(First published in Norwegian 17 Jan 2007)
By Erik Hagen
“We want to ascertain whether too little has been paid in taxes and duties to the Ghanian state”, State Auditor Edward Dua Agyemang told Norwatch on the phone from Ghana.
For several years the discussions between the Office of the Auditor General and Ghacem, a Ghanian subsidiary of the Norwegian cement corporation Scancem, have been characterized by high temperatures. Now the Auditor General accuses Ghacem of tax evasion.
Agyemang told Norwatch that some months ago he sent a letter to Ghacem, in which he requested information about the company’s financial structure and an explanation of a series of money transfers between the subsidiary in Ghana and the Norwegian parent company.
Among other things the Auditor General demands an explanation of 339 billion Ghanian cedis – more than 29 million euros – which without sufficient documentation are to have been charged as expenses by Ghacem in the period 1992-2004.
Lack of Transparency
According to the Auditor General, however, the enquiry to the company has never been answered. Agyemang has now expressed harsh criticism in Ghanian press.
"The company has shown little transparency about its financial structure and its transactions”, he told Norwatch.
The Auditor General has recently been in touch with the Attorney General to discuss what measures to take towards the company.
Not through the Press
According to Scancem International, the Ghanian subsidiary is now working on answers for the Auditor General with regard to the questions presented to the company. The response will be sent soon.
“We request understanding for the company wanting to answer the enquiry directly to the authorities in Ghana and not through the press”, Jan Eldegard, Scancem’s Vice President Marketing & Communication, wrote in an e-mail to Norwatch.
Ghacem has previously been a partly state-owned company. After the cement company was privatized in 1999, Scancem’s block of shares in the Ghanian company increased to 93.1%. That same year Scancem International was sold from the Aker group to the German Heidelberg Cement. Scancem remains a Norwegian-registered company.