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Ghana Photo Model Contest organizers REFUND money to voters due to alleged IRREGULARITIES

Photo Chris Nunies Middle And Winners Of The Two Previous Editions Of Ghana Photo Model
Photo Chris Nunies Middle And Winners Of The Two Previous Editions Of Ghana Photo Model

Organizers of an online contest called Ghana Photo Model have been forced to refund over GHS30,000 to persons who voted for the contestants because they claim a contestant manipulated the process to her advantage. Meanwhile, there is sufficient evidence pointing to staff of the organizers also engaging in irregularities, for which two workers replaced.

The organizers, FUN FUSION, with sponsorship from a social media influencer called Chris Nunies (whose real name, Christian Awudey was the one used in registering the competition’s official WhatsApp line), accused one of the leading contenders in the competition, called Empress, of manipulating the process and making other contestants stop voting so she will win.

They also claimed they have evidence of the said Empress asking them (the organizers) to make her win the competition even before nominations were open. So, on account of those allegations, they have decided to cancel the whole competition and refund all the moneys to the voters, even though the Terms and Conditions of the competition said voting moneys are non-refundable.

This move by the organizers raises questions as to why they would wait till the last minute before accusing one contestant of manipulating the whole process even before the start. Why did they not disqualify her from the get go, but waited for her to rake in over GHS10,000 worth of votes before revealing all these?

Evidence of Staff Irregularities 

Meanwhile, there are at least three separate WhatsApp messages from staff/administrators of the organizers’ official WhatsApp page, to three leading contestants – Empress, Tyga and Schola, where the staff declared their support for the contestants, and one of the cases, actually promised admitted to helping the contestant (Schola) on the blind side of other contestants.

In that particular instant, staff of the organizers told the contestant that they will extend voting specifically to aid that contestant to get their votes through without the knowledge of other contestants. This will mean the organizers will make more money, as each vote costs GHS1.

Find screenshots of the separate conversations between the organizers and the three contestants:

Admins Declare Their Support Secretly To All Three Contestants On The Blind Side Of Others
Admins Declare Their Support Secretly To All Three Contestants On The Blind Side Of Others

Initially when Techfocus24 got wind of the conduct of the organizers and confronted them with it, they assumed a hostile posture and an admin who mentioned her name as Sena, even threatened a lawsuit if they are defamed through any publication.

But later, after they had addressed themselves to the hard evidence, they started reaching out to the particular contestants they promised to help with threats of disqualification for disclosing private conversations to other contestants and to a journalist.

Eventually, when they realized they could not explain the hard evidence away, they had to eat humble pie and initiate refunds, giving some last minute excuse that a contestant manipulated the contest. The refund process is still ongoing and they have promised to complete it in seven weeks.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook message to Techfocus24 Editor, the sponsor of the contest, Chris Nunies, said two of the administrators on that contest have been changed, a clear sign they were involved in irregularities.

Full Facts

Now the facts of the matter are that this group of people calling themselves FUN FUSION are the organizers of this competition called Ghana Photo Model. It is a competition designed to get young ladies with a beautiful AI image a photo model deal with artificial hair and other brands. This was the third edition of the competition.

Per the rules of the game, 70% of the verdict will be decided by public voting, and 30% by the AI photo the contestants present.

The organizers secured two short codes for the first and second batches of the contest. The first batch had 40 contestants and voting was done through short code *928*310# on FayaVotes. For the second batch, which was between 10 contestants, voting was through short code *447*174# on CastVotes.

Indeed, some experts have raised questions about the use of two voting platforms for one contest. According to them, that is the first thing the contestants should have questioned from the get go.

Another issue that experts are concerned about, is the rule which gives the organizers an unfettered access to extend voting as many times as they wished. In fact, the organizers made full use of that opportunity. They made up to four extensions, and that is what caused contestants to start asking questions.

The other worrying trend about the voting extensions was that some contestants in the top five complained about hearing of the extension from other constants and not from the organizers.

