The controversy surrounding the sale of telecommunications giant Ghana Telecom takes a dramatic twist Tuesday as parliament reconvenes to debate and ratify the sale proposed by President John Kufuor's government. Some Ghanaians are expressing strong opposition to the sale of Ghana Telecom, which has reportedly led to a lawsuit seeking to prevent President Kufuor's government from selling Ghana Telecom to the British-based company Vodafone. Also Tuesday, the Committee for Joint Action (CJA), a political pressure group, is organizing a demonstration in parliament against the sale of Ghana Telecom.
The group is accusing the government of failing fully to disclose details of the sale, adding that it has reasons to believe that relatives of top government officials would benefit from the transaction. But President Kufuor's government denies the accusations, saying it needs to raise funds to inject into an economy that it claims is experiencing unexpected shocks because of rising fuel and food prices.
From Ghana's capital, CJA leading member Kwesi Pratt tells reporter Peter Clottey that the government has not been transparent to Ghanaians.
"We are massing up this morning in front of parliament house and we are going to make the point that the sale of 70% of Ghana Telecom shares to Vodafone is inimical to the interest of the people of Ghana. And we would also be demanding full disclosure of the transaction," Pratt pointed out.
He said the group would go ahead and press home its demand for disclosure of the deal, although it has limited options if President Kufuor's government decides not to heed to its demands.
"There is very little that we can do about that. But if the government does that and uses its majority to bulldoze its way, it would send a very clear signal to the Ghanaian electorate. It would make a statement about itself that it is not ready to consider the relevant issues and that it would stick to party partisan position, which would be most unfortunate. And it is important for the government to realize that this is an election year and the people of Ghana are listening and watching," he said.
Pratt said there is need for transparency and a thorough investigation into practices at Vodafone.
"First of all there hasn't been a full disclosure, and there is some evidence that Vodafone practices in such matters have not been wholesome. Vodafone bought 30% shares of Safaricom in Kenya, and the Kenyan Public Investment Committee of parliament investigated the deal and what it came up with was sordid. As we speak, Vodafone is before a court in India answering charges of tax evasion and so on. So, it is important for us to find out if Vodafone practices in Ghana would be different from practices in other countries like Kenya, like India and elsewhere," Pratt noted.
He described as inopportune the secrecy coursing the sale of Ghana Telecom.
"Clearly, the government has not been telling us the whole truth about the transaction. A couple of days after this matter became public and we raised concerns about it and even without parliamentary approval, personnel of Vodafone went to Ghana Telecom and had a meeting with the workers, which suggested that they had already taken over. When we raised those issues, the government reaction was that Vodafone staff were carrying out due diligence. But our position is that if they were now telling us due diligence, then how did they come to the conclusion that the company's 70% shares are worth $900 million? Because it was due diligence, which ought to have established the price of the company. So it is clear that the government is not telling us the whole truth about this transaction," he pointed out.