Ministerial Vetting Made Useless Exercise - As Fraudulent PDS’s Agyapa Mercer Joins Ken Ofori-Atta & Charles Adu Boahen On Conflict of Interest List    

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, Andrew Egyapa Mercer and Charles Adu Boahen Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, Andrew Egyapa Mercer and Charles Adu Boahen

It is becoming increasingly clear that the vetting of the minister-designates by the Parliament's Appointment Committee is of no use to the country, as the committee is rather quick to recommend for approval elements who are tainted with one issue or the other.

Ken Ofori-Atta, despite his Databank carrying out financial advisory jobs on loans and bonds procured by the state, got approval from the committee.

His one-time deputy made Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, Charles Adu-Boahen, was cited for also using his company Black Star Advisors (BSA), a boutique investment bank and asset management firm in transaction at the same ministry, he got the approval of the committee.

The latest to have gotten recommendation from the committee is the Deputy Minister-designate for Energy, Andrew Egyapa Mercer, whose approval was deferred by the committee, especially the Minority MPs on the Committee, relating to his involvement in the botched Power Distribution Services (PDS) fraud saga.

Mr Mercer, who was deeply involved in the deal with his law office address on the 7th Floor of Heritage Tower in Accra, has been identified as the "Principal Place of business" of the TG Energy Solutions one of the companies in the PDS Consortium.

But The Herald was to discover that one David Asare, was used as a front man by the owner of Zoomlion Waste Management Company, Joseph Siaw Agyapong, who also brought on board Philip Ayensu, the owner of X-MEN Barbershop at East Legon.

Mercer, had also served as a director, secretary and lawyer to TG Energy Solutions, but for two years now, has refused to accept his involvement and conflicting interest.

The Herald also discovered that Mercer and David Asare, had been workers of Joseph Siaw Agyapong.

Again, although he had sat in Parliament as the Member of Parliament for Sekondi in the Western Region to endorse the transaction in which he had a financial interest, Mercer had arrogated to himself the definition of fraudulent misrepresentation, as well as conflict of interest to exonerate himself from the deal which led to Ghana losing a whopping US$190 million from the US government.

On Monday, Mercer failed to convince members of the Committee what the word 'fraudulent' means and at the end of his vetting, the committee decided to put his nomination on hold until they review his vetting video before his final verdict.

Andrew Egyapa Mercer, the MP for Sekondi, had strongly disapproved of former Minister for Energy, John Peter Amewu's comment that the PDS-ECG deal was fraudulent, while hiding his personal interest in the scandalous transaction which had President Akufo-Addo's law firm, friends and members of family, playing some active roles.

At his vetting, Mercer was asked about the Akufo-Addo-led government's decision to abrogate the Power Distribution Services (PDS) – Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) agreement in 2019, because it had detected fraud in the insurance covering the deal.

Mercer told the committee that "the then Minister for Energy (Peter Amewu) misspoke" in describing the problem with the deal as fraudulent.

He explained, "I disagree with his choice of words in describing the transaction as fraudulent and I still disagree with him now. Because, I read the statement issued by the Minister of Information, the official mouthpiece of the Republic of Ghana. And in that statement, the information minister said the government had detected material breaches.

"Following the investigation that led to the termination of the transaction, nowhere in the official communication were the words fraud used, I have read the report and the issues were clear. Mr Chairman, I am a lawyer, and so words like fraud, which connotes grave offences, ought not to be used loosely without requisite fact or evidence to support it. So with all the information available to me at the time, led me to draw the conclusion that the then Minister of Energy had misspoken."

The Minority Chief Whip in Parliament, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka and Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, reintroduced the issue for further interrogation with Mubarak asking Mercer to define fraud which he had difficulties explaining.

Chairman of the Committee, Joseph Osei Owusu, also quizzed Egyapa Mercer on the issue, asking, "will misrepresenting a fact amount to fraud?" Mercer answered, "If it was with the intent to deceive, then it will amount to fraudulent misrepresentation."

