National Cathedral Secretariat shoots down Ablakwa’s “bombshell” exposé

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Okudzeto Ablakwah
Okudzeto Ablakwah

The National Cathedral of Ghana Secretariat has refuted allegations by North Tongu MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, that it is engaged in identity theft.

The North Tongu MP had alleged in his ‘National Cathedral Scandals – America Edition’ that the Secretariat was guilty of identity theft in the registration of the National Cathedral Foundation in the US.

The Foundation, he alleges, has been registered in the name of one Jose Salgado who is deceased.

However, reacting to Okudzeto’s findings, the Secretariat said they were merely a distortion of facts.

“In arriving at this so-called identity theft, the MP distorts information on the registration documents by taking the Taxpayer ID number: 86-3859197 (Appendix 1) and disingenuously changes it to social security number, SSN: 863-85-9197 belonging to a deceased named, Jose Salgado (Appendix 2). He then proceeds to accuse the National Cathedral of using the ‘stolen’ identity of the deceased to register,” the Secretariat explained.

Read the full statement below:

The National Cathedral’s So-Called Us A “Bombshell”
1) The attention of the National Cathedral Secretariat has been drawn to accusations framed as five so-called “bombshells” on the National Cathedral’s activities in the USA.

2). As the Secretariat has always argued, issues of accountability are critical to a project of this nature. Consequently, it is legitimate, and we welcome, Parliamentary oversight of state resources in the project.

However, we insist, again, that Parliamentary oversight is not exercised on social media, but in Parliament or through statutory bodies established for the purpose. Consequently, the Secretariat is determined not to be drawn into, or engage in a constant tit-for-tat social media war on the project.

3). But as and when necessary, the Secretariat will provide information and/ or clarification on different aspects of the project. This is what we seek to do in this response to the so-called “bombshells” from the USA. The so-called “Bombshells” from the USA!

4) The first reported so-called “bombshell” is that the “Cathedral Project is registered in Washington under a different name.” For the record, the National Cathedral of Ghana and Bible Museum Foundation Inc., is not the USA branch office of the National Cathedral of Ghana.

Rather, it is a special-purpose “vehicle” created for the specificities of the US fundraising needs of the National Cathedral project. The foundation was, and is, strictly a mechanism for fundraising in the US. And the two issues for which we are fundraising in the US are i) the National Cathedral of Ghana, and ii) the Bible Museum. And this is clearly seen from the Form 990-EZ Part III, which clearly states the Foundation’s “primary exempt purpose” as:
To raise funds to support the construction and maintenance of the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra, Ghana, and a Museum commemorating the history of the Christian Church in Africa.

In effect, the so-called difference in name reflects the two areas of fundraising in the US: National Cathedral and Bible Museum.

The transition to a full-fledged representation will be a process led by the Board of Directors in Ghana, and with input from the Attorney General. This will involve a reconstitution of the current Board.

5) The second so-called “bombshell” is that the “Address of US Registration Documents is fraudulent”. This so-called “bombshell”, unfortunately, stems from a basic, but fundamental, lack of knowledge of the US Non-profit sector. A Non-profit organization needs a registered agent in the state of the registration. That is why on the incorporation document, it is referred to as “Registered Agents name and address in the District Columbia”. This DC address is a “holding address” which receives notices from the regulatory authorities and forwards them to the Non-profit.

In the case of the National Cathedral, this holding address receives notices and forwards them to our Attorney who incorporated the foundation — and whose name and address is “Nr Seven” of the incorporation document .

Rather than being fraudulent, this process is used by thousands of Non-profits and Businesses!

6) The next so-called “bombshell” is that “No Member or Clergymen on the Ghana Board o Trustees is listed in the US incorporation documents”.

To recap – for emphasis – the National Cathedral’s US tax exempt (501© (3) foundation – The National Cathedral of Ghana and Bible Museum Foundation Inc., is a special-purpose “vehicle” set up primarily for fundraising. The current Board is an interim Board set up by the Secretariat and our US consultant, for registration purposes.

A full US Board will be constituted later by the Board in Ghana, to align with the January 6, 2022 opinion of the Attorney General on the legal status of the National Cathedral project.

And this fully constituted Board may include clergy. This is a decision for the Ghana Board.

7) The fourth so-called “bombshell” is the “Identity of two “unknown” men in the US incorporation documents.” First, incorporation documents are public documents, and hence the identities of those behind the registration of the National Cathedral of Ghana and Bible Museum Foundation Inc., cannot be secret. Second, these are two well-placed Ghanaians in the USA who have shown commitment to the National Cathedral project since its beginning.

