Saturday, 02 March

National Cathedral Board says 'we're ready for parliamentary, CHRAJ probe'

General News
The national cathedral project has been bedevilled with major controversies

The Board of Trustees of the National Cathedral is in talks with Deloitte to conduct a normal statutory audit of the project. 

This was announced by the Chairman of the Board, Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah in a statement on Tuesday, 24 January 2024.

It follows a demand to that effect by preachers Nicholas Duncan-Williams and Eastwood Anaba, also trustees, who want the project suspended for independent auditing to be done.

In a memo, the two ministers said: "In the spirit and cause of transparency and accountability to the Ghanaian people, the current Board of Trustees of the National Cathedral shall appoint an independent, nationally recognised accounting firm to audit all public funds contributed to and spent by the National Cathedral." 

"This appointment of an auditor shall take place before the deferment of activities of the Board of Trustees,” portions of the memo read.

They demanded that the "current activities advancing the construction of Ghana’s National Cathedral shall be deferred until the atmospherics in Ghana are improved and the audit of the Cathedral account is done".

The Board, in its statement, said it is “already in discussions to engage Deloitte, which accepted to be the auditors when the National Cathedral was registered, to commence the normal statutory audit”.

In addition, the Board said it “submitted all relevant documentation on the project to parliament in December 2022. Thus, if parliament so desires, it may set up a commission or appoint an independent auditor to review all issues concerning the award of contract, procurement, construction works and financial operations of the National Cathedral project so far”.  

“The Board of Trustees is also prepared to be subjected to any form of a probe by state institutions including the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ)”. 

Just recently, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills also said the fund-raising techniques being used by the National Cathedral Secretariat were non-effective yet expensive.

According to him, some of the programmes the Board of the National Cathedral Secretariat has held have cost more than the monies they have raised from them.

To this end, he observed that the Board’s fund-raising method had not yielded much and, therefore, they needed a change in strategy.  

“I do believe that the fund-raising methods we have attempted have not yielded much. Indeed, some of the programmes we have held have cost more than the monies we have raised from them. I suggest another form of fund-raising where we would be guaranteed more donations from denominations, churches, individuals, businessmen and corporate bodies. I would be happy to discuss these if the committee is interested in that”, he said in his resignation letter as a trustee of the Board of the National Cathedral.

Bishop Heward-Mills, who is the founder and leader of the Lighthouse Group of Churches bemoaned that six years after President Nana Akufo-Addo cut sod for the construction of the National Cathedral, all that has been done is the excavation of a huge pit at the centre of the city using $30 million of public funds.

“I am a firm believer in the president’s vision. I believe that the public can see and is questioning the fact that we have spent almost six years since the sod-cutting of this project as well as over $30m (thirty million dollars) of public funds, to excavate a massive pit in the centre of the city”, he noted.

He said he believes that many of the questions that are being asked and hurled at the National Cathedral Project are reasonable and legitimate questions by objective citizens who just want answers to their questions.

In his resignation letter, Bishop Heward-Mills noted that “continuing to pay contractors $40,000 (forty thousand dollars) a month, as we wait to procure a huge loan in this hostile atmosphere sounds dicey to me. I do believe that almost six years down the line, we need to look at a different approach to achieve our goal of building God’s house in Ghana.”

Bishop Heward-Mills, who resigned in August 2022, said in his letter that he felt certain concerns and opinions he had expressed about the project were “trivialised” and “set aside”.

“I feel that the treatment of the issues I have raised in my several letters has been unfortunate”, he said in his resignation letter, explaining: “My letters have been ignored in the past, not attended to for years, and, at best, addressed flippantly.”

“You may recall I have spoken passionately and written extensively about the costs, the design, the location, the fundraising, the mobilisation of the churches, and the role of the trustees. These, if heeded, would have made our project more achievable. Generally speaking, my inputs, my opinions, and my letters have been trivialised and set aside.”

Bishop Heward-Mills also complained that despite his appointment by President Nana Akufo-Addo as a trustee, he was never registered as a Director of the Company of the National Cathedral of Ghana, a company limited by guarantee.

“I do not believe this is an oversight but a deliberate exclusion from the Board”, he noted, pointing out: “Six years is a long time to correct this failure to register me if it was indeed an administrative lapse.”

“l have, therefore, accepted for some time now that I am not a trustee of the National Cathedral, but I have still sought to help with the Cathedral because I believe in the President’s vision and I do not have to be a legally registered trustee to do so. I refer to myself in this letter as a trustee because even though l am not privy to most of the weighty decisions of the Board I am referred to as such.”

“This lack of clarity is robbing our vision of the validity it needs. Over and over, I have asked that we address this appropriately and urgently because there are many dire implications to the trustees and the individuals involved in this project.”

“I have been a reachable and available trustee and attended every single meeting of trustees since the pandemic began, in person and by zoom, and the records will show that. If I say that I, as a trustee, do not know many of the financial and technical issues concerning the Cathedral, it means the discussions about the National Cathedral were held by some people outside the trustees’ meeting or perhaps in a forum that I was not present or invited to.”

“On the one hand, the National Cathedral is said to be a government of Ghana project, with the government taking financial decisions. Yet, on another hand, at meetings, it is implied that the trustees have taken or participated in taking some decisions.”

“I would like to state clearly that if in the future, there is more clarity to my role and function in the building of the Cathedral, I remain open, available and willing to serve at the pleasure of the President and the nation. Regardless of your response to my resignation and inputs, I remain a supporter of the National Cathedral project and will endeavour to be present to rejoice with the nation when this project is completed.”

Bishop Heward-Mills said he did not wish the media or general public to “construe my withdrawal as a sign of a lack of support or belief in the building of the National Cathedral.”

The National Cathedral project has been the subject of one controversy after another.

Just recently, the secretariat jumped to the defence of one of its board members, Rev Victor Kusi Boateng, who, according to opposition lawmaker Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, had the board pay some GH₵2.6 million paid to a company he owns – JNS Talent Centre Ltd, which allegedly runs a crèche in Dawhenya.

In his exposé, Mr Ablakwa said the company is owned by one Kwabena Adu Gyamfi, who, according to him – per documents available to him – is the same person as Rev r Kusi-Boateng, who serves on the board of the National Cathedral as executive council member/director.

The secretariat explained in its statement: “As a normal verification – expected of a Member of Parliament – would have revealed, this was not an illegal payment but rather a refund of a short-term interest-free loan made by JNS to top up the payments to the contractors of the National Cathedral”.

“This support was sought from a National Cathedral Trustee Member, Rev Kusi Boateng, in a letter dated August 26, 2021, due to a delay in the receipt of funds to pay the Contractors on time”, the statement said.

In his exposé, Mr Ablakwa claimed that not only does Rev Kusi Boateng have a double identity, but also holds multiple passports with different dates of birth.

Mr Ablakwa, in an earlier exposé, had said the National Cathedral Secretariat had transferred a cash sum of GHS2.6 million to a company called JNS Talent Centre Limited for no work done.

The directors of the company, he said, were Johannes Eshun, Sheila Eshun and Kwabena Adu Gyamfi.

In his latest exposé posted on Facebook on Monday, 16 January 2023, the North Tongu legislator disclosed that “there is no distinct Kwabena Adu Gyamfi. Kwabena Adu Gyamfi is a criminal creation of Rev. Victor Kusi-Boateng. The two are, therefore, one and the same.”