This generated some back and forth between the Committee Members and the nominee, but he [Mercer] eventually agreed to a suggestion by Muntaka that misrepresentation could amount to fraud.

"With the chairman having drawn my attention to the potential misrepresentation being fraudulent, I am prepared to change my position with regards to that aspect of my response," he said.

Rev. Ntim Fodjour, George Mireku Duker and Tina Mensah, were next to be vetted. The Committee held a closed-door meeting and unanimously agreed on Rev. Ntim Fodjour, George Mireku Duker and Tina Mensah for approval as Deputy Ministers of Education, Lands and Natural Resources and Health respectively.

The committee, however, did not decide on Egyapa Mercer's nomination because his vetting video, according to sources, will be reviewed by the committee to help them decide later.

Egyapa Mercer's connection with the PDS, had long been established by The Herald way ahead of the cancellation.

Indeed, there were calls for the prosecution of individuals who played various roles involving the contract. Agyapa Mercer, was one of the individuals whose name popped up. However, he has refuted claims of his involvement in the deal, particularly as the Director for the company until his vetting last Monday.

"Interestingly, because the documentation for the transaction had my name as Director and one of the shareholders of PDS, then it became easy to associate me with PDS and create the impression, as if to say I was connected to PDS," he said, adding "The truth of the matter is that I am not a Director of PDS, nor am I a shareholder of PDS."

"In 2014, I was engaged to incorporate a company for a client of mine who asked me to be Director-Secretary which is pretty much usual of Law practitioners. It turned out that, that company which is called TG Energy, went into some unincorporated joint-ventureship, which is usually referred to as consortium, that then bid for the ECG-PSP process and ultimately, when they won, incorporated a company called PDS which contracted with the government of Ghana.

"The cooperate law principles are quite clear that a company is separate and distinct from its shareholders and that indeed PDS, when it was incorporated, had its own directors and Secretary. I did an official search, and it's clear who the directors of PDS and shareholders are. Nowhere is Andrew Mercer found in these two categories," he explained.

He continued: "Indeed, I am a shareholder of the company that I incorporated for the client, so the question of conflict of interest in itself does not arise and has never arisen".

The committee, however, did not decide on Egyapa Mercer, popularly known as Bobo. Mercer's vetting according to sources, will be reviewed by the committee to help them decide later.

Mercer was asked about the Akufo-Addo-led government's decision to abrogate the Power Distribution Services (PDS) – Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) agreement in 2019, because it had detected fraud in the insurance covering the deal.

Mahama Ayariga, virtually cleared Mercer giving a different narrative about his vetting.

"If you disagree with the way a Minister labels a transaction which is a legal document, for me, it is a matter of opinion about a legal document. It is not the kind of issue that I will withhold my consent to the approval of somebody as a Deputy Minister. The Committee is therefore recommending him," a member of the Committee, Mahama Ayariga told JoyNews.

Mahama Ayariga, on Tuesday, June 8, told JoyNews that the Committee decided to withhold the recommendation of Mr Mercer for approval, merely on the basis of him having contradicting views on the PDS-ECG agreement.

He revealed that he did not participate in the review of Mr Mercer's vetting footage which subsequently led to his approval.

However, he told Joseph Opoku Gakpo that he would not hold the opposing views of Mr Mercer against him since "it is not the kind of weighty matter to which I would refuse somebody a nomination to be a Deputy Minister."

He also held the view that Mr Egyapa Mercer, backtracked his earlier decision on the PDS-ECG deal, because he could not effectively communicate the reason for opposing the views of Peter Amewu, who stated that the agreement was fraudulent.

"He backtracked, I listened to him. I just felt he couldn't express himself very well. I mean, he couldn't communicate effectively his jurisprudence around this issue. He didn't explain it well, I thought as a more senior lawyer, he wasn't probably communicating it well, so some members of the Committee did not understand exactly what he was trying to convey," he said.