The next government of the National Democratic Congress in 2025 will take back the Saglemi housing project from any private investor who acquires it, the minority caucus has warned.
It insists the project must remain a government one so the houses could be sold at affordable rates to public workers – even MPs.
“We are stating our position clear that we wouldn’t want any private developer to come in at all”, the ranking member of the select committee on works and housing, Mr Vincent Oppong Asamoah, told journalists on Tuesday, 22 November 2022 during a tour of the site by the minority members of the committee.
“In 2025, we are very optimistic that the NDC will form the next government, so, any private developer that will partner the government to complete this project; the project will be taken away from him because it should remain affordable and the mortgage system; it should go to the workers of Ghana”, he warned.
He said: “I know the military and other government agencies, even parliament, I tell you, members of parliament will be very very happy to live around this place”, noting: “The environment is so serene”.
“So, we came around for you to know that this government has neglected it and caused so much financial loss to the state [and] the people of Ghana because you have taken shots of what has happened here [removal of doors, burglar proofs and cables]; as to whether it was even organised by the government so that while we see the level of deterioration, that will give them the energy and confidence to tell Ghanaians that the project has failed so that they can sell it to themselves, but, at least, we have seen it; there’s still a way out”, he noted.
The visit revealed that security doors, burglar proofs, power and phone cables have been “stolen” from the housing units.
The caucus’ visit followed a recent announcement by the Minister of Works and Housing that the government intends to sell the project to a private investor.
Speaking at a press briefing a couple of weeks ago, Mr Asenso-Boakye said that the decision was taken after an assessment of the project and some consultations were done.
According to the minister, the “government will have to provide additional financing to the tune of approximately US$46 million to provide off-site infrastructure, i.e. water, electricity, and storm drainage systems to make the housing units habitable.”
“Additionally, there is the need to invest approximately US$68 million to complete the buildings and other essential on-site infrastructure works,” Mr Asenso-Boakye told journalists.
He said after spending US$196 million on the project, the government has decided against sinking any further taxpayer money into it.
“After a painstaking period of assessment, verification and consultations, the government has decided to explore the possibility of selling the Saglemi housing project, covering the 1,506 housing units, at the current value, to a private sector entity to complete and sell the housing units to the public, at no further cost to the state,” Mr Asenso-Boakye said.
Mr Asenso-Boakye said the proceeds from the sale would be reinvested into other affordable housing projects.
The minority is, however, suspicious of the government’s intention, thus, its visit to the site on Tuesday, 22 November 2022.
Speaking to the media at the site of the project during the minority's tour, Mr Emmanuel Kwadwo Agyekum, a member of the select committee on works and housing, said the houses were even more habitable than some residences in the prime areas of Accra and wondered why the government abandoned it for so long
“I have not seen double lanes in even in Trasacco, I haven’t seen dual carriageways; in fact, one lane here can take three vehicles. You can see the vegetation here; everything is perfectly done”, he observed.
He said the stripping bare of the buildings could only be an organised crime.
“You see the way the cables are cut off, you have to be professionals to be able to cut these cables. It’s not about any ordinary thief moving in to say: ‘I’m going in to steal’. Even removing the windows, it will take them more than one month to remove all the windows here [and] all the burglarproof.
“The security gates here were fixed and they have been removed. So, count the number of security gates or doors that were removed. How many articulated trucks will be able to move it out? Where were they sent to? Where were they sold? Plus the burglar proofs. These are aluminium ones. How were they removed? Where were they taken to? How many articulated trucks drove in here to come and pick them up?” he wondered.
“Apart from that, telephone cables, electricity cables [were] removed. The rest of the things: the fittings in the kitchens and everything removed. It means it is organised”, he pointed out.
“I’m inviting the clergy to come here, I’m inviting the council of state members to come here, I’m inviting whoever matters in this country to come here and look at it yourself”, he added.
In his view, “people have actually organised to commit a crime [against] the state just to make money and I’m telling you, they are going to sell them so cheap to their brothers and sisters. Check it; there would be somebody buying this linked to the government and that is the thing they’ve been doing”.
