There is a shadow of potential financial disaster hovering around Ghana as THE PUBLISHER is informed that Cotecna, an attention-grabbing Swiss company that provides Testing Inspection and Certificate (TIC) services is at the final stages of discussions to start operations at Ghana’s ports with the supposed aim of helping seal leaks in government revenue.
The company has a certain reputation around the globe and has earned a barrage of fraud-related news stories and investigations in several of the countries it has operated.
Though Cotecna has denied wrong doings in all the instances it had been accused or even some of its workers investigated over fraud related allegations, the government of Ghana may have a herculean task convincing stakeholders and the public that there is a crucial necessity to offer the company a new contract at the country’s ports and revenue points.
The news that Cotecna is proposing and lobbying to start operations in Ghana, which should ordinarily be a heartwarming one, has rather raised eyebrows and ignited silent grumblings and murmurings among key revenue stakeholders who have told THE PUBLISHER that it would be superfluous to contract a new company in addition to the work being done by the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet)
While some speculate Cotecna is lobbying to position itself in a way that it would take over the operations of GCNet, others say Cotecna would rather be taking over some of the duties of West Blue while a third group suggest Cotecna would be teaming up with Nick Danso’s Ghana Link to create a platform akin to the existing Single Window system.
In 2004, the New York Times reported that: “a Swiss company that is being investigated on suspicion of fraud and abuses in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program paid the son of Secretary General Kofi Annan more than $50,000 for consulting at United Nations meetings and other projects in the year it won a lucrative oil-for-food contract, investigators said yesterday.
“Representatives of the company, Cotecna Inspection Services, which is based in Geneva, previously said that Kojo Annan, the secretary general’s son, had no involvement in any United Nations contracts.
“But billing records from Kojo Annan, 29, and other documents provided by Cotecna to House and Senate committees investigating the United Nations program show that in 1998, he traveled to United Nations meetings in New York and Durban, South Africa, to develop “contacts” and work on unspecified “specific projects.” In December 1998, Cotecna, which is privately held, won a $4.8 million United Nations contract to monitor goods shipped to Iraq.”
In another alarming incident THE DAILY STAR of Bangladesh reported in 2008 that the system for pre-shipment inspection (PSI) of imports had become riddled with corruption, and plagued by tax dodging and money laundering, depriving the country of huge amounts of revenue to an extent that the sheer scale of the abuse forced the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to cancel the license of PSI company Cotecna Inspection SA.
“It is not the first time Cotecna has run into problems with the NBR, which has already issued several warnings to the company and dealt out several crore taka worth of fines following probes into the Swiss group’s operations. Indeed the National Coordination Committee against Grievous Offences asked the Central Intelligence Cell of NBR to take legal action against Cotecna for its alleged illegal activities back in December last year.
“However, the stern action of today mocked NBR’s decision to award about 50 percent import areas to a relatively inexperienced company like Cotecna that has no offices in many of the main cities in countries of the blocks assigned to it– a major qualification for the PSI job.
“NBR turned to the PSI system against a backdrop of massive corruption and harassment by a significant section of customs people, but its major move failed to live up to expectation as irregularities started with awarding of first license to 3 companies, dividing countries of import in 3 blocks.”