Solomon Appiah, Member 6th Ghana Prisons Council
There are false accusations floating around in public spaces including at the vetting of the Minister for the Interior designate that purports that the Sixth Prisons Council chaired by Rev. Stephen Wengam, has sold prisons lands to a private developer. This is the type of misinformation bordering on the defamation of character that slowly destroys nations through the proliferation of lies — marring transitions.
First and foremost, the Sixth Council which is made up of members from many political parties HAS NOT sold any lands to anyone because it is not within its mandate to do so.
Setting the record straight, the matter in question has to do with a proposed relocation and development of modern prisons facilities and staff accommodation for Ministry for the Interior (MOI) and Ghana Prisons Service (GPS) under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The agreement precedes the Sixth Prisons Council and covers GPS’ offices, facilities and residential accommodation in Mamobi, Airport Residential Area and Cantonments. The agreement is between the GPS, its parent ministry and CASILDA Ltd — not the prisons Council. The Prisons Council only reviews agreements brought to it by the GPS directorate. It does not get involved with sales of properties.
HISTORY OF THE PPP
This project was initiated during the tenure of the Fifth Prison Council. The GPS is faced with acute overcrowding challenges where convicted persons are lumped together with remandees. It is also saddled with many dilapidated structures that cannot be used to adequately reform inmates. The management of the GPS at the time of the Fifth Council decided there was a need to expand existing facilities and to build modern facilities equipped with rehabilitation facilities that would alleviate the aforementioned challenges as well as positioning it to better perform its functions. But alas the Government of Ghana did not have funds available to replace the poor prison infrastructure, many of which date back to colonial and military junta eras.
A solution proffered by the GPS management, independently of its Council, was to trade in their land to a private developer who would in turn secure land elsewhere and build modern prison facilities for them. The requirement was that the developer would swap some prison lands with another land elsewhere upon which it would provide said facilities. So that the prisons were not cheated, the swap was supposed to be of equal value on both sides. The swap would not be permanent but it would revert after some time, according to the conditions of a lease agreement.
The following transpired before the Sixth Council was ever appointed. The parent ministry of the GPS advertised an open tender process. Multiple interested persons expressed their interest. The tender closed and an evaluation team/selection committee composed of the former Director-General of Prisons, Matilda Baffour-Awuah, the prisons desk officer at the Ministry for the Interior, Attorney General and Ministry of Finance’s representatives reviewed the tenders and they selected CASILDA Ltd as the winner.
Following the selection of CASILDA Ltd, Cabinet then gave its first approval for project concept and structure. The Central Tender Review Board was notified of the developer who was selected and they approved the tender results.
It was only after all the above that, the then Director-General of Prisons, Matilda Baffour-Awuah brought the winner of the tender to the Sixth Prisons Council to update the Council which had just taken office on what had already been done with respect to this Public Private Partnership Agreement. The developer shared his vision with the Council. The Council listened to the presentation and proceeded to ask questions to ascertain whether the PPP process outlined by the Government of Ghana had been followed. It also sought to ascertain whether what the developer was bringing on board was best value for proposed swap. When it was shown that the developer had met these requirements, the Sixth Prisons Council gave the project a nod and advised that the remaining segments of the PPP process be also completed. This included further cabinet approvals and other processes.
For the last time, the Sixth Prisons Council does not have a mandate to sell lands and has never sold any lands anywhere — neither did it initiate this particular agreement. Those who are purporting a false story, hiding behind the scenes, making false allegations should come out into the open and give proof that the Sixth Prisons Council has indeed sold government lands. Failing this, they should desist from subverting a Council which gave selflessly of itself to mother Ghana — going for many months without a monthly allowance but rather investing itself to lift up the image of the Service and to change the lot of officers and inmates. God bless our Homeland Ghana.
For more on the work of the Ghana Prisons Council, see the 2015/2016 Annual Report.