Who built the Keta Sea Defence wall? NAPO’s false, misleading claims

On Friday, December 3, 2021, social media in Ghana was flooded with a video of the Energy Minister, Dr Mattew Opoku Prempeh’s appearance on Accra-based Asempa FM’s political show Eko si sen.  

In the said video, Dr Prempeh, who is also the Member of Parliament for Manhyia South, questioned the minority side in parliament’s insistence that the 2022 budget should address the tidal waves disaster in Keta.

He threatened to lead a demonstration in Kumasi if the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, dared bend to the request of the Minority, particularly when the Rawlings administration had misapplied a loan it contracted for the Keta Sea Defence Project.

The video, which has gone viral has generated a lot of controversy on social media, with a section of the public condemning the former Education as being insensitive to the plight of the people of Keta.

The minister’s misgivings came on the back of the minority’s displeasure with the fact that the 2022 budget presented to Parliament failed to capture mitigation measures for residents of some communities in the Anloga District, Keta and Ketu South municipalities. They had endured a distressful weekend from November 5-7 when tidal waves battered their settlements, rendering thousands homeless.

The Fourth Estate has verified the claims Dr Prempeh made and presents the fact below.

Claim 1:

“During the eight years of NDC [2009-2017], I didn’t see Keta Defence project anywhere.”

Verdict: Completely false.

During the Mills-Mahama administration, two sea defence projects were executed in the Volta Region to protect coastal communities against the vagaries of the ocean. One of them was the Atorkor-Dzita-Anyanui Sea Defence Project.

According to parliamentary hansard of March 5, 2013, the then Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, told the House that the second phase of the Atorkor-Dzita-Anyanui Sea Defence Project was five percent away from completion.

“Mr Speaker, under the phase II of the Atorkor-Dzita-Anyanui Emergency Sea Defence Works, the Groyne System being constructed to protect the 1.5 kilometres stretch of the coast is about 95 per cent complete.”

Until the Anloga District was carved out of the Keta municipality in 2019, Atorkor, Dzita and Anyanui were communities in the Keta municipality.

This is supported by media reports that indicate that the construction of the project started in June 2011 to stop tidal waves from the recurrent destruction in the beneficiary communities.

Amandi Holding, an Israeli construction firm, started construction work in October 2010 and it was expected to be completed by December 2011. It was, however, completed in October 2014.

Credit: Twitter

It is, therefore, not true that during the eight years of the NDC there was no work on a  sea defence project in Keta.

Claim 2:

“Between 1998 and 2000, NDC went for money for the sea defence at Keta.  They used the money for something else. When the NDC was in power, Keta was still experiencing tidal waves. They went for a loan in the name of that project but they didn’t do it.  President Kufuor had to contract another loan for it, but they still voted against him.” 

Verdict: Misleading

Coastal erosion has been causing extensive damage to Keta and its environs as far back as 1929. Fishing and farming communities crumbled as advancing tidal waves fueled by climate change consumed homes, schools and the most popular colonial legacy on the shores of Keta -Fort Prinzenstein.

By the 1990s, the Rawlings administration decided to tame the sea with a wall.

The first reported loan for the sea defence was carried in the Daily Graphic publication of June 19, 1996. The Rawlings administration had contracted a $42-million facility from the Exim Bank of the USA for the project.

On July 3, 1997, the Daily Graphic reported that feasibility studies on the Keta Sea Defence Wall had been completed and construction was to start in August of that year. The studies undertaken by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, an American construction firm, centred on coastal erosion, flooding of the lagoon and the protection of shores.

Even though the state-owned newspaper had reported that construction work was to start in August that year, the project did not start on that date.

On November 3, 1997, the Daily Graphic reported that all was set with Keta Sea Defence Project with the signing of agreement between the government of Ghana and an American contractor, Great Lakes and Dock Company, which also did the feasibility studies. The exact date for beginning of the construction work was not announced.

However, the Daily Graphic again published on July 8, 1999 that construction work was to start in September that year, following the signing of an agreement between the governments of Ghana and the United States of America. As part of the terms, the US government was to extend a concessional credit of $93.8 million through the Export Funding Corporation (EFCO) and the Exim Bank.