The 2,172 acres on which the Saglemi housing project is situated were procured in 2002 during the era of President John Agyekum Kufuor.
On August 15, 2012, the late President John Evans Atta Mills gave executive approval to the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing to implement the project.
The project involved the construction of 5,000 housing units for sale to public members through mortgages provided by Ghana Home Loans.
The project was implemented by Constrastora OAS Ghana Limited through a buyer’s credit of up to $200 million.
By the end of the stipulated completion date, the original contract of the project had been amended three (3) times, with the project scope reducing from the initial 5,000 housing units to 1,506 housing units, although US$195,854,969.52 representing 98% of the project funds had been expended.
That notwithstanding, the 1,506 housing units were at various stages of completion.
None of these 1,506 housing units was habitable because the project currently lacks basic amenities such as water and electricity and other related amenities.
At the same time, a technical assessment report by the Ghana Institution of Surveyors in September 2020, valued the total cost of on-site works at US$64,982,900.74.
There is an ongoing criminal prosecution at the High Court to determine the discrepancies with the funds expended on the project vis-à-vis the valued cost of works and original project scope.
In 2021, former Works and Housing Minister E.T. Mensah denied claims that the $200-million project was planned to have been executed in phases.
The council of state member told Paul Adom-Otchere on Accra-based Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana programme on Tuesday, 3 August 2021: “I was not involved in any phasing system”.
“We knew that we wanted to build – that is 5,000 houses to be built for workers – and it was approved”, he said.
According to him, “executive approval was given and parliament approved it, so, if anything at all, if I wanted to change something, I had to go through the same process again”.
Collins Dauda Charged
Mr Mensah’s successor, Mr Collins Dauda, was charged with causing financial loss to the state in connection with the Saglemi housing project.
The opposition politician is accused of intentionally misapplying the project sum of $200 million “by causing the said amount, which had been approved by the parliament of Ghana for the construction of 5,000 housing units, to be applied toward the payment of 1,412 housing units”.
In 2020, Mr Dauda’s successor, Mr Samuel Atta Akyea, disclosed that all former government appointees and officials involved in the project were being investigated by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service.
Mr Atta Akyea, who described the project as a rip-off, noted that it does not measure up to the cost purported to have been invested in it.
Mr Atta Akyea disclosed this while speaking to the parliamentary press corps on Thursday, 8 October 2020.
He also condemned the habit of new governments discontinuing projects started by previous administrations.
“In relation to Kufuor’s uncompleted housing structures, the evidence is clear that the Mills government and the Mahama government did not continue it. Then, I was met with this jejune argument that we have abandoned Saglemi. I say, ‘no, we have not abandoned Saglemi,” the minister said.
Mr Atta Akyea further noted that the Mahama-led administration ripped the country off in executing the project.
He stated: “Saglemi is tainted with embezzlement”.
“There’s no dispute about it, and I could tell you that the Ghana Institution of Surveyors has come out with a conclusive report to the effect that Saglemi is a rip-off and the amount of money that has been blown in Saglemi is over USD100 million and the housing structures over there do not measure up to the money they’ve collected”, he said.
“So, I’m not here to embarrass anybody; I’m here to say that if you didn’t go into the legalities of it, how do you continue? So, now that we’ve surrendered the report of the Ghana Institution of Surveyors to CID, now, we can deal with the issue of going to continue”, he added.
Mr Atta Akyea noted at the time that: “We’re pushing so hard to deal with the issue of Saglemi; it’s not abandoned. It doesn’t give this nation credit at all.”
“They’ve invited several of them, including Honourable Collins Dauda. They’ve invited them but you see how civil NPP is; we don’t make it like a drama, so, the police are dealing with them. We’re not going to parade people like: ‘Look at how they’ve arrested this man or they’ve arrested that man’”.
