…Years after spearheading unethical payments to silence Media Houses & CSOs in US$1.6 Billion transaction
The Herald’s digging into the operations of the Norwegian oil company, Aker Energy Ghana Limited, has finally revealed the payment of a whopping One Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand, Two Hundred and Eighty One United States Dollars, Twenty One Pence (US$125, 281. 21) to a Ghanaian journalist for Media Consultancy and Communication Service.
Details of the payments were captured in a document recently submitted to the Petroleum Commission by Aker Energy.
US$125, 281. 21, was dished out to a company called Excomsult Media, and owned by the journalist, whom The Herald had sighted in some unethical payments to some pressmen and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) not to question attempts by Aker Energy and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to go into a US$1.6 billion transaction.
The Herald’s background checks on the Excomsult Media, revealed that it is owned by one Evans Mensah, a reporter with Multimedia Group, owners of Joy FM. His role mainly was to kill negative stories in the Ghanaian media about Aker.
Indeed, some CSOs, had complained about the Multimedia platforms being shut on them with respect to the activities of some multinational companies operating in Ghana.
Per the current records, Aker Energy, had engaged Evans Mensah from 1st January 2022 to December 2022, but The Herald’s information is that, the engagement dates way back, implying that he has received more than the US$125, 281. 21.
At the heat of US$1.6 billion transaction between the Norway-based AKER Energy and GNPC sometime in 2021, officials of the two institutions were moving from one media house to another, as well as the offices of the CSOs, offering them money ahead of a parliamentary debate on the transaction to remain quiet about it or openly support the transaction involving an unverified oil well.
Duncan Amoah, the Executive Secretary of Chamber of Petroleum Consumers (COPEC) and the Executive Director of Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), Mensah Thompson, have since admitted collecting the cash from Aker and the GNPC team.
While, Duncan Amoah said he received GHC30, 000 from Evans Mensah, Mr Thompson revealed he got some GHC10, 000 from the AKER and GNPC officials; the sellers and buyers had called him on phone and met him up at the Airport Residential Area in Accra and handed him the money.
The Herald has since discovered that many more CSO operators, journalists, as well as Members of Parliament, were paid over the US$1.6 billion transaction which eventually collapsed, following a decision by AGM, a sister company of AKER Energy, to pull out. Some had also visited the Trasacco residence of the then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GNPC, KK Sarpong.
Evans Mensah, had also told The Herald that he has been working for Aker Energy, but mainly on writing and issuing press statements on behalf of the Norwegian company.
He told the paper that he decided to stay away from the US$1.6 billion transaction and go for a holiday in Dubai with his family when it became obvious that people had taken an entrenched position on the deal.
What struck him most to stay away, was the mentioning of Dr Emmanuel Steve Asare Manteaw, as supporting the deal, because he had also pocketed some cash from the promoters of the transactions.
But it has emerged that Evans’ role goes from writing press statements to using his private company to do business for the Norwegians.
His Linkedin account gave a profile of himself and his company.
“MSc Media and Communications LSE – London School of Economics. Editor MULTIMEDIA GROUP JOY NEWS. Head, Political Desk. CEO, EXCOM
Head of Political Desk at MULTIMEDIA GROUP, JOY NEWSMULTIMEDIA GROUP, JOY NEWS
Jan 2016 – Present · 7 yrs 5 mos Jan 2016 – Present · 7 yrs 5 mos Accra, Ghana Accra, Ghana
“• I Coordinate the cross platform teams for radio, television and online to develop political content and ensure accurate, compelling and comprehensive coverage of all political events
“• Produce research to inform the group’s coverage of political events.
“• Lead the development of strategy and detailed plan for the coverage of national presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Premium communications solutions provider with a client base of multinational firms like GOLD FIELDS.
“Lead a team of dedicated professionals in deploying media and communications tools to assist clients achieve their communications objectives.
“• Under my leadership we have successfully facilitated using audio-visual documentation interactions between top government policy formulators and our civil society clients giving them an opportunity to advance their advocacy objectives.
“• Under my leadership EXCOM have executed several international donor funded advocacy documentaries in the areas of oil and gas and mining.
“• Under my leadership EXCOM played a central role in designing the radio promotional material and helping facilitate the maiden Africa Oil and Gas Summit held in Accra under the auspices of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy and the Ghana Oil and Gas for Inclusive Growth, GOGIG programme.
Two months ago, the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, called for investigations into the decision by AGM, the sister company of AKER Energy, to pull out of the US$1.6billion transaction with the GNPC.
He insisted that the circumstances leading to the initial proposal and government’s approval of the deal must be investigated.
He indicated in an engagement with the media that the Minority feels vindicated because they stood against the transaction when the GNPC brought the proposal before Parliament for approval.
He said Ghana would have lost so much money if the transaction had gone through, against their position that the deal, which the GNPC was expected to pay Aker US$1.65billion to acquire a 37 percent stake in the Deepwater Tano/Cape Three Points (DWT/CTP) and 70 percent interest in SDWT, was not valuable.
“They came to say that they want to buy the AKER block for US$1.65billion. We spoke forcefully, and we said that blocks they want to sell to Ghana for US$1billion was valueless and was risky, and that we need to have proper valuation of that asset and to make sure that we have mitigated all the risks. We insisted that we can’t buy it at that price.
“Now, it turns out that a year or two years later, AKER now goes back to say that that block that they wanted to basically dupe Ghana by selling to us for US$1.65billion, they no longer want it and that they have relinquished it. That really vindicates the NDC minority,” he said.
He added: “Can you imagine if we had indeed bought and exchanged money? If we did, then it means that today, we are talking about US$1billion plus that we have paid for an asset that has no value. That is why we believe that whole circumstances leading to AKER’s proposal to sell that block must be investigated”.
In September 2021, Energy Minister, Dr Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, was reported to have reiterated government support for the decision by Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to acquire a 70 percent stake in the South Deep Water Tano (SDWT/CTP) and another 37 percent stake in the Deep Water Tano/Cape Three Points (DWT/CTP).
The move, according to him, will not only be about the shares but “more experience in the exploration agenda of GNPC, adding: “The government is going to support you 100 percent”.
A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the extractive sector had also raised red flags about the deal in terms of valuation, saying the US$1.6billion deal could threaten Ghana’s economy.
The CSOs, in a statement in reaction to a memo presented to Parliament by the energy minister and approved by Cabinet requesting an approval of US$1.65billion blank cheque for the government to finalise negotiations with AKER Energy, stressed that the memo was a significant eye-opener for well-meaning Ghanaians to closely monitor the relationship between AKER and the state.
According to the said memo, US$1.3billion is for acquiring Aker’s interest and US$350million is for the development cost of Pecan phase 1 to first oil.
“GNPC has failed to examine the issues in the transaction properly. The decision to support GNPC to become an operator is not a new conversation. Ten years ago, the country decided to support GNPC to become an operator by allocating a portion of oil revenue. So far, about US$1billion has been given to the corporation, but it has failed to drill one well.
“The country needs a clear pathway for supporting the national oil company, rather than using billions of dollars of the public’s money in risky bets that might instead go to support Ghana’s health, education and economic development. Otherwise, the guise of the energy transition will only be a smokescreen to waste more resources and line the pockets of foreign companies and people who may be short-changing the country deliberately.
“We, therefore, request Parliament to institute a full-scale investigation into the transaction to verify the actual cost incurred by Aker so far on the blocks, clarify the inconsistencies in the presentations by GNPC, and allow for open consultation and hearing to provide opportunities for independent expert opinions. We also urge the media to provide adequate space and time for a thorough examination of the issue in the country’s supreme interest,” the statement noted.