The question was direct. And the denial was categorical.
“Is it your company?”
“Then how do you know the company?”
“It’s my cousin,” said A.B. Adjei, the CEO of Public Procurement Authority (PPA).
Investigations by freelance investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni, has revealed that Talent Discovery Limited, a company incorporated in June 2017, has won a number of government contracts through restrictive tendering.
Manasseh Azure Awuni has also confirmed that the company was engaged in selling contracts. Undercover encounters with the General Manager of the Company, Thomas Amoah, revealed that the company was selling a ¢22.3 million road contract to K-Drah Enterprise, a fake company Manasseh used for the investigation.
This contract was awarded to B-Molie Limited, a company Mr Amoah said was a sister company of TDL.
The company also had for sale a Ministries of Works and Housing contract to construct a concrete drain in Santa Maria in Accra as well as a contract to build a one-story dormitory block in the Asante Akim North District.
After demanding and taking a registration fee of ¢5000 and deposit from Manasseh’s undercover agent, the General Manager of the TDL, who is also the one who signs the contracts on behalf of the company handed over three contracts, when K-Drah Enterprise promised to come on a particular Thursday and pay for one of the projects.
The Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have confirmed that the contracts being sold by Talent Discovery Limited are authentic contracts that have been awarded to the company. The company has had contracts with the Ghana Water Company (GWCL), Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GHPHA).
It also has contracts with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Works and Housing, and four contracts with the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives to construct dams under the government’s One Village One Dam Project. At the time of filing this report, Talent Discovery Limited has been shortlisted for restrictive tendering by the Bank of Ghana for the supply and installation of air purifiers. The company has also been shortlisted by the Roads and Highways Ministry for three road contracts and the evaluation is currently ongoing.
The PPA Board has confirmed that TDL was shortlisted by the Ministry of Inner Cities and Zongo Development for a contract in 2018. The board also confirmed TDL was brought to the PPA on 14 occasions for restrictive tendering approvals.
Such contracts are approved by the PPA, of which Adjenim Boateng Adjei (AB Adjei) is the CEO.
The General Manager of TDL said the company had links “at the top” so Manasseh Azure Awuni went digging into those behind the company. A search at the Registrar General’s Department revealed that the two directors of the company are Adjenim Adjei and Francis Arhin.
Of the two directors and shareholders of TDL, one of them pointed to the CEO of the PPA, Adjenim Boateng Adjei. The unique spellings of his “Adjenim” and Adjei are the same as those contained in the registration document.
But his official name, as found in documents he signs, is not Adjenim Adjei. He is Adjenim Boateng Adjei, but he uses AB Adjei in official documents, including approval letters at the PPA.
But there are more clues. Two of the companies of the TDL Group, Frosty Ice Natural Mineral Water and ABM Logistics Ghana Limited have two shareholders and directors namely Mercy Adjei and Adjenim Adjei. The Tax Identification Number (TIN) of the Adjenim Adjei used to register the Talent Discovery Group is the same Tax Identification Number used by the Adjenim Adjei in the companies he jointly owns with Mercy Adjei.
The address of Frosty Ice, a member of the TDL Group, is a street in Airport Hills, and that is where the PPA boss, Adjenim Boateng Adjei lives. My investigation also revealed that the wife of the PPA CEO is called Mercy Adjei, so it was highly probable that the Adjenim Adjei of the TDL Group was the same as the Adjenim Boateng Adjei of the Public Procurement Authority.
Further investigation revealed more clues that suggested that the head of the public procurement authority was the same person who owned the company engaged in selling government contracts. In March 2018, there was a funeral in Aburi and the three shareholders in the TDL Group of Companies and the CEO of the Public Procurement Authority all featured in the funeral invitation.
The invitation named AB Adjei CEO of the Public Procurement Authority as a brother of the deceased. It also named Francis Arhin (CEO of Talent Discovery) and Mrs Mercy Adjei as in-laws of the deceased. With this and other dossiers of evidence, Manasseh Azure Awuni confronted Adjenim Boateng Adjei with the inevitable question:
“Mr AB Adjei, do you know about the company called Talent Discovery Limited?”
When Manasseh asked AB Adjei to name his cousin who he said owned the company, he said he would not disclose it.
He later said his brother-in-law owned it when Manasseh pushed further.
“What’s his name?” Manasseh asked.
“I won’t disclose it,” AB Adjei said.
“He’s Francis Arhin,” said Manasseh.
“Yes” AB Adjei agreed.
