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Day 11: Darko contradicts Ankrah testimony again; says Ghana made no money from exhibition centres

Thursday 28th August , 2014 10:07 pm
Fred Darko was in charge of Ghana's 2014 World Cup effort
Fred Darko was in charge of Ghana's 2014 World Cup effort

ACCRA – Samuel Joachim Bokeem was the play of the day at Thursday’s sittings of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Brazil 2014, but he was by no means the headline-grabber.

That honour would go to Fred Darko, again, who contradicted evidence presented by his boss, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah for the second day running.

There was also an uneventful appearance by a rep from uniBank, and a brief cameo by Travel Matters, one of the agencies mandated to ferry supporters to the tournament.

Contempt clarified

Bokeem, 35, a sports journalist with Kumasi-based Hello FM was hauled before the commission looking scared.

“So it is you, eh?” began Justice Senyo Dzamefe.

Bokeem smiled, confidently, not knowing what was coming.

“Play the tape,” the justice commanded the bailiff.

The court began hearing an August 7 audio recording of Bokeem, as he gave his thoughts of the commission’s work on his sports program.

“This commission that has been set up has just been set up to waste money,” he was heard saying in his native tongue, Akan.

He had gone on, in the words of commission member Moses Foh-Amoaning, “running down the commission”.

Bokeem, in the tape, said: “Fifa takes a dim view of these [hearings] and maybe a bipartisan committee to look into what happened in Brazil would have been better.

“We all saw what and heard happened in Brazil. And once Fifa have said they don’t like these things that will interfere with our football, we don’t need this.”

As Foh-Amoaning pointed out later, these comments by Bokeem had been made barely half an hour after a media training workshop had been held.

The lawyer explained: “We had actually been in Kumasi to talk about these same things. Ironically, this man’s station had carried the seminar live, so I struggle to understand why he would have done this.”

Bokeem was also heard saying on the tape: “[The commission] will definitely meet at a venue and they will be served with food and water. They are in Kumasi, as we speak, for a sitting and they will be lodged at a place like the Golden Tulip Hotel.

“All these are expense will be borne by the state. But what will be the importance of these things if people who were directly like Sulley Muntari, Kwesi Nyantakyi or Ibrahim Saane Daara cannot be called to testify? Then we would have been better of not setting the Commission in the first place.”

Samuel Bokeem of Hello FM.

Samuel Bokeem of Hello FM.

“HND holder”

Justice Senyo Dzamefe was upset at the comments, especially at the insinuation that the commission wasted taxpayers’ money.

Dzamefe: “What is your qualification?”

“HND, my lord. HND Marketing.”

“Did you see any commissioner sleeping [at the Golden Tulip Hotel]?”

“I, for one, I was not even in Kumasi that day and no one here even slept there.”

Foh-Amoaning also spoke of the “condescending and derogatory manner” in which Bokeem spoke, adding that the subsequent phone-in segment was equally as bad.

The General Manager of Hello FM was also present, and he pleaded for Bokeem, who infuriated the commission further with his “unrepentant attitude”, in Dzamefe’s words.

Other sports journalists present at the sittings, mainly Ernest Bruce-Smith of Peace FM (a sister station of Hello FM) led the charge to get the bench to forgive the now-shaking Bokeem.

The apology

“On that particular day, My Lord, my lay man’s opinion was way off what was acceptable and I would like to stand right before this honourable Commission to apologise for my comments,” Bokeem started.

“Ever since the Commission started its sittings, I have watched and studied what it has been doing and I have been taught to be more responsible with my comments. I would like to apologise for my comments.”

Foh Amoaning, a veteran media practitioner of over four decades standing, called on his colleagues not to “lose our value [for] we cannot call politicians to order and ask them the needed questions and we must avoid the irresponsible brand of journalism this is hurting us now.”

“In my 40 years of working in the media, I had not heard profanity being used on air but it is becoming a trend and I have been complaining about this.”

Bokeem was eventually let off, charged not to repeat his conduct and asked to produce a written apology.

Darko contradicts Ankrah, again

But long before the eventful Bokeem-Gate, the dock had been occupied by Fred Darko at the start of the day’s sittings.

