Joy Newsâ€™s investigations have uncovered how the Ghana Bauxite Company (GBC) evaded the payment of penalty for overloading haulage trucks to the tune of more than 90 million dollars over a period of six years.
This was done in connivance with some officials of the Ghana Highways Authority (GHA) who operate the weigh-bridges. After a year-long investigation, Joy Newsâ€™ Kwetey Nartey found that the state lost 22 million dollars in 2017 year alone.
Documents obtained by Joy News reveal the GBC which is run by Chinese corporations through Bosai Minerals Groups in Western Region avoided paying over 8.2 million dollars in 2012 for overloading haulage trucks with bauxite.
The penalty evasion
In 2013, the records show the penalty fine was 10.3 million dollars, 2014 was 12.9 million dollars, while the figure for 2015 was 16.1 million dollars. In 2016, the penalty was 20.2 million dollars.
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Last year, the Ghana Bauxite Company evaded penalty charges of 22 million dollars bringing the sum total to over 90 million dollars. A top official of the company who pleaded anonymity claimed overloading of haulage trucks is normal.
â€œOverloading of bauxite at Awaso is a ritual which has been going on for a very long time. Yes, you could say most of the contractors are not happy with it but, because it is coming from the top, they have no choice than to complyâ€¦,â€ the official said.
The GHAâ€™s acceptable weight for haulage trucks is 60 tonnes. Any weight beyond this limit attracts charges. For example, anything beyond 8.5 tonnes extra attract 5,000 cedis. Waybills of vehicles that convey bauxite for the company sighted by Joy News reveal, trucks carry 90 tonnes of bauxite instead of 60 tonnes.
Asked how the bauxite company is able to overload without being questioned, the senior staff said they have insiders who alert them when highway authority sends mobile vans to check the practice on the road.
â€œâ€¦because there is an insider. And from the Ghana Highways Authority, we get alerts, every journey, anytime they come on the road, they alert you guys that they [trucks] are comingâ€¦So there are indications where the haulers have been told that â€˜this time around we are going to load six buckets that should be normal [load] so those six buckets would go. So for the day or the period that they are going to be around you will see six, seven, eight or less than 10 trucks as compared to the normal operation period of letâ€™s say 80 to 100 trucks a day, so they would be using like 10 trucks just to deceive the publicâ€.
To verify these claims, the reporter pitched camp near the Agona Nkwanta weighing bridge in May 2017 and counted at least 87 trucks using the stretch between midnight and 3:00a.m. But only 15 passed through the weighing bridge.
Those that used it were flagged to move on without being checked by highway officials.
According to the Ghana Highways, it is an offence not to pass through the weighbridge station and that attracts a penalty of 273 cedis. However, none of the 72 trucks trucks paid the amount.
According to the 2014 Ghana Extractive Industries Index report, the Bauxite Companyâ€™s earnings increased by 16 percent from 28.5 million dollars in 2012 to 32.9 million dollars in 2013, due to an increase in shipment from 752,771 tonnes in 2012 to 826, 994 tonnes in 2013.
However, the company failed to pay corporate tax in 2012 and 2013.
Counting the cost
In February 2018, the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, at a ceremony in Accra questioned why a bauxite company in the country that has been mining for over five years has not declared any profit.
Officials of the Ghana Bauxite Company have declined to comment on the matter. General Manager of the company, Fang Jingkun dropped the call anytime he was contacted by the investigative team.
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And that was our last conversation.
Axle Load Manager at the Ghana Highways Authority Nicholas Brown tells Joy News their checks reveal the Ghana Bauxite Company haulage trucks have been overloading. The practise has compelled them to terminate the contract of the private operator of the Bogoso Weighbridge contactor.
But, if the over 90 million dollars of penalty evaded by the Ghana Bauxite Company is anything to go by, what it means in relative terms is that, the money can provide an 80-kilometre two lane paved road, 200 six-unit classroom blocks, 100 CHPS compounds in rural communities, 578 boreholes in areas with no pipe borne water and there will still be about 10 million dollars more remaining.