The University of Ghana finds it necessary to respond to and correct the series of misrepresentations and outright falsehoods which have in recent days been circulated on social media by Ms. Andrea Pizziconi. Such allegations have served, and are clearly directed, at creating a wholly inaccurate narrative with regard to the failure of the project commonly referred to as the “Africa Integras Project” (the “Project“), as well as to tarnish the reputation of the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu.
The Vice-Chancellor has already publicly refuted the personal attacks and allegations against him. However, the circumstances of the Project and its termination have similarly been falsely represented. The University wishes to provide the following by way of explanation and correction.
All issues with regard to the termination of the Project, the validity of any underlying agreements and all claims made by and/or against the University in relation to losses which have resulted, are the subject of currently-ongoing legal proceedings. The University is fully committed to pursuing and defending its entitlements in this forum. Accordingly, the University limits the present statement to specific false representations made by Ms. Pizziconi.
Central to the legal dispute are fundamental differences with regard to the validity of, and claims under, a concession agreement purportedly for the construction and operation of four college buildings and a hostel, on a build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT’) basis, with a 25-year concession period.
Africa Integras LLC (‘Africa Integras“), a US company operated by Ms. Andrea Pizziconi, initially engaged with the University in 2013 and 2014, with the claimed intention of delivering the Project. This was during the term of the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ernest Aryeetey.
Despite having had access to the University’s accounts, which showed that the University’s financial resources and ability to make large payments in dollars were very limited, Africa
Integras had insisted on requiring very substantial financial commitments from the Uniiersity. This included a demand for a letter of credit with a value of over US$14 million, to be provided by an A-rated international bank (which was in addition to two further multi-million dollar up-front payments to a”Fee Account” and a “Rent Reserve Account,). The aggregate value of such payments in the first year alone was in excess of US$22mi11ion. In addition, the contract stipulated that rents are calculated to automatically rise annually for 25 years, meaning that as the rent rise, the bank guarantees will rise in tandem. The University was also liable for all utility bills and other cost.
Owing to the University’s financial situation, and although it was able to pay over US$ 4 million into the Fee Account, it was to prove simply impossible for the University to obtain a letter of credit in the terms and the amount demanded. Indeed, the audited financial performance of the University during the period 2011 to 2016 shows a accumulative deficit of GH(2.95million.
The Position as at 1st August, 2016
By the time of the commencement of Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu’s term as Vice-Chancellor (on 1st August, 2016),the Project had already reached the following stage:
- Ms. Pizziconi and Africa Integras had introduced an investor, a fund controlled by US-based W P Carey, who had (from at least September 2015) taken over full control and direction of the company (the Concession Company“) which was to deliver the Project;
- A notice of default (dated 24th May, 2016) had already been issued against the University as a result of its inability to supply a letter of credit in the terms demanded.
From 1st August,2016 onwards, all that the University could therefore do to avoid the termination of the Project was attempt to:
- obtain a letter of credit in the terms demanded (from an A-rated international bank); and
- engage with the Concession Company, seeking that it renegotiates, or agree a relaxation of, the onerous conditions and demands to which the University was subjected.
Despite the University’s strenuous efforts to do both, it did not prove possible to do so.
Contrary to her repeated representations, Ms. Pizziconi was in fact at no point during this period a key decision-maker in relation to the Project. She was not, therefore, in a position to relax or amend the demands being made against the University, even if she had wished to. The true controllers of the Concession Company, to whom Ms. Pizziconi and Africa Integras had transferred control:
- refused to engage positively with the University’s efforts to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation;
- insisted on compliance with their demands (any adjustment was conditioned on demands for still greater payments by the University); and
- in May 2018 directed the Concession Company to terminate the Project.
It is worth noting that the conduct of W P Carcy in relation to the Project has been described by Ms. Pizziconi herself in a recent media article as “extremely callous and disrespectful to every stakeholder”.
Ms. Pizziconi’s claims comprise no more than an opportunistic and ill-founded attempt to take advantage of the current sexual harassment crisis facing the University, and thereby muddy the waters in relation to the ongoing disputes concerning the project. These allegations do not reflect or represent the true reasons for the failure of the Project, which remain to be properly determined by way of legal proceedings.
The Management of the University of Ghana would like to assure all its stakeholders (students, faculty, staff, investors and the general public) that it will continue to provide a safe and conducive environment for teaching, research and learning.
UNIVERSITY OF GHANA