The Ministry of Petroleum?s decision to institute the takeover of the Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC) by state owned oil company- the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), was largely due to a long string of ?disappointing? inactions of the Dr. Kwesi Botchwey-led board of GNGC, the Republic newspaper has gathered
This paper gathered from reliable sources within the Energy Ministry and the Ministry of Finance that unproductiveness of the GNGC board was responsible for preventing the country?s first gas infrastructure from coming on stream within the timelines promised by the John Dramani Mahama-led administration.
Indeed, the timeline for the coming on stream of the Atuabo gas project has overshot its timeline by several months, much to the frustration of the Mahama-led administration whose image has been battered by the crippling energy crisis.
According to our sources, much to the frustration of the Mahama administration, it had been forced to constantly taken the heat for most of the ineffectiveness of the GNGC that has led to several excuses. Including instances where the Chief Executive Officer of GNGC announced that the project has stalled because important components for construction had been shipwrecked.
President Mahama is said to have been forced by these excuses described by critics as ?frivolous?, to personally sit in at least seven meetings with the various stakeholders including the GNGC board to discuss workable ways for the gas infrastructure to quickly come on stream.
Dr. Kwesi Botchwey is said to have hardly attended most of these meetings and any time he attends, he had virtually been begged to be present.
CDB loan flop
It is believed that similar laid back altitude of the GNGC board led to Ghana?s failure to secure the US$3 billion Chinese Development Bank (CDB) loan where a chunk was earmarked for the Atuabo gas plant.
As part of the loan agreement, the Chinese construction firm Sinopec was to construct the gas infrastructure, but the company experienced several difficulties working with officials of Ghana gas, leading to them downing their tools on several occasions.
The Chinese government is said to have not been enthused by the working culture of the Ghanaian authorities, leading to its feet that altogether stalled the US$3 billion CDB loan negotiations.
This paper can confirm that when it came to the crunch of the gas project being completely halting, it took the direct intervention of the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper to source alternative sources of funds to eventually complete the gas project after the CDB loan negotiations collapsed.
The Republic can confirm that due to this string of difficulties in the running of the GNGC, the government decided that the much experienced GNPC should take over affairs of the gas company.
A December 12, 2014 statement from Ministry of energy stated that Government had contracted PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC)as the transaction advisors for the transfer of government?s interest in GNGC to GNPC.
But Dr. Botchwey in a counter statement immediately after the Ministry of Finance Statement said the announcement about the completion of the takeover process was ?surprising and premature,? , saying the GNGC board were ?yet to receive any written indications from either the Minister for Finance or Minister for Energy on the takeover decision and the way forward as the Company prepares to meet the Transaction Advisor.?
This has sparked a bitter turf war between the Ministry of Finance and Dr. Kwesi Botchwey?s GNGC board, with Dr. Botchwey describing the procedure for the takeover as ?crude?, among other carefully selected adjectives.
However, the Energy Minister Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah insists that the GNGC board was well aware of the planned takeover, having held several meetings on the subject. This paper can confirm that some of the meetings had the presence of Alex Mould the CEO of GNPC, officials from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Energy and Dr. Kwesi Botchwey himself.
Indeed, the discussion for the takeover hit a peak on December 3, 2014 with a final meeting approximately three days (on December 9, 2014) before the Ministry of Energy announced the takeover move. This was followed by a letter dated December 9, 2014, officially informing the GNGC about the final steps to the takeover.
The move will make Ghana gas a subsidiary of GNPC and according to Finance Minister Seth Tekper, ?the consolidation of GNPC and GNGC will make it possible to enhance a more integrated management and continue financing of projects in the oil and gas enclave immediately.?
According to our sources, attempts by the Dr. Kwesi Botchwey-led GNGC board to make the takeover appear arbitrary and ?crude?, is just an attempt to hide the real reasons why John Dramani Mahama-led administration took the inevitable decision to put the operations of GNGC in the hands of GNPC.
According to our sources, a string of inactions by the Dr. Kwesi Botchwey- led GNGC board and the unwarranted delays in the completion of the Atuabo gas plant, is the main reason for the takeover.
