STATEMENT: Controversy over the duration of shady SML contract



Since the publication of our latest investigations on the government’s contract with Strategic Mobilisation Ghana Limited (SML), we have seen and read official reactions and a page purporting to be from the signed contract stating that the duration of the consolidated contract is 5, and not 10 years as we stated in our story.

We note, as we have stated in our interviews, that it is possible the duration of the contract may have changed from what our sources made available to us.

What remains clear and valid is that SML DOES NOT deserve a share of revenue in every litre of fuel Ghanaians consume, a share of revenue in every barrel of oil Ghana produces and a share of revenue in every ounce of gold Ghana produces even for a day let alone 5 years.

When we interviewed officials of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and SML during our investigation, we did not mention the expanded contract. This is because the expanded contract was initiated when our investigation into the government’s dealings with SML was underway.

The investigative team only got to know about the expansion of the contract to cover the upstream petroleum sector and the gold mining sector after we concluded our interviews with both the GRA and SML.

Sources who knew we were working on the SML deal and believing that the expansion was going to hurt Ghana even more than the original contract, reached out to us with information on this contract.

Before we published the story, we wrote to the GRA and the Ministry of Finance, requesting information on the said contract. This is a due diligence required by the ethics of our profession.

Neither the GRA nor the Ministry of Finance confirmed the existence of the expanded contract until after we published the story, which then compelled them to publicly confirm the existence of the expanded contract. The GRA and Ministry of Finance refused to give us copies of the contracts and other related documents even though we wrote to both institutions requesting information under the Right to Information Law. Our first letter to the GRA was in July this year, 5 months before we published the story, and we have since not received a response.

The angle of the story on the expanded contract that entitles SML to over $100 million a year was only possible because of our multiple sources, who leaked some details of the contract to us. We have since received more leaks and information on the contracts and other related ones.

However, since two of the parties to the contract, the GRA and SML, have stated in their rejoinders that the consolidated contract is for 5 years, we will work with the 5 years. We have accordingly provided an editor’s note to the published articles and will stick to 5 years in our reporting going forward.

We, however, reject any allegation that the documents we published were doctored. These are documents we received from multiple reliable sources for our use in the interest of the nation. The parties to the contract have not disputed the substance and contents of the documents we shared revealing the monumental amounts SML would be undeservedly entitled to under the expanded contract regardless of the duration.

One thing is sure, the allegation of doctoring or altering any text of the documents are completely without basis. We will NEVER do any such. A forensic examination of the disputed page we published would reveal that not even a single letter of the text has been tampered with.

It is obvious the focus on the duration of the contract is a red herring intended to draw attention from the substance of the investigation, which has shown that there is no justification to pay SML over $100 million a year as will be the case under the expanded contract.

We wish to reiterate that the evidence in our documentary clearly shows that SML DOES NOT deserve what this contract entitles it to—a share of revenue in every litre of fuel Ghanaians consume, a share of revenue in every barrel of oil Ghana produces and a share of revenue in every ounce of gold Ghana produces – even for a day, let alone 5 years.

Knowing that whistle-blowers stand the risk of victimization, such as losing their jobs and sometimes even their lives, we restrain ourselves from sharing certain details that could link the information to our sources.

We will send letters to remind the GRA and Ministry of Finance that our RTI requests remain unanswered.


The Fourth Estate


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