This was article was inspired by a very insightful piece written by one Osagyefo Kwame Frimpong and published on several online portals and in some newspapers in which he listed a litany of pure lies, fabrications and deliberate falsehood generated and widely published against the Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah before, during and after the Brazil 2014 World Cup. Even though I knew on authority that most of the unpleasant reportage against him were untrue, my voice has basically been limited to comments on social media in an attempt to disabuse the minds of some friends and colleagues of mine who were inadvertently mislead into believing those hateful stories. However, since I read that discerning but lengthy article which I serialized on my Facebook wall, I have been very worried about two (2) issues. First, I have been extremely disturbed about how and why the Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah has remained very silent in the midst of all the malicious stories told about him. My second worry, which is the motivation of this article, is whether the man in question will get justice in the yet to be presented World Cup Presidential Commission Report.
For those who will be quick to say that this article is premature, let me remind you of the kind of vicious mindset and fertile imagination of some misguided and or jealous elementswho engineered the earlier public hatred against Afriyie-Ankrah. I am only being cautious, lest we are bombarded with another round of character assassination spree. The mudslinging has gone on for long and we should be strong enough to say NO MORE!
Now, back to the World Cup Commission. In accordance with best practices the Commission?s report is supposed to capture all the truth of what exactly happened in Brazil. Beyond this, the Commission also owes Ghanaians an obligation to dispel all the false allegations and rumours peddled around in newspapers and on radio. This is where my utmost fear lies. We all remember how the Commission summoned an errant sports commentator and publicly rebuked him for peddling lies about the Commission on radio. I can understand why the Commission took exceptions to the deviant behaviour of the journalist. The members of the Commission have worked so hard in their private and public careers to attain a certain respectable status in society. So, if the Commissioners thought it wise and expedient to protect their integrity in the course of discharging their duties, why can?t same be done for a principal witnesses who appeared before them? This witness happens to be a former student leader, the campaign coordinator of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the 2012 elections and a Minister of State. Mind you, I am not asking the Commission to engage in any cover up; I am only asking them to be fair to Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah. What is good for the goose cannot be bad for the gander.
In his testimony before the World Cup Commission, Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah made a startling revelation which shocked many people. He CLAIMED that out of the USD $ 9,417,024.87 which he received from government for the World Cup expenses of the Black Stars, he left a whopping Four Million, Four Hundred and Forty-Four Thousand, Fifty Nine Dollars and Fifty Nine Cents (USD $ 4,444,053.59) in the Ministry?s account.In fact, the Ministry?s account was taken through aFORENSIC AUDIT by ERNST & YOUNG, an internationally reputable audit firm. It is worthy to note that the Minister was not implicated or indicted in anyway whatsoever by the audit report. Afriyie-Ankrah?s accusers may decide to be unfair to him by making such baseless allegations but the Commission cannot fail to tell Ghanaians the truth in this matter. Will the Commission state this fact in their report and exonerate the innocent Minister from all the concocted allegations of financial misappropriation? I really hope so.
Will the Commission acknowledge the fact that the 2014 World Cup Preparations started without any seed money, as opposed to the preparations of 2006 and 2010 and that it was through the ingenuity of Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah?s famous ambassadors that an amount of over Four and a Half Million Ghana Cedis (GHC 4,500,000) was raised from corporate Ghana to send supporters to Brazil? The Commission was presented with a list of all the individuals and companies that donated to that worthy cause. I hope we have not forgotten that it was during the same period that the nation was facing a spiraling decline in its currency, which heavily affected businesses negatively. It was a difficult time to raise funds, yet the Minister weathered the storm, only to be rewarded with an incessant pounding and tearing apart of his good image.
One very thorny issue which came to light at the Commission?s sittings and for which a lot of misinformation was put out is the issue of CONTRACTS for the service providers engaged for the World Cup.The evidence adduced at the Commission revealed that the various World Cup Committees operated in a very transparent manner. The Events, Grounds and Logistics Committee interviewed and screened more than ten (10) caterers, whiles the Protocol and Supporters? Welfare Sub-Committee vetted nine (9) travel and tour companies through a very open and transparent process, based on standard criteria such as experience (including international exposure), cost, ability to pre-finance, tax clearance, employee health certificate, among others. It was after this thoroughly crystal clear process, that three (3) companies were shortlisted for catering and airlifting each, after which letters of engagement were written to the companies who in turn accepted the offer through official correspondence.
