries and slashing the number of political appointees (ministerial and otherwise), such as all deputies and the like, and entrusting public servant-technocrats with the responsibility of supporting substantive heads.

This will send a powerful message in these tough and painful times that the government is serious about its commitment to doing better while requesting sacrifices from the general public.

Second, let the president pay income taxes, too.

We should remove the tax exemption granted to the president under article 68(5) of the Constitution.

While the actual savings from this might not be much, it is hugely significant and relevantly symbolic.

The president must lead by example.

When he pays his taxes, then he can demand that the rest of us pay taxes too.

Third, it is time to rationalise the so-called ‘article 71 benefits.’

Ghana needs to end the three-decade-old grand conspiracy among the political class that milks Ghana under the false argument that article 71 authorises so-called ‘ex gratia payments.’

We must eradicate the multiple claims of ex gratia; the multiple claims over different administrative/government terms do not make sense and are difficult to sustain.

We must also immediately end the false scheme by which successive governments deliberately delay the setting up of the emoluments committee till the end of their terms, so that salaries and emoluments are agreed upon and calculated literally at the ‘midnight’ of the outgoing government, considered and adopted in secrecy to precious little debate, and then applied retrospectively.

Ghanaians only get to find out the huge pay-outs to the executive and legislators after the fact.

We demand that the committees are established at the start of each government so that we know what and how much the political actors are entitled to when they assume office.

The current government must establish the committees NOW.

Fourth, revise all tax exemptions, especially those granted to incomes and gains from portfolio investments.

The government must, as a matter of urgency, amend section 7(1)(p) to (v) of the Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896) to remove all or some of the exemptions on incomes and gains from portfolio investments.

These are not normal times, and we propose imposing a specific, time-bound withholding income tax regime on such earnings.

Ghana may consider re-granting the exemptions when we have recovered.

Fifth, intensify and institutionalise GRA’s invigilation activities.

In addition, the legal sanctions for under-reporting and tax evasion must be drastically applied.

Sixth, explain the source of funding of the proposed Financial Stability Fund (FSF).

Extreme transparency of the proposed programme and its implementation is required.

If the government is broke and requires an IMF bailout, where will the monies for the FSF come from?

Seventh, pursue the Auditor-General’s disallowances and surcharges.

The government must show some seriousness in pursuing those the Auditor-General has found to have caused loss to Ghana.

To the best of our knowledge, the government is doing nothing to enforce the Auditor-General’s disallowances and surcharges.

The president issued a terribly belated instruction to heads of institutions to provide to him the names of all persons identified to have caused losses to the state in the Auditor-General’s reports.

The president’s deadline has come and gone with no communication or indication on whether the names were indeed supplied to the president, and what the president is going to do with them.

Eighth, end galamsey.

The government has to address the galamsey menace as a matter of urgency, as our natural resources are plundered and the ecosystem destroyed.

The much-publicised Kumasi meetings do not appear to have borne fruit.



We have written to the president, at least, 9 times in the past six weeks, in addition to several other previous statements on this, challenging the government to properly regulate artisanal mining in a way that benefits the nation.

They have all been ignored.

Our current efforts will come to nothing if this canker is allowed to overcome any future economic recovery.

Ninth, slash all non-critical government expenditures. Implement a ruthless focus on prioritising government projects and expenditures, and ensure a strict relationship to GDP growth going forward.

And, the government must provide monthly reports on how much money all announced cost-saving measures have delivered.

We specifically recommend the suspension of all fees and allowances paid to persons appointed by the government to serve on various boards.

We also recommend suspending all expenditures on the proposed National Cathedral.

Whatever arguments there might have been to support spending now-non-existent money on the proposed National Cathedral, have been eroded by the dire straits that the nation faces.

Our current situation makes the continued commitment in the budget to spend GHS80M on the cathedral, look like a vanity project.



We lose nothing by suspending expenditure on that project until the economy recovers.

Tenth, rationalise the president’s flagship programmes.

This includes the Free SHS scheme.

Every Ghanaian who can pay fees should pay.

Limit the scheme to only those who can prove that they are not capable of paying fees.

In conclusion, a government that is pleading with Ghanaians to bail it out of a self-afflicted disaster, must ‘bear fruits worthy of repentance.’



 

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