The parties agreed on a five-year moratorium on interest payment, but Ghana was obligated to honour the loan over a 10-year period, beginning from September 2004. According to the report, the loan agreement came to fruition through the personal efforts of President J.J Rawlings of Ghana and President Bill Clinton of the USA.

The actual construction work at the site started on June 1, 2000, the Daily Graphic reported on May 31, 2001. By this period, preparatory works—the mobilization of human resources, the assemblage of large consignment of equipment and machinery at the site at Havedzi and Metsrikasa quarry sites—had been completed. According to the May 31, report, Great Lakes and Dock Company had commenced work on September 15, 1999.

From the various reports, the cost had ballooned from $42 million in 1996 to over $90 million because the scope of work had increased with the resettlement of affected communities added to the cost.

Keta Sea Defense - Great Lakes Dredge and Dock
Keta Sea Defence Wall during its construction Credit: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) lost the 2000 elections to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) led by J.A Kufuor. In the Kufuor administration’s first budget read on March 9, 2001, and published in the Daily Graphic of March 10, 2001, the then Minister of Finance, Yaw Osafo-Maafo said, “Work on the Keta Sea Defence has progressed.”

President Kufuor visited the project site on January, 6, 2002 during a three-day tour of the Volta Region. Briefing the then President, the Project Manager of the Keta Sea Defence Wall, Torgbui Kporku III, said 40% of the work had been completed and that the project was on schedule with the expected date of completion penciled for February 3, 2004.

He, however, said the greatest challenge the project faced was paying the contractor $ 3million, which was what remained of Ghana’s $12 million contribution as counterpart funding. The cost of the project had now been pegged at $84 million.

Responding to concerns during a parliamentary debate to approve the financial estimates of the ministry of Works and Housing on March 26, 2001, the Minister of Water and Housing, Kwamena Bartels, explained that the counterpart fund for the Project depreciated by half its value in 2000 due to the depreciation of the cedi but the project was on course.

A World Bank document titled “West African Coastal Area Management Programme,” corroborated the chronology of events. It stated that following feasibility studies which commenced in 1997 as part of efforts to adapt to the severe erosion and to protect the built-up environment in particular, an US$85 million Keta Sea Defence Project (KSDP) was undertaken between 1999 and 2004.

While the Exim Bank of the United States of America funded the project, the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of the United States of America executed the project as the contractor with Baird & Associates, and Messrs Conterra Limited providing design and consultancy services respectively.

Indeed, part of the original funds meant for the project was reportedly mismanaged by Pentrexx Ghana, a local dredging company. The company was awarded the contract in April 1995. Former President J.J. Rawlings cut sod for the commencement of work in November, 1996.

But the then Ranking member of the Work and Housing Committee, Kwamena Bartels, raised red flags on a number of improprieties concerning the project.

According to The Independent publication of February 24, 1998, as part of the agreement, “all equipment bought for the project by the Ministry of Works and Housing should be marked ‘Keta Sea Defence Project’, but the bulldozers and articulator tipper trucks have not been so marked. The  Independent investigations also reveal that even the Architectural Engineering and Services Limited (AESL), who prepared the payment certificates of Pentrexx Ghana Limited for the demolition works at Keta, allegedly inflated the rates for the work done by the company.

“Masonry blocks and ordinary sand concrete blocks were referred to as ‘bulldozers’ and consequently attracted higher rates than the rates for sand. Further, although 49 partly ruined houses were demolished, Pentrexx Ghana Limited were paid for demolishing 99 houses. As at today the site for the Keta project is situated on the Spintex Road in Accra,” The Independent reported.

In 1998, the government set up a committee to investigate allegations of misappropriation of funds. The committee recommended that Pentrexx Ghana Ltd and Bascom Ltd—two companies at the centre of the scandal—should refund ¢3.76 billion (GHc376,000) to the public purse.

According to the government white paper issued on the committee’s report, although no act of impropriety was found against the then Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Fosu, he ought to take responsibility for the lapses, Ghanaweb reported on February 24, 1998.

From the foregoing, the Minister of Energy, Dr Mattew Opoku Prempeh misled the public when he claimed that the loan the Rawlings administration acquired for the project between 1998 and 2000 was misapplied and that it had to take the Kufuor administration to acquire a new loan for the project.

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