The Daily Graphic issue of January 27, 2009 carried a report which says one hundred and thirty nine vehicles imported for the office of the President by five motor firms in the country cannot be located by the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS).
The report citing officials of the CEPS has also described the mode of disposal of the vehicles as questionable, as no records on them can be traced.
Furthermore, the motor firms involved in the transaction have refused to respond to queries that will enable CEPS to draw some conclusions on the matter.
According to the report, the 139 saloon and 4×4 vehicles were imported on behalf of the Office of the President by Svani Limited, Mechanical Company Ltd, Universal Motors, Fairllop International Lid and PHC Motors Limited.
Details of the transactions were contained in a letter signed by the Commissioner of CEPS, Mr. E.N. Doku, to the chairman of the Assets Transfer Subcommittee of the government’s transition team.
It noted that “these companies were selected for a closer look because of the interest shown by honourable committee on the mode of importation and disposal of the vehicle which were originally imported for the Office of the President but were subsequently sold to individuals”.
Giving a breakdown of its finding in the letter dated January 19, 2009, the CEPS commissioner noted that 968 vehicles were imported by the Office of the President between 2003 and 2008 with the value of tax forgone on the said vehicles amounting to GH¢7,892,935.67.
It explained that imports made on behalf of and for the Office of the President were tax exempt, the report indicated.
On PHC Motors Ltd, CEPS indicated that its current records and enquiries did not disclose the current location or mode of disposal of the 35 Chrysler vehicles imported for the Office of the President. It said Fairllop International Ltd imported 40 Jaguar X-Type, 40 Rover 75, two Rover 75V6 and one Rover 45 for the Office of the President.
Out of the number, Fairllop bought back 35 Jaguar X-Type, while CEPS’ enquiries did not disclose the location and mode of disposal of the remaining five Jaguar X-Type and 43 Rovers.
With regard to Mechanical Lloyd, CEPS said the company imported 50 BMW 730 LI, two Land Rover Discovery, two BMW 745 Li high security, 13 Ford Ranger pick-ups and one Ford Explorer.
It said the company bought back 40 of the BMW 730 Ll and sold them to its customers under a specific sale arrangement.
It said CEPS’ “current records and enquiries did not disclose the location or mode of disposal of two Land Rovers, 10 BMW 730 Li; two BMW Li 745, 13 Ford Ranger pick-ups and one Ford Ranger”.
The letter noted that Universal Motors imported 36 VW Passat (Comfort Line) for the Office of the President and subsequently released 35 of the vehicles to the custody of the [email protected] Secretariat.
It said although records indicated that certain individuals were allocated some of the vehicles, “our records and enquiries did not disclose the current location or mode of disposal of 28 of the vehicles”.
The Daily Graphic quoted sources close to the committee and CEPS saying that the mode of sale to the importing firms had not been proper because there had been no public bidding process.
They wondered why the government would sell the vehicles back to the importers after paying 50 per cent of their total cost, the newspaper said.
According to the sources what made the transaction worse was the fact that the sourced companies gave a 40 per cent discount after the government had made a 50 per cent up-front payment.
They cited the case of the Jaguars, claiming that the government bought each for $36,000, although it was being sold for $23,000.
According to them, even if the government was to resell the vehicles, it should have been done by a public bidding process or auction but that was not done.
“It was a letter from the Chief Director at the Office of the President who, for instance, in a letter to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), asked that the vehicles be registered in the name of Mechanical Lloyd Company Ltd, which it claimed the company purchased the vehicles through a public bidding process,” they said.
The sources challenged the former Chief of Staff and the Chief Director to provide evidence of the public bidding process.
Moreover, they said CEPS and the state valuer should have been part of the process to revalue the cars and also calculate the appropriate duties on them for the buyers to pay accordingly.
They explained that under the CEPS Law, although items bought for the Office of the President and the Diplomatic Corps were tax exempt, anytime they were to change hands into private hands the new owner was made to pay the appropriate taxes.
The sources said it was important that these facts were put out for Ghanaians to appreciate the anomalies in the transactions.
But the former Chief of Staff in the Kufuor administration has denied the allegations, claiming they are false and calculated to malign the former government.
In an interview on Joy FM Tuesday Morning, January 27, 2009, Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani categorically denied the vehicles cannot be accounted for asking, “are CEPS the custodians of government vehicles?” He also said the Committee is making these claims based on an interim audit report, a position he said is wrong.
“If you say some of the vehicles are missing or not, you don’t go to Customs to tell you how the vehicles were disposed of or how many came in. is that his duty, anyway? Mr. Mpiani asked.
He insisted that the procedure being followed by the Transition Committee was inappropriate because they are asking questions from the wrong persons. He wondered why the CEPS officials are being asked questions on government vehicles because the CEPS is not the custodian of government vehicles.
He said if the Committee fails to get the right information from the wrong sources, they should come to him for the original list.
“If they come to me, something like this I will speak to it. But this is wrong, going through the backdoor to try to malign people.”
He further questioned the transition, asking “is this transition? You know what happens in other countries on transitions. Is this transition we are doing? They have every right to investigate what they believe is not right and not this so called transition,” he said.
Adding, “we have moved away from the CVCs (Citizens Vetting Committees) and the so called revolutionary things. We are now governed by law, by constitution and we must abide by that. That’s the only way we can move this country forward.”
Mr. Mpiani has also said he will respond to the Committee’s query before the 30-day period that has been given to him.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi