GNPC director cited in conflict of interest over $147k job

Posted: May 30, 2011 in Economic Reporting
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Workers of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) are seething with anger over what they term conflict of interest, arising out of the corporation’s award of a juicy contract to a Member of the Board.The Chronicle can confirm that Mr. Kyeretwie Opoku, a renowned legal brain with extensive knowledge in the oil industry and a Member of the Board of Directors of GNPC, was awarded a juicy contract worth $147,000 (One Hundred and Forty-Seven Thousand United States Dollars) to represent the corporation on legal issues pertaining to the petroleum industry.

Mr. Opoku is a former employee of the corporation. According to The Chronicle sources at the head office of the corporation overlooking the Tema Harbour, the job has since been executed and the contract sum paid.

The managerial style of the Board, headed by Mr. Ato Ahwoi, described in political circles as the de facto Prime Minister of Ghana, especially, concerning how huge sums of money are dispensed on officials and Board activities, has sparked controversy among the working body of the state-owned oil firm.

Some staff of the corporation have described the legal representation by Mr. Kyeretwie Opoku as a “conflict of interest”. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GNPC, Nana Boakye Asafu-Adjaye, however, has different ideas about the need to hire the petroleum legal brain, who serves on the Board.

In an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, Nana Asafu-Adjaye said Mr. Opoku’s appointment to represent the company was informed by the lawyer’s rich experience as a legal practitioner in the oil industry.

According to him, when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was handed the responsibility of administering the country on January 7, 2009, it took over six months before the GNPC Board was inaugurated. Before the Board came into being, so many urgent matters that needed to be addressed had cropped up.

“When the Board met, there were so many urgent things that needed to be attended to. There were issues on how to plan the development of the Jubilee Field because it was supposed to be developed on a fast track basis.

“There was a unit and unitisation operating agreement that also needed to be negotiated. All this while, our partners were on us. So, the Board decided that somebody like Kyeretwie Opoku should be remunerated to help us. So the Board had to settle on him because of his rich legal experience in the oil industry,” noted Nana Asafu-Adjaye.

Mr. Opoku, The Chronicle learnt, was to provide legal and strategic services to the state-owned oil firm.

The CEO told The Chronicle that the Board conducted numerous interviews in search of an experienced legal person with the requisite skills in the oil industry, but it “was very difficult to get one,” hence the decision to fall on Mr. Opoku for his services.

“So it was the Board’s decision to engage him. And when the decision was being taken, Mr. Opoku recused himself from the meeting, and it was a full Board that took the decision,” he noted.

However, Nana Asafu-Adjaye was not forthcoming with the US$147,000 said to be the amount payable to Mr. Opoku.

“Information concerning the directors of the corporation is confidential,” he shot back, adding “in terms of specific amounts, there are standard fees that lawyers charge, but what he’s being paid doesn’t come close to that.”

Asked whether the GNPC was not promoting a conflict of interest, the GNPC C.E.O. answered in the negative.

“I don’t think there is any conflict of interest here. There is a provision, even in the service code, which provides for members of the board to decide, through a resolution, for a director to act in his or her professional capacity on behalf of the corporation,” he added.

Several attempts to get Mr. Opoku to react to the allegation proved futile, as numerous calls and text messages to his cellular handset went unanswered. As a result of the inability of Mr. Opoku to give his side of the story, it has taken The Chronicle nearly two months to put this story in the public domain.

Three weeks ago, Mr. Opoku sent a text message to the Editor of The Chronicle that he was in a meeting and would get back as soon as the meeting was over. Since then, there have been several calls to his cellular phone without any response.

Mr. Opoku was one of the key people who broke away from the National Democratic Congress to form the National Reform Party. He became the General Secretary of the breakaway party. Lately, Kyeretwie Opoku and Mr. Goosie Tanoh, leader of the Reform Party, have been hobnobbing with the Atta Mills faction of the NDC.

The GNPC recently came under serious attack over mismanagement. One of its directors, who is a petro-chemist, Dr. Kwaku Temeng, had to vacate his post for the simple reason that the state-owned oil firm was being mismanaged.

The CEO was also reported to have submitted a tall list of items worth GH¢180,000 to furnish his official residence. This generated heated debates resulting in an uneasy calm among the working body.

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