Darko further contradicted his evidence from Wednesday, when he had said that the 15 selected ambassadors had been paid $200 per diem daily. Former sports minister Elvis Afriyie Ankrah had also mentioned the same amount.

However, the commission got to know that $250 was the correct amount.

And some more contradictions

Fred Darko added that each of the three caterers employed by the secretariat to cook for the supporters sent to Brazil to support the Black Stars received $17, 200 as service charge. The charge, according to Darko, was for the services provided, by the caterers who also came along with three workers each.

The secretariat, however, took care of the cost utensils used, food stuffs, accommodation and airfare adding that, the commission heard.

According to Darko, the charge covered 15 days of services rendered by the caterers during the trip.

This sharply contradicted claims by Afriyie-Ankrah, who had earlier told the commission that each caterer received $5,000 as honorarium.

When asked whether he was aware of the figure by the former minister, Darko, said he was not aware, insisting his own claim was correct.

Lack of due diligence

Darko confirmed what Afriyie Ankrah had said last week, that the three agencies mandated to transport supporters to Brazil had not gone through rigorous checks.

But that was not the bone of contention.

It emerged that even before the state had, in March, given these three companies the mandate to airlift supporters, Darko and other members of the World Cup secretariat had already been to Brazil to check for the same things.

This was in February.

Justice Dzamefe: “So, it means before you had asked [the travel and tour companies] to look for hotel accommodation for supporters [in March], you already had booked a place [on your first trip to Brazil a month before]?”

Fred: “We hadn’t booked. We were looking for a place, my lord.”

“So when did you book the place?”

“After the second recce, my Lord.”

The commission felt Darko could have employed far more efficient and cost-effective measures throughout the planning phase.

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

Financial loss to the state?

Another highlight was about exhibition centers, which were put in place in Brazil as cultural exporting depots.

It emerged that state funds were used to build these centers for Ghanaians to buy and sell. But the commission heard that Darko and his team did not develop a revenue-generating business model.

The commission heard that the ministry of youth and sports collapsed its initial idea of making profits from planned exhibition centers upon realization that the time to do so was too short.

As a result, the state paid for supporters’ flights, supporters’ accommodation to and from Brazil, but failed to surcharge them.

Foh-Amoaning: “Did you create a stand for the Ghana supporters who [flew in] their artifacts [from Ghana to Brazil for free]?”

Fred: “Yes. The space had already been acquired already by us.”

“And they brought their artifacts?”

“Yes.”

“And they sold [these artifacts they had brought]?”

“Yes.”

“And they made their money?”

“Yes.”

“And went away?”

“Yes.”

“With all of it?”

“That was the general idea, yes my lord.”

This exasperated Foh-Amoaning, who then pointed out that it was very imprudent for the state to have “sold Ghana”, as Darko continuously stressed, “without making any money at all to cover the cost of what it cost you to sell.”

Conflict of interest

Darko, the Project Coordinator for Ghana’s 2014 World Cup secretariat, has admitted to a conflict of interest in the awarding of a contract to his own company, E-volution International.

Darko, who said he is the managing director of the said company, confessed this under questioning from the Chairman of the Brazil 2014 Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.

Justice Senyo Dzamefe and the two other members of the commission forced Darko to reveal that his company won a bid to organise fan parks around the country during the tournament.

“Do you remember that yesterday I asked you in what capacity you were appointed to head this secretariat? And do you remember you said it was you and not E-volution?” the chairman inquired.

“Yes, my lord. I said I was appointed in my own capacity as Fred Darko,” the project coordinator said.

Darko tried to explain that the involvement of his company came much later in his role, when the chance came up to organise fan parks for headline sponsor of the national team, GNPC.

But he was insistent that the role E-volution played was as a private initiative, separate from his functions as a coordinator.

“My lord, I did not hide my intention to bid from the other members of the committee or the sports minister [Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah].”

Darko revealed that eight other companies had also bid for the rights to organise the fan parks.

“The cat is out of the bag now!” Justice Dzamefeh deadpanned.

Commission member Moses Foh-Amoaning went on: “But you are a professional and you should know that this is basic practice. Quite clearly in your capacity there was a clear conflict of interest.”

The sitting resumes on Monday, September 1.

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

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