Details have started emerging about how former President John Mahama and erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration diverted a whopping amount of $6 million out of a loan to construct hospitals to fund its 2016 electioneering campaign.
Joy Fm, which publicized the scandal yesterday, said the research was a sub-contract under the $175 million project awarded to British infrastructure company NMS for the construction of seven district hospitals and an integrated Information Technology (IT) system.
The $6 million cash for the survey was not disclosed during the parliamentary approval of the loan, raising questions about its propriety.
According to the report, the research was conducted by UK-based SCL Social, the mother company of Cambridge Analytica and that it was paid $6 million to undertake a nationwide survey to provide data for the proper planning of the healthcare needs of Ghana.
The contract consisted of two discrete political and public health elements- the political element involved the testing the attitude and perceptions of the population towards contemporary issues faced in Ghana and public confidence in the capacity and competence of the then NDC administration to implement timely solutions.
It was also to ascertain the level of satisfaction with the performance of the NDC at district, regional and national levels and how that could translate into future electoral success.
Interestingly, the NDC’s Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, a former deputy minister of health, was made the head of the Project Steering Committee in an agreement which was signed between the government of Ghana and NMS.
He reportedly admitted knowing SCL Social and confirmed that crucial campaign intelligence was gathered through a research.
“We did a 32,000 housing survey in all the 10 regions of this country. It then defined attitudinal behaviours and desire of the people of Ghana,” he was quoted as saying.
“The SCL Social team, headed by Ceris Bailes, delivered a high-quality product that was adapted to the specific cultural context of Ghana.”
“The research undertaken not only responded to our needs but also highlighted a number of issues that were initially not within the scope of the research.”
Mr Mettle-Nunoo said the outcome of the research was communicated to the Mahama Campaign Team but was ignored which led to the abysmal performance of the NDC in the 2016 polls.
“Sometimes people want to hear what they want to hear,” Rojo told Joy News.
The research data, he said, was not incorporated in the party’s election strategy.
“I believe strongly that our message – our research data – was not accepted, it did not impact the strategy of the election and it was a disaster waiting to happen,” he said.
But Member of Parliament (MP) for Odododiodioo and member of the Mahama Campaign Team, Nii Lante Vanderpuye, said the report was not made available to the party.
“I am not too sure of this research he is talking about; with the position I had at that time if the report was given, I should have been privy if it existed,” the MP was quoted as saying.
An employee of Cambridge Analytica was quoted as saying that in 2012, Ghana and other countries such as Guyana and Kenya offered contracts to the firm.
Cambridge Analytica was last year involved in data scandal with Facebook.
Head of Investigations at Channel 4 News, Job Rabkin, who broke the Cambridge Analytica story in London, also explained to Joy News the political role the data firm played when it was hired by Ghana’s Health Ministry, saying “the whole project was paid for by the government of Ghana with taxpayers’ money…it gathered health data but it also gathered very important data that could be used later for political purposes.”
The Country Director of NMS, Kojo Hastings, however, said he was not aware of the research for political purposes.
On July 18, 2012, Cabinet approved the agreement which was subsequently approved by Parliament, but members of the Select Committee on Health maintained that they were not aware of the sub-contract to conduct research for the NDC.
Chairman of the Committee, Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah, insisted that the contract would have been rejected if the sub-contract had been brought to the attention of the House.
After the analysis of the survey, the final report, which indicated the defeat of John Mahama in the 2016 general elections, was presented to the presidency, but it was not taken seriously.