Allegations of extortions by government from expatriate business owners could derail the country’s efforts at mobilising Foreign Direct Investment, Trade and Industry Minister, Alan Kyerematen, said whilst appearing before a committee investigating the ‘cash for seat’ saga.
Parliament set up the committee following allegations that expatriate business executives were asked to pay up to US$100,000 in order to have the privilege of sitting at President’s Akufo Addo’s table at the recently held Ghana Excellency Business Awards (GEBA).
“I must say it is a matter of very deep concern for me and many Ghanaians that a matter of this nature, has been elevated to a public controversy and has led to a Parliamentary enquiry,” he said at the hearing last Friday.
“It is our hope that we go through this process and that no adverse findings are established through this process, but in that case, it will be a matter of deep regret that as a country we have had to endure a controversy that has the potential of making very significant damage to our international reputation, if in the minds of the international public, it is indeed the case that the government of Ghana is extorting money from expatriates who have invested their monies in this country. Do we not believe and appreciate the impact that it will have on Ghana’s capacity to mobilise investments into this country?”.
Mr Kyerematen maintained that his ministry did not charge any the said amount, although he said seven persons made contributions prior to the event as well as two other persons making contributions after the event.
The opposition NDC has accused the Trades Ministry of abusing the presidency to raise funds for the organisation of the Expatriate Business Awards held on December 8, 2017.
According to the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, expatriate businessmen paid between GH¢15,000 and GH¢ 100,000 to sit close to the President at the Awards night.
He described the transaction as lacking transparency, highly unethical and needs to be investigated.
Unimpressed with a decision from the Presidency regarding the issue demanded an urgent sitting in Parliament during which they demanded an investigation.
Consequently, the Speaker of parliament set up a five-member adhoc committee chaired by Majority chief whip Kwasi Ameyaw- Cheremeh, to probe the allegations.
The Trade and Industry Minister debunked claims by minority MP, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, that charging foreign businesses in order for them to sit close to President Akufo Addo amounts to desecration of the high office of the President.
According to him since the awards is the first of its kind, it rather elevated the Presidency by recognising the contributions of foreign businesses towards Ghana’s economy.
The Ghana Excellency Business Award(GEBA) is a biennial event and the idea is to honour expatriate businesses and foster ties with potential businesses.
It also emerged at the committee sitting that out of about 400 persons who were contacted, 26 agreed to sponsor the event.