Manasseh then pointed out to AB Adjei that his name was on the registration of the company, as a majority shareholder.
“I’m not a majority shareholder. I’m a director,” he said.
“A director and 60% shareholding,” Manasseh pointed out.
“It’s not 60%. It’s 50/50,” AB Adjei said.
“Who is the second shareholder?” Manasseh quizzed.
“We are two, two of us.”
“So you own the company?”
“I own shares in it,” AB Adjei said.
From a cousin to a brother-in-law the PPA boss admitted he was a shareholder and director of TDL.
AB Adjei said though Talent Discovery Limited had been brought to the PPA one many occasions for approval he was not in conflict of interest. Because he disclosed to the board. He promised to give board minutes in which the disclosure was captured.
Manasseh wrote to AB Adjei for the board minutes he promised to give me the week after my interview with him. In a response signed by the Board Secretary and Legal Director of the PPA, the PPA declined to give the board minutes saying such documents are confidential. The PPA board, however, said AB Adjei disclosed his interest in Talent Discovery Limited in when the company was shortlisted for a contract by Ministry of Inner Cities and Zongo Development. The Board also said AB Adjei later recused himself from discussions on 14 other occasions when Talent Discovery Limited was shortlisted for government contracts.
Disclosure to the board may, however, not cure the PPA CEO of conflict of interest because of his own explanation of the process. When requests are made to the PPA, the PPA CEO and his team conduct due diligence on the companies and contracts before recommending to the committee of the board to either approve or reject.
So why does TDL sell contracts instead of executing them? Thomas Amoah said TDL had contract to clear goods for Cocobod and Ghana Water Company Limited. These contracts required pre-financing so the proceeds from selling the contracts were used to execute those contracts.
Checks with the Ghana Water Company and Cocobod revealed that, indeed, TDL is doing business with them as a clearing agent.
After the undercover engagement with the General Manager of Talent Discovery Limited, Manasseh wrote to the company for a response indicating the content of the secret filming. Lawyers of the company responded on behalf of the company denies any wrongdoing. The lawyers said the company did not sanction the action of the General Manager and that he acted on his own.
They said disciplinary measures had already been initiated against him, beginning with a query and a suspension while an investigation into his conduct continues. In a response to the query, which lawyers of the company attached to the company’s response to us, the General Manager said he acted on his own and did not have the permission of his employer. He also stated in the response that he demanded and received ¢15,000 from my undercover agent and issued receipt using the letterhead of the company. He said:
“So I asked him if he is indeed serious for us to proceed he should pay a commitment fee of ¢15,000 and so he paid ¢5000 on one occasion. On another occasion, he came to the office to see me for a copy of the contract and made another payment of ¢10,000.”
Even though the company said it did not sanction the General Manager’s conduct, he did not appear to hide the trade-in contracts. He conferred with the secretary a number of times on the sale and payment of deposits. He is also the one whose signatures are on the contracts, which the company signed with the ministries departments and agencies, the contracts he was selling.
Apart from the issue of conflict of interest, participation in government contracts by companies owned by PPA officials can create unfair competition even if they declare their interest. This is because when government entities send shortlisted companies to the PPA for Restrictive tendering approval, they often include the contract sum, which is unknown to the companies shortlisted.
A PPA official whose company is involved in the bidding processes can give information to enhance its tender and this could raise suspicion, especially when the bidding is so close to the amount budged by the awarding entity. For instance, in the Santa Maria project, the Works and Housing Ministry earmarked ¢2 million for the project. Talent Discovery Limited won the bid with ¢1,999,600.45, almost as exactly as the amount.
The lawyers for TDL say he was a director and promoter of the company but has since resigned. The date of his resignation has not been given, but this company was formed after he was appointed CEO of the PPA in 2017. In April 2018, records at the Registrar General indicated he was still a shareholder and director. When Manasseh interviewed him this month, he said he was a director and shareholder of the company.
Adjenim Boateng Adjei is one of the foremost procurement personalities in Ghana. When PPA was set up in 2005, he was the first CEO. He was reappointed in 2017 and entrusted with the authority of the state to lead the PPA curb procurement irregularities such as the sale of contracts and other procurement frauds. Almost all the contracts Talent Discovery Limited won were through restrictive tendering. This means when TDL is involved in such contracts, the man the majority shareholder and director of the company is the same man who supervises due diligence on the company. He may be fair, but when a referee is also a player, his fairness may not be appreciated by the other players.