A document has emerged which suggests how the then Vice-President John
Dramani Mahama allegedly dealt directly with manufacturers of the Brazil
aircraft manufacturer, Embraer Defence and Security.
The 26th April 2012 correspondence was addressed to the Director-Sales and Business Development, International Business Development of Embraer Defence and Security, Felipe Monteiro.
The Embraer issue is being rekindled in the wake of damning Airbus SE verdict in the United Kingdom, United States and France where separate investigations all concluded that “a high ranking elected Ghanaian government official” during the Mill/Mahama administration took around five million Euros in bribes to allow the aircraft manufacturer to sell planes to Ghana.
Many eyebrows were raised when the Embraer purchase issue hit the public space around 2011 and the then sitting President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, was reported to have called for a probe into the deal.
Vice-President Mahama was ‘excited’ about the support from the Embraer organization “in completing arrangements for the supply of the Embraer E190 SA aircraft to Ghana,” according to the letter.
However, he was disturbed from the tone of the correspondence about some developments regarding the order.
“Recent information and briefings from our Ambassador to Brazil has however highlighted some issues that are of major concern to the Embraer organization regarding the current order,” the letter said allegedly.
However, he noted that the issues in the correspondence were not communicated to Ghanaian officials.
While the issues have not been formally communicated to Ghanaian officials as the Vice-President noted in the correspondence, he assured the Brazilians that his government would make good its side of the deal.
It would appear that the heated public debate pushed by the then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the public about suspected impropriety in the Embraer deal at the time had gotten to the ears of the Brazilian manufacturers and a subsequent apprehension that the Ghanaian government could renege on their commitment.
It was amply indicated in the correspondence that “I find it necessary to assure you of my government’s commitment to complete negotiations for the aircraft.”
The Vice-President requested a meeting with any of the manufacturer’s representatives “in my office in Ghana to urgently address these issues and any outstanding matters that may exist regarding this order and to discuss modalities for the supply of 4 (four) Super Tucanos from Embraer to be used for the training of our air force personnel.”
The Vice-President’s direct communication with a private company the way the former President did exposed him to all manner of temptations.
The fear expressed by many Ghanaians at the time was because of the unusual action of the former President as leader of the team to purchase the Embraer for the military.
It looked unusual for a Vice-President to be dealing directly with a private firm in matters of procurement.
Some experts have said it is against best practices for a President or the Vice-President to deal directly with manufacturers of such expensive items like aircraft.
Prof. Mills’s Health
At a time when the late President was indisposed most transactions and the running of government was undertaken by the Vice-President.
In July 2011, it was decided by the Mills/Mahama government to purchase an Embraer 190 executive jet for the Ghana Air Force. The aircraft was intended to perform the role of “Strategic Airlift Aircraft”.
The arrangement was shrouded in myriads of challenges, with some bordering on suspicions of impropriety.
While Brazilian sources attributed the failure to what they described as corporate issues most Ghanaians pointed at controversies over the pricing of the aircraft.
With a complement of so-called accessories, Ghana, with the Vice-President leading the negotiation charge, was said to have agreed to pay $55 million for a used jet. The Brazilian manufacturer quoted between $28.5 million and $40 million for brand new.
Vice-President Mahama had announced that government was buying the Embraer 190 at $ $55,264,000; there was also a request for the option of configurations to convert the luxury jet into a military aircraft, bringing the total amount to $88 million.
The conversion of the luxury into a military one included an extra fuel tank costing $8 million; air staircase costing $1 million and in-flight entertainment of $1.4 million.
There was a public outcry over what opposition elements at the time described as profligacy on the part of government.
Had the deal gone through, Ghana would have been the only country in its class to acquire a commercial jet and spend an extra $1 million to enhance it to first class executive status and simultaneously style it as a troop carrier.
Last week, the Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said on radio that he was not surprised Mr. Mahama is involved in scandals involving the purchase of aircraft.
He said his checks in Brazil attributed the collapse of the deal to Ghana’s failure to honour its part of the Embraer bargain.
“The Embraer 190 was not delivered because the manufacturers claimed government defaulted in payment,” he alleged.
He said the then NDC government decided to build a hanger for the aircraft at $17 million, knowing fully well the plane would never come.
“We raised issues as Minority in Parliament but the Speaker did not allow those in charge to answer and now see where we are,” he lamented.
In 2011, Martin Amidu, the then Attorney-General and currently Special Prosecutor, alleged that President Mills set up an investigation into the procurement of Embraer aircraft from Brazil, a deal led and negotiated by the then Vice-President Mahama in 2010.
At the time, the manufacturer’s quoted prices for an Embraer 190 jet ranged between $28 million and $40 million for one with enhanced accessories but when then Mahama-led team negotiated it was to be sold to Ghana at the flat rate of $55.26 million, which was to be enhanced to a total cost of $88 million to the taxpayer.
The deal included fitting an extra fuel tank at a cost of $8 million; air staircase at $1 million and an in-flight entertainment cost of $1.4 million.
Mr. Amidu had said at the time as Citizen Vigilante that “a Committee to Investigate the Processes of the Acquisition of Five Aircraft (5) including Embraer 190 Aircraft and hanger for the Ghana Armed Forces consisting of Mr. William Aboah, Mr. George Amoah, and Brig. Gen. Allotey (Rtd) former Judge Advocate-General was put together.”
He even went ahead to explain the terms of reference for the committee as “(i) to investigate the processes adopted in selecting, negotiating, and agreeing on the acquisition of the aircraft; (ii) to investigate the competitive advantage, prices of the aircraft and the level of economic and financial due diligence conducted by relevant agencies in the process of acquisition of the aircraft; and (iii) to investigate any other matter that in the opinion of the Committee is reasonably related to the foregoing terms of reference.”