Mr. K. T. Hammond soon to be Minister for Trade and Industry

Minister-designate for Trade and Industry Mr. Kobina Tahiru Hammond has stated that he deserves a national award for saving Ghana some millions of dollars in the controversial drill ship saga during the erstwhile John Kufuor administration.

According to him, his efforts as a Deputy Minister for Energy resulted in Ghana paying US$19.5 million instead of the 47 million debt the country was supposed to pay to Societe Generale.

“They were asking for $47 million but following my arrangement, going around and compromise with the special commissioner states, instead of the $47 million that we had accumulated, they decided to charge $19.5 million. I think I need a national award for that. $47 million and we managed to get it to $19.5 million,” Mr. K. T. Hammond stressed when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament for vetting on Monday. 

Narrating the sequence of events leading to the decision to sell the ship to a Finnish company, the nominee insisted there was nothing corrupt about the deal and therefore did not deserve the name-calling and insults that were hurled at him.

The Adansi-Asokwa MP explained that the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) at the time was heavily indebted after defaulting payment on the loan it secured from Societe Generale with the Drill Ship as collateral.

He said due to non-payment of the loan, the ship was impounded by the creditors.

Drill ship sale

The sale of the Oil Drill ship belonging to the GNPC had been an object of controversy and a subject of inquiry by the Sole Commissioner appointed by President John Mahama to investigate all judgement debt cases in the country.

The John Agyekum Kufuor government, which superintended over the sale had been accused of legal and procedural breaches by not consulting the Board of the GNPC at the time, which had the legal mandate to sell.

Some even accused Mr Hammond and his boss Albert Kan Dapaah of allegedly misappropriating an amount of $3.5 million, which was left from the $24 million realised from the sale of the ship after the amount of $19.5 million was used to pay Societe Generale.

However, the Adansi Asokwa MP dismissed the allegations as complete false, recounting that at the time the Kufuor-led NPP government took over the governance of the state, the GNPC was insolvent and saddled with the US$47 million debt.

According to him, the government after realizing the financial atrocities caused at GNPC during the erstwhile National Democratic Congress administration, had to take pragmatic steps to rectify the situation they met in government.

“What happens was that 2001, June thereabout, the Ministry of Energy was informed that from the activities I have just described, there was a debt of 47 million dollars that GNPC had created and what that had come about is this – they had entered into an arrangement with a company called Société Générale in France and in the process the famous drill ship D511 had been collateralize before we came into office; this collateralization was done somewhere in 1998 to Société Générale”, he explained.

Decision time

The outspoken nominee disclosed that the worst of it all was that the ship was impounded in Amman and that it was not there working for Ghana but working for a company in India.

He said the government was informed about the development and the fact that the matter was pending in a court in London.

“At cabinet, my Minister put up this issue, the Attorney General at the time had all considered the issues and they were clear in their minds that the position of Ghana was hopeless, we had gone and taken this loan, we had collateralized the ship, we had GNPC had defaulted which brought the debt, there was nowhere of pleading the case but to settle.

“This is where I entered the fray, I was informed that since I was a practicing barrister at the bar of England and Wales, and this matter was pending at the court of England in London and was of course related to the Ministry of Energy, it was suggested that I should go and find out what we could do. What to do was simply find out how much we could pay – they were asking for 47 million – I went to Paris to the offices of Société Générale, back to London, to and from; Mr. Speaker I was three months in place as deputy Minister, you can well imagine that a matter of this magnitude will not be taken at my level.”

He emphasized this was done with frequent consultations back in Ghana stating, “I was given my executive instrument, some of them signed by the Attorney General, some of them signed by the then Chief Executive of GNPC.” 

Meanwhile, the Adansi Asokwa MP further refuted there has never been any adverse findings established against him by the Commission of Enquiry as speculated over the years by the NDC.