This is a statement from the management of Mabey & Johnson to explain events leading to criminal conviction of the company in Southwark Crown Court in London on 25th September 2009. We wish to submit that we were put under pressure to plead guilty to charges of paying bribes in Ghana by an English court that used Anglo-Saxon definition of bribery with little understanding of the culture and norm of the West African country.
We wish to state without equivocation that our core business is to build bridges and that is the exact mission we pursued in Ghana. We arrived in Ghana at the early stages of the country’s adventure into republic hood for the fourth time. At the time, the country was led by fiery former revolutionary who was having a hard time adjusting to the pace and beat of democratic governance. The then president, who felt let down by the British crown for teaming up with other western powers to lure him into a political process totally out of pace with his training and genetic makeup, loathed everything British. It was believed that this country which had been selected by the Western powers and Breton Woods institutions as a model state was in danger of falling back into the hands of the friends of the defeated communist regime. The likes of Gathaffi and Castro were trying hard to convince him that he made a mistake by rejecting their philosophy of the State. Against this backdrop and the fact that many British company’s were in dire need of new markets to sustain economic growth, the lot fell on Mabey and Johnson, to get into Ghana, you guessed right, to build bridges between the two economies.
This is a concept well understood and practiced by communities in Africa for centuries. To build bridges to the King, you enter his gates not only with thanks giving and praises but with a gift of hard liqueur under your armpit. As you pass on the bottle to the King through his advisers, and once the content of the bottle goes round the palace, your connection is established – a firm bridge is built to carry your message to officialdom. This is exactly what we did in Ghana.
We wish to put it on record that the actions of Mabey and Johnson were in the interest of North – South cooperation, a relationship which is well understood and eloquently espoused by Tony Blair the British PM at the time who actually christened it NEPAD. The fact that Ghana stands to benefit over two billion pounds sterling attests to the strength of that relationship.
We are in no way endorsing the actions of the people who took the money, in fact we don’t know what they did to the money, but we believe that we did no wrong we merely executed our mission in Africa- Building Bridges.
Maybe Mabey and Johnson gives us the opportunity to examine our public procurement system. I do not believe that the canker of bribery that underlines most procurement decisions was touched by the so called procurement law. Speak to any business man who participates in a government contract and he will tell you “the ways and means” that fraught the process of selecting suppliers. The situation is such that companies that win tenders fairly (I dare say it will be easier to clean the filth in the Korle lagoon than find one) are under pressure to say “thank you” even when they haven’t been asked to. We need radical solutions to uproot corruption. What about banning the giving and taking of gifts in any form? It’s a thought.