The first is the New York based Ghanaian Attorney, Eric Okyere Darko. Mr. Okyere Darko is a lawyer admitted to practice both in Ghana and New York. He also holds a master’s degree in international business and trade law and has provided numerous assistances to the Ghana embassy in New York over the years. He was the first in the US to arrange a meeting – in January 2018 — with potential funders for the project in New York. He subsequently brought some potential New York funders to visit the project in 2021. Despite the incessant misinformation and distortions around the project, this group still remain interested in the project.

The second “unknown,” Dr Vernon Darko (unrelated to Eric Okyere Darko) is an accomplished Ghanaian businessman based in Houston Texas, the West Coast of the US. Dr. Darko previously served on the U.S. EX-IM Bank’s Sub Saharan African Advisory Committee, an entity established by the U.S. Congress to provide expert policy guidance and strengthen bank support for U.S.–Africa export activities. He has also served on the Bilateral US-Arab chamber of Commerce’s Africa Insight Committee Board of Advisors and on the Greater Houston Partnership’s World Trade and Africa Committees and as Chairman of its Chief Executive Board. As a member of the U.S. EX-IM Bank’s Sub Saharan African Advisory Committee, he played advisory roles in the establishment of Ghana’s Exim Bank.

Dr Vernon Darko has shown exceptional commitment to the National Cathedral project since its inception in 2017. He introduced us to one of the major institutional partners of the project – the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast – whose leadership he brought to Ghana in September 2018 to visit the project. In addition to being a donor, he has also been central to our fundraising efforts on the West Coast of the USA, and in fact arranged for the Houston Fundraising – attended by the President – to be hosted at the private club of which he is a member.

Indeed, it was because of their early and consistent commitment to the National Cathedral Project that the Secretariat – and not the government – suggested they be used to incorporate the Foundation. One of the requirements for the incorporation is to have a US social security number.

The two alleged faceless individuals provided the needed legal documentation to enable the registration to be completed.

Finally, these two are involved voluntarily with no compensation, whatsoever. These are dedicated sons of Ghana offering to serve their country whenever possible. To impugn malfeasance and question their integrity is extremely irresponsible.

8) The fifth so-called “bombshell” is supposed to be a meeting with the “American Consultant paid $6m”. Akin to the accusations of awarding 34% of the contract figure to the Architect, Sir David Adjaye (instead of the 12.5%), this so-called bombshell is a figment of the imagination. As we refuted in a Press Release of January 7, 2023 no such amount has been paid to Cary Summers. The bulk of our expenditure in the US has been to consulting companies who have developed the National Cathedral’s Bible Museum of Africa (see www.biblemuseumafrica.org).

9) To understand the role of Cary Summers, and the US consultants, it is important to understand the vision of implementation for the National Cathedral project. Beyond its functions as a space for the formal solemn occasions of state like state funerals, and national interdenominational worship, the vision is to use the National Cathedral project to develop Ghana into a religious hub for religious tourism. The strategy to achieve this has been to engage the best in the world, with the best in Ghana. Two key persons are central to this strategy: i) the world-renowned Architect Sir David Adjaye, whose reputation and design of the Cathedral has given global visibility to the project, and ii) Cary Summers, the President Emeritus of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, and whose involvement in the project has created global interest in the Bible Museum.

As we have indicated, the integration of the Bible Museum – the largest in the world when completed –and the Biblical Gardens are aimed at transforming Ghana into a hub for international pilgrimage and tourism.

10) The pettiness of using his “casual” dressing – on his way to his daily cycling – to question the credibility of this professional who has been responsible for some of the major religious theme parks in the world, including the Nazareth Village in Israel, and is a major driver of tourism to Israel, is not just unfortunate. More worrying, it reflects a problematic attitude that keeps countries like ours poor.

11) For the record, Cary Summers was appointed as a consultant by the Board of Directors on December 10, 2019 to coordinate the work on the Bible Museum and develop it into a world-class Museum; integrate economic engines into the entire National Cathedral project; coordinate the Business development aspects of the project; and facilitate the project’s international institutional partnership development activities. The total fees paid for his consultancy services is less than a million dollars ($1m)!

12) The use of his address for my registration is just that: for purposes of incorporating the ational Cathedral of Ghana and Bible Museum of Africa Foundation.

13) As we have insisted, the National Cathedral Project has been implemented with integrity, and with no criminality. As with the recklessly-populist and reputationally-damaging accusations of the McCarthy era in the USA, the misinformation and distortions on the National Cathedral project will – ultimately – unravel!

14) We are, however, aware that the best defense of the National Cathedral project is its completion for the nation to see its scope and benefits. The challenge, therefore, is to mobilize resources outside the state for its completion. It is to this task that we are focused and committed!

Dr. Paul Opoku-Mensah
Executive Director
National Cathedral of Ghana

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