US$5m drones deal …ACEP warns of creation of a slush fund  

The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) must not commit US$5million of its funds over a five-year period to government’s US$12million Zipline drones deal – an activity entirely outside its core mandate – because of accountability issues, the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) has argued.

Government has signed a deal with Fly Zipline Ghana to distribute essential health medicines and blood via the use of drones across the country, as a way of making essential supplies readily available in deprived areas that are difficult to access or far from major regional and district hospitals.

“What they are telling us is that they are creating a slush-fund in GNPC, and in many oil-producing countries that is what happens; they push money to the national oil company and turn around and pick it up so that it escapes the accountability process; but this is quite unfortunate and I don’t think we should allow it to happen,” he said.

Mr. Boakye, who said he was lost for words as to why government would give money to GNPC and turn around to go for part of that cash to fund the drones’ project.

He spoke to the B&FT at the launch of the Braille Version of the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITTI) report in Accra.

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“GNPC gets money from government. The oil we produce is for us, and GNPC is subvented through the oil receipts so we give them money. So, if the Finance Ministry is going to give GNPC money, all it has to say is ‘I do not have enough money for you because I am going to buy drones’ and then account for the drones in the oil money; you don’t give money to GNPC and turn around to go and pick it up.

If you do that you are only leaving gaps for questions. It should not be like that. Is GNPC a drone expert? It is not. If government wants to spend on drones, just withhold the money and spend on it; don’t burden GNPC with things that it is not supposed to do. How much oil has GNPC produced so far?” an incensed Boakye quizzed.

His comments follow a recent announcement by the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, that GNPC has agreed to give the Ghana Health Service US$1m every year for five years to cover the entire cost of the project.

The deal was however deferred by Parliament last week, over what the legislature described as legal and regulatory issues.

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GNPC, he said, is still experimenting on how it can become an operator, a commercial entity; and must therefore not be burdened with activities outside its core mandate.

Braille Version of GHEITI

“What we are trying to do is ensure that no one is excluded from the conversation around our natural resources and how revenues are utilised. For so long, the blind has been excluded; because if you look at the GHEITTI, it has been around for so long – about 12 years, but none of the reports have been transcribed into braille for the blind to read.

“So, what this means is that they do not know what is in that report – but they are also part of us. All of us are potential blind people, so we should have that mind-set of ensuring that nobody is excluded,” Mr. Boakye said.

He added: “This is just the beginning of what ACEP wants to do in ensuring that even if it is projects that we are spending extractive resources on, we should ensure that the structure, the design also thinks about the disabled person”.

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