The criteria used in the selection of beneficiaries for the Takoradi based Enterprise Development Center (EDC) has come under question following allegations of extortion and political manipulations leveled against the Managers of the Center by some potential beneficiaries.
But painstaking investigations by Spy News Agency over a period of four weeks has proved the contrary. There are however genuine concerns by some SMEs regarding the operations of the Center and management says it is working at addressing them soon.
The Center is part of the Ghana government’s initiative to provide support for Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) to enable them take advantage of business opportunities in the Oil and Gas sector of the country’s economy.
It involves the provision of a wide range of support services such as business training, capacity building programmes, advisory services, access to market and information among others. It is also to act as a focal point for coordination between SMEs and oil and gas companies, their contractors and sub-contractors.
The EDC’s role as per documents establishing it is to be pivotal in the identification and development of small businesses for their full participation in the oil and gas sector.
By procedure, SMEs are to formally register with the Center stating the goods and services they provide, their experience and qualification among others. The Center then reviews the requirements to identify the opportunities.
The Center together with the SME then review relevant standards required for inclusion in the Center’s programme as well as in the oil companies’ and contractors’ procurement processes. The result is then communicated to the oil companies and contractors who are willing to include such SMEs in their procurement processes.
It however appears most SMEs in the country do not even know of the existence of the Center or the services it provides nor do they have an idea of how to take advantage of the Center’s services. The few that are aware also have different perceptions. While some think their services are for a certain class of people others say they chose to stay away because of the assumption that the Center’s services might be too expensive to afford.
A news report filed by one Emmanuel Ohene-Gyan of Takoradi based Skyy Power FM in the first quarter of this year suggested that there are political manipulations in deciding who actually gets chosen for training programmes and linked it to oil companies. The report cited apathy among SMES.
Mr. Michael Appiah
Mr. Michael Appiah
Miss Yvonne Asa is a Manager of Asa Eateries in Takoradi. Among the company’s vision is to be able to provide catering services to the oil companies based in Takoradi. To this effect, she has extensively invested in the company to ensure that this happens. She told Spy News Agency in an interview that though she has heard of the existence of the Center, she doesn’t have the funds to hire its services.
“I have heard of the existence of such a place but I don’t have the money. I hear you have to tip a lot of people before they connect you to some big companies, me I don’t have that kind of money o,” she stated.
Regina Anima is a proprietor of Mighty Fashions, an Apparel and Fashion designer also based in Takoradi. She wishes to grab a contract with any oil and gas company so she can be responsible for sewing their garments.
“I have heard of the center but my friends told me if I don’t know somebody who knows somebody close to a politician I can’t enjoy their products. So am minding my business here. Everything is politicized in this country,” she lamented bitterly.
There were similar complaints from some other SMEs to the effect that even the location of the Center is not accessible to them, claiming you would have to walk a long distance to get to their place or spend that much on transportation if you don’t have your own car.
But Spy news Agency’s analysis of the concerns raised indicates that they were borne out of the lack of deep knowledge of the operations of the Center. This is also due to poor publicity for the center’s activities. Even though sources within the center has hinted that they have been carrying out regular sensitization programmes across the country, it is evident that more needs to be done by the center to erase the erroneous views of the public about them.
Ghana Oil and Gas Services Providers Association (GOGSPA) is an advocacy, lobbying, consultancy, compliance and monitoring group in Ghana; well noted in the offshore oil and gas industry. Among its vision is to promote the interests and integrity of oil and gas service providers in Ghana, to ensure that they carry out their activities to the highest professional standards achievable.
The Executive Director of GOGSPA, Mr. Nuetey Adzeman; a serious critic of the industry told Spy News Agency in an interview that his outfit is satisfied with the operations of the Center and urged support for it to continue on its mandate of building the capacity of SMEs in the country for the oil and gas industry.
According to him “We at GOGSPA have severally recommended SMEs to the EDC for training. The Center is doing very well and we are satisfied…we have not heard any such complaints as political interference or extortion of money from anybody. As far as we are concerned the services of the Center are entirely free to all those who duly qualify.”
A past beneficiary of the services of the Center shared his experience with Spy News Agency. Mr. Micheal Appiah is the Operations Director at Stresster Engineering and Construction Limited (SEC) based at Takoradi. He said he first heard of the Center through a friend, later he heard of their upcoming sensitization programme so he enrolled by going to their office to fill a form. “They look at how prepared you are and categorize you,” he stated. He was 2014-07-30 15.52.19given a call after about a month and that was the beginning of his experience.
According to him, after the seven month training, he and his team now know a lot about the demands of the oil industry and their specifications. They now have links to about ten oil companies and are exposed to job opportunities in the industry. “We also have access to the EDC’s offices at any time for technical assistance. In all this we didn’t pay a pesewa apart from our T&T to the venue of the training,” he stated.
SEC is into Mechanical and Structural Engineering, Civil and Building Construction, and Engineering supplies. Appiah said as a way of tracking their performance management of the Center often visits them to check on how they are doing and offer further advisory services among others.
In our quest to unravel the facts behind the rumors and allegations Spy News Agency went undercover. We paid a visit to the Center in Takoradi. It was not easy locating the address on 51 Ayire Street as even taxi drivers we came into contact with have no idea what we meant by Enterprise Development Center. The directions given us when we called the Center’s hotline was still not clear but we finally managed to get there all the same in the name of Artcraft Media Consult (AMC).
We met a neat and well-kept air-conditioned office and a nice receptionist beaming with smiles. We feigned interest and were taken through the processes in becoming a beneficiary. These include filling of a comprehensive registration form with details of the company. We were told that a new training programme has been scheduled for the last quarter of the year and that we shall be contacted when to take part if we meet the criteria for selection.
We pressed further to know how much we should pay to enjoy the training and to get linked to oil companies but the instructions of Eyram, the Front Office Executive was strict. “Our Services are absolutely free. We don’t charge for training or to get linked to any company. If you meet the criteria you will be considered, if not we would tell you what else you have to do,” she stated.
In an unofficial conversation she admitted that though they are doing their best in terms of publicity, more needs to be done to inform SMEs about the Center’s services. On the difficulties in locating the location of the Center she said “it is really not about the location but the Ghanaian attitude of not reading sign posts or addresses correctly”.
When contacted, a regional executive of the New Patriotic Party who doesn’t want his name mentioned, said no individual or organization has contacted him for any assistance but if they do he will look at the merits and demerits of their case. He was not sure he has the influence to put anybody through even if they don’t have the requisite qualifications.
As part of our undercover investigations we posed as a party loyalist and contacted Mr. D.D. Crobina, the Western Regional secretary of the National Democratic Congress for assistance so we can benefit from the EDC’s services but it proved futile. Though he promised to assist, we were not successful in our subsequent attempts to reach him as he gave several excuses for not being able to meet with us.
Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson || Spy News Agency
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