One contestant called Debbie questioned why she was not informed of an extension and the admin on the organizers’ WhatsApp page at the time, said they thought she had given up on the contest. Debbie then questioned how they could be “thinking” for her when she is still in the top five.

Indeed, Debbie rightly told them that even if she had given up, to the extent that she was still in the top five, she was entitled to all communications meant for the top five.

Debbie Questions Why They Failed To Keep Her In The Loop X
Debbie Questions Why They Failed To Keep Her In The Loop X

Divide and rule  

But it became obvious that the organizers were deliberate about communicating to contestants individually, instead of creating a common platform where they can communication to all contestants as a group, to ensure transparency.

Indeed, some of the contestants asked why there was no common platform for contestants and the organizers gave the excuse that not everyone is interested in belonging to WhatsApp groups. Moreover, they as organizers felt the need to protect the privacy of each contestant.

However, from the way communication with contestants was conducted on individual basis, it gave room for staff of the organizers to secretly declare their support for some contestants on the blind side of others, as contained in Picture 1 above.

Then again, in their typical divide and rule style, they accused Debbie of falling for the manipulative tactics of Empress, and admonished her saying “you came into the competition alone so compete alone.”

So, clearly, keeping contestants divided without each person knowing exactly what kind of conversion was going on between the other and the organizers, only helps the organizers to keep manipulating each contestant to get more votes in, while assuring them that other contestants are not aware of it.

Find below a WhatsApp message to Schola, where the staff of the organizers said he/she was helping her without the knowledge of other contestants.

Helping Schola Without Others Knowledge
Helping Schola Without Others Knowledge

Then after Techfocus24 got this evidence and confronted the organizers, they went back to one of the contestants, called Tyga, accusing her of exposing them to other contestants after they tried to help her. That staff of the organizers also stated that he/she was going to be in trouble if his/her boss finds out about the manipulation.

See conversion between the contestant and the staff of the organisers below.

Admin Accuses Tyga Of Exposing Him Or Her
Admin Accuses Tyga Of Exposing Him Or Her

After extensive back and forth between Techfocus24 and the organizers on one hand, and between the organizers and contestants on the other hand, amidst direct insults from the organizers to contestants and to Techfocus24 Editor, they eventually caved in and decided to cancel the competition and give voters refunds.

Our Checks

Checks by Techfocus24 indicate that the short code used for the first batch of the competition, *928*310# was a derivative of short code 928, originally issued by the National Communications Authority (NCA) to a company called Arkesel Company Limited based in East Legon, and they also sub-allocated *928*310# to a company called Anchora Technologies Limited, owners of the FayaVotes platform.

Meanwhile, the short code for the second batch, *447*174# is also a derivate of short code 447, primarily licensed to appsNmobile and they sub-allocated extension *447*174# to CastVotes.

Techfocus24 have also reached out to all the three telcos on whose networks the two short codes were activated to enable their customers to vote. They are each looking into the matter to give us a response on how they protect the interest of customers in situations like this.

Response from Organizers

Initially when Techfocus24 reached out to the organizers, they were dismissive. Then over time they became hostile and even threatened lawsuit. Then later, after they had cancelled the contest and initiated a refund, the sponsor of the contest, Chris Nunies claimed Techfocus24 had an interest in a particular contestant and therefore manipulated contestants to stop voting.

He later admitted that two administrators working with the organizers have been changed, which clearly shows the messages they sent to the contestants, in the name of encouraging them to push in more votes, were irregular.

Chris Nunies also decided to issue a subtle threat that he is a brand and he has legal backing so Techfocus24 should take note of that. Clearly, this is a group of people who have become accustomed to using threats of lawsuit and disqualification to couch contestants into silence, so they thought they could do the same to everybody.

As contained in the pictures above, as many as four out the top five contestants reached out to Techfocus24 with complaints about the irregularities. So, it could never be true that a whole media house had interest in one contestant, when we did not even know who the contestants were until they reached out to us.

Techfocus24 is still monitoring the progress of the refunds and will keep readers posted on any new developments.

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