International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), has revealed that, some foreign companies in Ghana execute government contracts without going through competitive bidding. This makes it possible for government agencies to award contracts to their favourite companies.
Amandi Holdings, one of the companies according to the Pandora papers, have benefited from government contracts in Ghana without going through competitive bidding.
The company is owned by three Israelis, namely; Refael Edry – who controls some of the companies in the group and others associated with it, and his two younger brothers – Eyal Nissim Adrei (63) and Moshe Edree (54) who is also a British citizen. These three brothers are well known by the Ghanaian authorities.
Amandi Holdings has been operating in Ghana in different sectors of the economy. These include: IT, construction and energy is an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Pandora papers also show that Amandi has obtained contracts relating to elections, construction of a railway, rail estate, airports and energy.
It further indicates that, the company gets tax exemptions from contracts in Ghana and it makes handsome profits and pays dividends to the senior Edry.
Amandi Holdings, a well-masked company according to a report by the Finance Committee of Parliament indicated that, Amandi was given a major energy contract in Ghana.
The, then, Minister of Energy for Ghana had even told the Finance Committee that Amandi Energy Ghana is a joint venture company owned by Amandi Group of Companies and Superlock Technology Limited (STL) of Israel, but the leaked Pandora papers state otherwise. The exposé shows that the Amandi Group and STL are all registered as offshore companies and have established that they are not registered in Israel.
The Beneficial Owner
In the leaked Pandora papers, the name of the senior Refael Edry, appears as the Beneficial Owner of most companies including Amandi Holdings, but his name doesn’t appear in the public document of project summary of the Amandi Energy project in Ghana.
“The person behind STL is an Israeli named Refael (Rafi) Edry (65). In a document from Alcogal, a company which provides services to offshore companies, he is listed as living in London. Edry owns STL through another company registered in the British Virgin Islands called Darden Technologies. Over the years, secondary shareholders in the parent company, Darden, have changed, but Edry continued to be the main shareholder, and in a document dated November 2018 he is mentioned as the sole shareholder,” the Pandora papers revealed.
Edry’s parent company, according to the Pandora papers, also controls a company named “Amandi Holding”.
Further, Pandora papers indicated that, Amandi Holdings and STL are subsidiaries of the holding company, Darden Technologies (which is held by Refael Edry).
During the election 2012 in Ghana, STL, an IT company played a huge role in the elections where election results were dispute with the Supreme Court settling the issue.
The, then opposition party, now the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) led by the current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, disputed the election results and claimed STL was involved in transmitting the results but the Electoral Commission of Ghana said it contracted STL to only manage its biometric verification systems.
Darden pays Edry dividends of $55 million
The Pandora papers obtained show that the companies are indeed making profits. From April 2017 to January 2018, Darden Technologies paid Edry dividends of $55 million.
“The value of the Company’s assets exceeds its liabilities and immediately after the distribution of dividends, the Company will be able to pay its debts as they fall due in the ordinary course of its business,” the document states.
Pandora papers quoted a spokesman for the three Israeli brothers who wrote in response to questions, “The facts and data presented in the article are full of errors and inaccuracies and are untruthful. In general, as a private company, we do not refer to our business activities publicly, but we would like to state that they are all conducted legally and in a transparent manner with all of our partners – in Africa and in Europe. For decades of extensive business activity, our work has been flawless. This has been and will be the case.”
The tax exemptions regime
A ghanabusinessnew.com report sighted by GhanaWeb states that, there have been continuous tax exemptions regimes in Ghana that generously to private companies to attract investments.
Dr Theophilus Acheampong, an Economist and Risk Analyst, believes the tax exemption regime in Ghana is open to abuse.
“These tax waivers are given to local and foreign companies as a means to encourage investment and foreign direct investment into the country – include things like VAT, customs and import duty exemptions. However, these are often abused including by not-for-profit organisations who clear goods under the auspices of being charitable organisations but end up selling these for-profit – i.e., commercial ventures,” he said.
Dr Acheampong noted, “Ministry of Finance data indicates that Ghana lost GH¢5 billion ($862 million or 1.3 per cent of GDP) in 2019 through exemptions, up from GH¢392 million in 2010.
“I strongly urge the House to pass this bill which has been pending before parliament since early 2019. The new law will augment the government’s domestic tax revenue mobilisation drive,” he added.
He recommended that “some of the claims can be made ex-post where companies must present qualifying paperwork that shows the actual taxes, they actually paid in order to be granted the exemptions. The ex-ante approach leaves too much room for abuse.”