Let us juxtapose this with even the recently held 2015 African Cup of Nations where the details about how supporters were airlifted and other contracts have been shrouded in mystery up till date. We live in very strange times where we are quick to crucify an apparently transparent Minister of State. Could it be the case that some people?s personal interests were threatened because of the open contract process?It is worthy to note that in previous world cup preparations, such a meticulous manner of contracting service providers was completely nonexistent. Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah made contracting service providers for the 2014 World Cup quite exceptional by allowing competition based on merit. Yet again, will the World Cup Commission recognize this transparent effort by the Minister in the discharge of his duties?
Again, Hon. Afriyie-Ankrah provided both video and pictorial evidence of the decent accommodation facilities which the supporters enjoyed in Brazil. In fact, he stated that the supporter?s camp had adequate facilities including a spacious dining hall, a large swimming pool, all kinds of modern indoor games and other recreational facilities. That notwithstanding, the supporters stayed in air-conditioned rooms with decent toilet facilities and no supporter cleaned his/her room since there were enough cleaners to change sheets and keep the rooms clean. Also, there were fully air-conditioned, luxurious buses at the disposal of the supporters who wanted to go shopping or sight-seeing. What this means is that the stories from some faceless people to the effect that the supporters slept on the floor, queued to use one toilet facility and a host of dehumanizing conditions at the camp were all invented cheap lies. Will the Commission note and highlight this fact in their report?
There were many other dishonest accusations levelled against Afriyie-Ankrah which were torn into shreds when he appeared before the Commission. For instance, his wife was alleged to have been in charge of the catering (feeding) for the supporters. Evidence at the Commission showed that the Grounds, Logistics and Events Committee (which the Minister was not part of), interviewed more than twelve (12) caterers and shortlisted three (3). Indeed, neither the Minister nor his wife were involved in the catering in Brazil. He was again accused of engaging in street fights with supporters in Brazil. Those who know Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah very well laughed off this wicked lie. Once again, the evidence shows that he was rather making frantic efforts to get funds for an alternate transport for supporters who had missed their bus because they were hanging out and exploring Brazil. The Justice Dzamefe Commission MUST expose all these defamations.
This article will not be complete without touching on the role of Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah in the infamous appearance fee debacle. At least, I still remember the evidence he gave on state television. The Black Stars team had decisively rejected the USD $82,500 appearance fee approved by Cabinet. The deadlock remained until the team arrived in Brazil. Anybody who has any iota of knowledge about our governance structure knows that the Minister cannot change a Cabinet decision irrespective of the threat of boycott by the players. The most sensible thing anyone would have done was to resort to a higher authority.
It was for this reason that Afriyie-Ankrah briefed the Vice President in Brazil about the impasse between the players on one hand and the GFA and Government on the other hand. The Vice President intervened and approved the USD $100,000 for the players. They later demanded cash payment instead of the agreed Unibank Visa Cards. To prevent any embarrassment, the Minister dispatched the Ministry?s Chief Director and Chief Accountant to Ghana to arrange for the cash to be brought to Brazil. Unfortunately, what was meant to be a covert operation (flying of the cash) was indiscreetly made public in Ghana and in the international media through no fault of the Minister. Whiles he was in Brazil making internal arrangements for transport and security for the money, the flight was unduly delayed in Ghana for more than three (3) days. I am still scratching my head and wondering where the Minister went wrong in this whole appearance fee saga for which some unprincipled people have conveniently sought to blame him. The World Cup Commission must make full disclosure in this appearance fee controversy. That part of the report should not be classified or made confidential while a blameless Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah takes the bullet.
The Justice Dzamefe Commission was established basically to unearth the reasons for our poor showing in Brazil and also find all the facts with respect to the numerous allegations of culpability made against the players, GFA and the Sports Ministry. Obviously, the Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah was the prime target of the avalanche of media attacks and incessant finger pointing. There is absolutely no doubt that he still suffered the heaviest casualty in the aftermath of the World Cup primarily because of the many bogus reports published against him.
The Minister had his turn to tell his story before the Commission with HARD FACTS and INCONTESTABLE EVIDENCE. Without prejudice to the yet to be released report, the least the Commission can do is to exercise the duty of telling us the whole truth by setting the records straight and show that Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah is NOT GULITY of the spurious charges that were levelled against him in order to repair the reckless damage done to him. Anything short of that will be a great disservice to our motherland. So, I ask again, will the World Cup Commission extend justice to Hon. Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah? Time will tell.
Source: ISRAEL VENUNYE
**The writer of this article is former national student leader and a social activist / commentator**