Court strikes out Jospong’s suit against Manasseh Azure Awuni, adjourns another indefinitely

Manasseh Azure Awuni and Joseph Siaw Agyepong

An Accra High Court has struck out a suit filed by the Chairman of the Jospong Group of Companies, Joseph Siaw Agyepong, against Joy News Investigative Journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni. The court awarded a cost of 4000 cedis against Joseph Siaw Agyepong.

On August 2, 2017, Jospeh Siaw Agyepong, filed a suit seeking to restrain Manasseh Azure Awuni from obtaining information from ministries and state agencies on contracts involving his companies. The Joy News team, led by Manasseh, was seeking to uncover malfeasance in multiple sanitation contracts signed between the Jospong Group and some sate agencies. Mr. Siaw Agyepong argued that he had sued Manasseh for defamation and that obtaining further information would prejudices the pending case.

When Manasseh’s lawyers filed a defence, Jospeh Siaw Agyepong filed a notice to discontinue the case. However, he later told the court to hold on because he might continue the case. Mr. Agyepong’s lawyers asked for adjournment but failed to show up in court after several adjournments. This compelled the court to strike out the case and award a cost of 4000 cedis against Joseph Siaw Agyepong.

The court also adjourned the substantive defamation suit he filed against Manasseh indefinitely. This is because since Manasseh filed his defence in March last 2017, Joseph Siaw Agyepong and his lawyers have failed to move for the continuation of the case.

Joseph Siaw Agyepong
Joseph Siaw Agyepong seeking adjournment of the case

Joseph Siaw Agyepong Vs. Manasseh Azure Awuni

In 2013 Manasseh Azure Awuni’s groundbreaking investigation into massive corruption in the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) led to the cancellation of all contracts under the programme. It also led to reforms, which culminated in the passage of the Youth Employment Agency Law.

The main companies that were indicted in the GYEEDA scandal were those from the Jospong Group of Companies owned by Joseph Siaw Agyepong and the AGAMS Group owned by Roland Agambire. The Jospong Group had companies such as Zoomlion Ghana Limited, Better Ghana Management Services Limited and Youth Enterprise Skills Development. Even though the programmes were cancelled Zoomlion’s contract, which had ended, was not touched and payments were still made to it.

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In 2013 the World Bank banned Zoomlion and its affiliate companies from bidding for the Bank’s contracts because Zoomlion “paid bribes to facilitate contract execution and processing of invoices” in Liberia.

Not impressed by actions taken by the John Mahama government against Zoomlion and the Jospong Group, Manasseh published on facebook a comment in protest of what had happened and to caution the Akufo-Addo administration against repeating such mistakes. The following is the full comment:

“Joseph Siaw Agyapong is the Chairman of the Jospong Group of Companies and CEO of Zoomlion. In the NDC government over the last four years, some of the stupidest contracts that were signed with public money were signed with some of his companies — Zoomlion, Subah, Better Ghana Management Services Limited, YESDEC etc. In 2013, the World Bank blacklisted Zoomlion for two years because Zoomlion “paid bribes to facilitate contract execution and processing of invoices” in Liberia. But our government took no action despite worse revelations about Zoomlion back home.

“Less than three weeks to the 2016 election, the NPP held a press conference over some questionable 448 million the government was planning to pay Zoomlion’s on its contract with GYEEDA, which I exposed in 2013, but on which the government did not act. A week to the election, President Mahama was at a Zoomlion programme and said some people wanted him and President Mills to destroy Mr. Agyepong’s business because the NPP had propped him up, which he and the late President refused. He described Agyepong as an illustrious business man and showered praises on the company.

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“The Subah and GYEEDA scandals and the stupid contracts signed with Mr. Agyepong’s companies were partly why President Mahama was disgraced in the election.

“But while President Mahama was mourning, Mr. Agyepong was seen at the NPP Thanksgiving Service. On Monday, he was at a party in the private residence of an NPP MP who is rumoured to be heading to a ministry Mr. Agyepong’s company deals with. He is weaving his way into the NPP.

“The NPP must take note that stupid contracts such as the Zoomlion-GYEEDA contract must end. For inexplicable reasons, Zoomlion seems untouchable despite adverse findings against it by government’s own committee of enquiry. These are part of the reasons President Mahama was humiliated last month. But beyond electoral fortunes, the NPP and its ministers and government appointees must know that we have reached a stage in our lives that we cannot tolerate business as usual. We cannot change and remain the same.

“And they should remember that the day of reckoning is closer than they may think. The voices of conscience in our country may be in the minority but because truth and integrity are their weapons of warfare, no evil shall prevail against them and their struggle. The righteous Judge of Israel is alive. And He will surely have the final say!”

In a letter dated January 13, 2017, Joseph Siaw Agyepong, through his lawyers, wrote to Manasseh asking him to delete comment and apologise within 7 days or face legal action. The lawyer said the comment was understood to mean that Joseph Siaw Agyepong, who is a respected elder of the Church of Pentecost “is a corrupt, dishonest and an opportunistic person who seeks to use corrupt means to sign stupid contracts with the government.”

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Manasseh stood by his post and Jospong went ahead and sued for defamation.

The court has adjourned the case indefinitely because since Manasseh filed his defence in March 2017, Joseph Siaw Agyepong, has not made any attempt to continue the case.

Based on the said suit, however, ministries, departments and state agencies declined to cooperate with Manasseh and The Multimedia Group in the “Robbing the Assemblies” investigations last year. This was despite a letter from the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General, which said the defamation suit in court did not in any way affect the information the Multimedia Group was seeking, the ministries did not cooperate. Joseph Siaw Agyepong later sued to restrain Manasseh Azure Awuni from obtaining information. That case has now been struck out.

Samson Lardy Anyenini

Despite the refusal to cooperate, Joy News was able to reveal massive malfeasance in shady contracts awarded to the Jospong group by assemblies and the Local Government Ministry.

These include the needless waste bins contract which was found to have been inflated by 148 million cedis and the 98 million cedis fumigation contract. Joy News investigation revealed that all the 11 companies handpicked for this contract belonged to the Jospong Group, even though Zoomlion had already been paid to do the same work.

The Financial Forensics Unit of the CID has started a criminal investigation into these deals. The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice has also completed a corruption investigation against Zoomlion and is set to present to the findings to the Attorney-General for possible prosecution.

Letter from Attorney-General to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development on release of information to Joy News
The Ministry of Health was one of the state agencies that refused to cooperate with Joy News because of the Jospong suit. The others are the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the District Assemblies Common Fund Secretariat

 

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