Education Minister ‘lying’ to paint me black – Prof. Aryeetey

The former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, has clarified some supposed misconception on the $64 million dollar agreement the university entered  into with a foreign company for the construction of some structures for the school.

According to him, the impression created by the Minister of Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh over the deal was to “paint him [Ernest Aryeetey] black” and a “deliberate effort to tarnish my image.”

The Education Minister had stated that the University of Ghana risk being privatized if it fails to meet its obligations of the $64 million agreement it entered into with a private company, Africa Integras.

The Minister, who said this in an interview with Peace FM’s Kwame Sefa Kayi indicated that the University under the previous government, entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with Africa Integras to invest US$64 million in the construction of 1,000 new students’ hostels for undergraduate and post-graduate students at the Legon campus.

He explained that under the agreement, the University of Ghana is expected to pay a total amount of 10 million dollars to Africa Integras every year for a period of 25 years.

Mr. Prempeh however indicated that the school had in recent times defaulted in the payment – a situation he believes could lead to the school’s assets being seized.

“University of Ghana might be put up for sale because it entered into an agreement and the school is unable to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract. Under this contract, Legon is expected to pay 10 million dollars every year for 25 years. If Legon is unable to settle this loan, its assets will be seized,” said the Minister.

But Prof. Aryeetey in a statement said the Ministers claims are “further from the truth.”

He clarified that the University of Ghana under his leadership did not borrow such an amount.

“The Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana and the Minister of Education of Ghana are trying very hard to make the world believe that I led the University to borrow $64.4 million to build a students hostel. Nothing could be further from the truth. The University of Ghana never borrowed any such money!!!”

Professor Aryeetey said what the Minister failed to understand was that the $64.4 million was borrowed by Africa Integras “to build 5 structures at Legon at a total cost of $64.4 million.”

“Africa Integras borrowed a part of that money from the US government agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The rest of the funds came from the private company WP Carey as its equity in the deal. The project was to be undertaken on a ‘Build, Operate and Transfer’ basis.”

“What this meant was that Africa Integras would own the buildings and rent out space in them to Legon. The University was not going to rent simple empty space. The space was going to be fully furnished and equipped for teaching and research purposes. It included modern state of the art and well equipped laboratories for the science units of the university. And all of this was going to be maintained and managed by Africa Integras for 25 years at agreed high standards. This is what the VC and the Minister have deliberately refused to tell the world for reasons best known to them.”

He added that the university undertook a thorough feasibility analysis on the project to ensure that the university was not being shortchanged before it was approved.

He further added that he is convinced that the project was in the best interest of the university.

“l am convinced that the agreement was in the best interest of the University in order to solve its many space and modern technology problems. This is especially so since it provided for discussion and renegotiation at a future date at the request of either party.”

The former Vice Chancellor however accused the current Vice Chancellor of throwing dust in the eyes of the public because he has no interest in the project.

“The agreement provided for various ways in which the University could finance its annual rent payments. Without exploring these financing options, the new University management had concluded that it cannot afford the project. In order to justify the VC’s lack of interest in the project, he has told one lie after the other. Unfortunately people who should be more discerning, have believed him without subjecting the agreement and the processes leading to it, to any proper scrutiny,” he added in the statement.

On claims by the Education Minister that government was not aware of the project, Professor Aryeetey rejected such allegations.

“The Minister also made the point that the Government of Ghana was kept in the dark about the project. This is clearly false and we can easily prove that. I can assure the whole world that nothing illegal, immoral or irregular occurred in the negotiation of this deal. I was never offered any incentive whatsoever by the parties we negotiated with. And I never asked for anything!”

Below is the full statement from Professor Aryeetey:

The Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana and the Minister of Education of Ghana are trying very hard to make the world believe that I led the University to borrow $64.4 million to build a students hostel. Nothing could be further from the truth. The University of Ghana never borrowed any such money!!!

What they have both failed to understand is that the University entered into a concession agreement with Africa Integras, an American company, to build 5 structures at Legon at a total cost of $64.4 million. Africa Integras borrowed a part of that money from the US government agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The rest of the funds came from the private company WP Carey as its equity in the deal. The project was to be undertaken on a “Build, Operate and Transfer” basis. What this meant was that Africa Integras would own the buildings and rent out space in them to Legon. The University was not going to rent simple empty space. The space was going to be fully furnished and equipped for teaching and research purposes. It included modern state of the art and well equipped laboratories for the science units of the university. And all of this was going to be maintained and managed by Africa Integras for 25 years at agreed high standards. This is what the VC and the Minister have deliberately refused to tell the world for reasons best known to them.

The University undertook extensive feasibility analysis of the project through its Business School and concluded that using the BOT approach was far better than borrowing directly. The agreement provided for various ways in which the University could finance its annual rent payments. Without exploring these financing options, the new University management had concluded that it cannot afford the project. In order to justify the VC’s lack of interest in the project, he has told one lie after the other. Unfortunately people who should be more discerning, have believed him without subjecting the agreement and the processes leading to it, to any proper scrutiny.

l am convinced that the agreement was in the best interest of the University in order to solve its many space and modern technology problems. This is especially so since it provided for discussion and renegotiation at a future date at the request of either party.

The Minister also made the point that the Government of Ghana was kept in the dark about the project. This is clearly false and we can easily prove that.

I can assure the whole world that nothing illegal, immoral or irregular occurred in the negotiation of this deal. I was never offered any incentive whatsoever by the parties we negotiated with. And I never asked for anything!

I believe that the deliberate effort to tarnish my image is driven by other issues and differences that have nothing to do with this project. Stopping the project, as UG has done, is not only going to deprive Ghanaian students of modern learning facilities, but going to add several millions of dollars to the cost unnecessarily. It is the hope of the Minister of Education and the University Management that when that happens, they can conveniently blame Ernest Aryeetey for it.

I trust fully in the Good Lord to show Ghanaians the truth. I also hope that other persons who know the truth will find the courage to speak out publicly.

Ernest Aryeetey

By: Godwin Akweiteh Allotey/citifmonline.com/Ghana

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