The Mahama administration is currently reeling from high expenditure on the importation of crude oil to power Ghana?s thermal power plants for electricity generation amidst the astronomical growth in power demand in the country, a situation that has resulted in the perennial energy crisis.
The Atuabo gas plant was therefore set up to provide a cheaper alternative to government?s crude oil import; natural gas being a considerably cheaper alternative.
Original plan for GNGC
The plans were set in motion by the late President Evans Atta Mills and were embraced by his successor, John Dramani Mahama.
The late President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills in October 2010, set up a National Gas Development Task Force headed by Dr. Kwesi Botchwey to develop the necessary framework for the commercialization of natural gas resources coming from both the West African Gas Pipeline Project and particularly, Ghana?s natural gas coming from t newly discovered oil fields off the coast of the country.
Initially, Ghana was scheduled to have been gas sufficient latest by 2012, but several challenges has stalled the effective running of the project till date.
The gas infrastructure was originally set up to be under GNPC, but the Republic gathered that Prof Mills buckled under suggestions from Dr. Botchwey?s taskforce that GNGC should be autonomous from GNPC.
Ghana Gas was supposed to have been set up as a public company through a requisite parliamentary endorsement, however, Dr. Botchwey opted for it to be set up as a private company with the Energy Ministry as a shareholder.
Veil of Bitterness
However, beneath the veneer of officialdom was much serious personal grudges that has reportedly led to Dr. Botchwey bitterness against key officials involved in the turn of events at the GNGC.
The Republic gathered that Dr. Kwesi who was the then Finance Minister in the regime of Ex-President Jerry Rawlings, had had a brush with Mr. Ato Ahwoi and Seth Terkper when the two overwhelmed him decades ago during heated arguments whether the Internal Revenue Service- now the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), should be made autonomous from the Finance Ministry then.
The Superior arguments presented by Mr. Ato Ahwoi and his then assistant, Seth Terkper overwhelmed Dr. Botchwey?s counter argument, leading to the eventual divorce of the IRA from the Ministry of Finance.
At that time, Mr. Ahwoi was holding several government portfolios, including that of the Secretary of the IRS board which was then under the Finance Ministry run by Dr. Botchwey.
Mr. Terkper was also an assistant to Mr. Ahwoi and in their vigorous campaign to gain autonomy for IRS gave them an upper hand against the then Finance Minister, Dr. Botchwey.
This paper has gathered that Dr. Botchwey has since been embittered by that important encounter and has acquired a mutual avoidance of one another.
According to sources, the direct intervention of Mr. Seth Terkper and the Energy Mnister to source alternative measures to get the gas running inspite of the GNGC boards, ineffectiveness has further bruised Dr. Botchwey?s ego, hence his recent outbursts in the media about the takeover move.
Seth Terkper; a subtle Target
Recently, Dr. Botchwey was alleged to have mounted an elaborate scheme to get the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, to lose favour with President Mahama.
Information picked up by the Republic newspaper indicated part of a grand scheme by certain powerful individuals within government to sneak in former Finance Minister, Dr. Botchwey through the ?backdoor? into the Finance Ministry.
According to reliable sources, the ?schemers? managed to lobby to get Dr. Kwesi Botchwey into the ?good books? of President John Dramani Mahama, leading to him being successfully nominated by President Mahama to head the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) after the demise the NDPC?s former boss, Paul Victor Obeng (PV Obeng).
President Mahama also entrusted him to lead the bailout discussion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that started 16th September this year.
The lobbyist for Dr. Botchwey- who is known for his inherent Presidential ambition-, capitalised on the spotlight being enjoyed by Dr. Botchwey, as they allegedly sponsored media reports that subtly touted him as the antidote to the current economic challenges the country is facing, this paper has learnt.
His critics argued that he was not exactly the touted panacea for Ghana?s current economic challenges, especially given his much-condemned decade old decision to ?abandon ship? and tender a shocking resignation as the then Finance Minister when the economy took a critical nose-dive during the latter part of the Jerry Rawlings administration.
President Mahama has meanwhile unequivocal in his confidence in his Finance Minister -Mr. Terkper.
Source: The Republic