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Consultant contradicts Elvis Ankrah testimony; says MTN “backstabbed” Ghana effort

Wednesday 27th August , 2014 10:01 pm
Ex-sports minister Elvis Afriyie Ankrah (left) and Fred Darko, Brazil 2014 Secretariat boss
Ex-sports minister Elvis Afriyie Ankrah (left) and Fred Darko, Brazil 2014 Secretariat boss

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Day ten of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry was as eventful for the audience as it was a nightmare for the witness.

Fred Darko, a marketing consultant appointed as the project coordinator of Ghana’s Brazil 2014 secretariat, fumbled with key parts of testimony throughout Wednesday’s sitting.

From how the Black Stars’ send off party was handled and why an SMS text promotion did not work as planned, to why some parts of his testimony contradicted that of former sports minister Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the marketing consultant had a torrid time.

“Do we look like small boys?”

Elvis Afriyie Ankrah had said on Monday that over $4.4 million approved by the government for the 2014 World Cup had been left as surplus.

But the gallery heard that Darko had physically transported an amount of money to Brazil all by himself.

This was after the infamous airlifting of an estimated $3m to the players for bonus payments.

The marketing consultant had said that this amount he took to Brazil himself was needed “to pay for allowances of our security and balance of accommodation and all that so I had that cash on me.”

Justice Senyo Dzamefe, the commission’s chair, wanted to know who gave Darko that amount of money.

“Mr. Fred Darko, how much did you carry?” came the question.

“My lord, I will verify from the accounts office. I want to be sure…”

Justice Dzamefe retorted: “You mean you carried that amount and you don’t know? You think we are small boys here?”

In the end, Darko said it was “a little over $100,000.”

Black market?

It therefore came as a surprise to the commission when Fred Darko let slip that the over $100,000 in physical cash he carried to Brazil had been acquired from a forex bureau.

“Who gave the money to you,” Foh-Amoaning asked?

“The [chief] accountant, Mr Apasu. We had to buy [the money] from the market…”

An incredulous Foh-Amoaning asked: “They bought the dollars from the forex bureau?”

“My lord, from the forex bureau, yes.” The commissioners pinned Darko on this point, forcing him to offer a retraction.

“You are retracting because of the questions we are asking or because you are now aware of the truth?

“You are supposed to be telling us the truth, not retracting things because you notice you will get into trouble. Which is which?  Talk to your lawyer, he will help you,” Foh-Amoaning warned.

“MTN the backstabber”

Darko mentioned that there were several channels his secretariat explored for fundraising.

One of them was through an SMS campaign called the Fanatic promo.

“It was a lottery platform. You send a text to a shortform and indirectly goes to a pool.”

“The prize for the winners were two cars in two month intervals and we gave tablet [computers] monthly and phones from Techno. We gave vouchers and airtime, just to encourage  people to text.”

Darko said the secretariat had to withdraw the radio ads because the “revenue was not coming in as expected and we needed to take a stance.”

He revealed that there was big competition from telecom giant MTN, whose Bola promo campaign offered a similar SMS text-and-win service.

“What happened was that we spoke to the National Lottery Authority. They waived off all the tax elements and we engaged all the telcos companies.”

Darko said his secretariat worked to get the Ghana Revenue Authority to invoke an investment waiver for all the telecom operators who agreed – except Globacom – to help in the Fanatic campaign.

But according to the consultant, MTN launched their Bola promo two days before Fanatic went public.

“Based on that, we had to flag [MTN’s action] to the [National Communication Authority]. For us it was basically a stab in the back.”

Darko confirmed that there is documentary proof to show that MTN had legally wronged the secretariat.

“Let us have the documents. We will call MTN and ask them why they will stab the state in back,” Foh-Amoaning insisted.

Darko said they had followed up from the NCA to get some compensation from MTN, but it never came. The project coordinator insisted there was “a moral contract” that the telco breached.

He hinted that because of MTN’s muscle and clout in the industry, the secretariat’s Fanatic promo was easily dwarfed, which led the withdrawal of the advertisements from the media.

However, the commission heard from a “friend of the court” that MTN and the NLA are currently in court, leading to Justice Dzamefe to ask the sitting to stop discussing the matter for sub judice reasons.

Expensive send off party

The commission heard that the Presidential Ball held on May 22 as a send off party and fundraising gala for the Brazil 2014 effort was more expensive than was thought.

Elvis Ankrah had said last week that it cost GHS 188,665, but the commission heard on Wednesday that more than GHS 335,000 was spent on the effort.

“Costuming [of 30 players and officials] as well as accommodation cost 149,000,” Darko said.

“Young man, are you happy saying this?” Justice Dzamefe asked.

The question was greeted with silence.

Issues of supporters lodging arrangements and peripheral matters were also touched on.

Going forward  

Fred Darko ended his testimony flustered, having made the statement suggesting that dollars had been acquired at a forex bureau instead of going to the bank.

The sittings resume with the marketing consultant on Thursday.

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By: Gary Al-Smith/citifmonline.com/Ghana

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