“That is what civility is all about. You do not try to embarrass somebody because you think that he’s been investigated by the police. Eventually, the police might say that they do not have anything against the person and you would have embarrassed him”.
“So, all those people who were involved in Saglemi, they’ve started inviting them. I’m telling you and even people working in my Ministry, they’ve started inviting them. So, investigations are ongoing, let’s leave the police to do its work. There’s no propaganda or party issues about theft, theft is theft,” the minister added.
Charges Against Collins Dauda ‘Frivolous, Trumped-up, Political’ – Haruna Iddrisu
Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, in 2021, said the 52 charges levelled against Mr Dauda and four other persons for causing financial loss to the state in connection with the project, were frivolous and trumped up.
Mr Iddrisu, who led other minority MPs to court on Thursday, 5 August 2021, to solidarise with the Asutifi South MP, told journalists: “It is instructive that they are being charged when the courts are themselves on vacation”, wondering: “What is the hurry and what is the desperation in this?”
Concerning the alleged financial loss, Mr Iddrisu asked: “Whose value?”
“The Attorney General says it is $64 million. I believe that these are frivolous, trumped-up charges intended to politically persecute and politically harass”, he said.
“We remain undoubted. I do not think that these charges can stand the test of the law. I am very convinced about this,” he said.
Mr Dauda and Kweku Agyeman Mensah, also a former housing minister, appeared in court on Thursday, 5 August 2021 and were granted separate bail bonds.
Mr Dauda was granted a self-recognisance bail after pleading not guilty in the matter of causing financial loss.
Mr Agyeman Mensah and a third accused person, Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, Chief Director of the ministry of housing, were each granted bail of $65 million.
They were both to produce three sureties each, one of which must be a public officer.
Another accused person, Mr Andrew Clocanas, an Executive Chairman of Constructura OAS Ghana Limited, was also admitted to a bail bond of $179 million with three sureties, one of whom should be a public servant.
A fifth accused person, Nouvi Tetteh Angelo, was also admitted to a bail bond of $13 million with three sureties.
The court, presided over by Justice Comfort Tasiame, seized the passports of all the accused persons.
Per the facts of the case presented by Attorney General Godfred Dame, Mr John Mahama, as president, granted an executive order for the construction of 5,000 affordable housing units in August 2012 at Saglemi in the Ningo Prampram the constituency of the Greater Accra region.
Parliament approved the deal, which had funding from Credit Suisse.
The houses were to be sold to workers through mortgage arrangements provided by the Ghana Home Loans Company as it was at the time.
A Brazilian company, Construtora OAS Ltd, was the contractor.
The AG said the borrower, the Ministry of Finance, and the lender, signed a facility agreement on January 4, 2013, for the release of $200 million to fund the construction of the 5,000 housing units, the day on which the Housing Minister also signed the EPC agreement with Construtora OAS, represented by Clocanas, the fourth accused.
According to the AG, the project was to be executed in four phases on 2,172 acres of land at a contract price of $200 million, including consultancy services.
An Escrow Management Agreement, a condition precedent to the release of the facility to the borrower, was also signed, pursuant to the facility and the EPC agreements, he said.
Mr Dame further stated that on February 27, 2014, Mr Dauda, without parliamentary approval, reviewed the EPC agreement and signed both the original and the revised (restated) agreement with Construtora OAS, represented by Clocanas.
The revision allegedly changed the scope of works and the application of the $200 million approved by Parliament.
This new agreement required the contractor to execute the project in three phases over a site of 1,272 acres, while the $200 million was now to be applied towards the execution of only the first phase of the project, comprising just about 1,502 housing units.
This was contrary to the executive and parliamentary approvals, as well as the facility and Escrow Management agreements.
On December 21, 2016, according to the facts, the Chief Director, Yakubu, again reviewed the original and revised the (restated) agreement and signed them (second and his revised or restated), without recourse to Parliament.
That led to a further reduction in the scope of works to 1,412 housing units at a revised price of $181 million, and extended the completion period to July 31, 2017, the prosecutor alleged.