CEO of Africa Integras, Andrea Pizziconi has described as false reports that her company had planned to privatise the University of Ghana if the university failed to meet its side of the bargain in a $64 million infrastructure expansion agreement.
Africa Integras entered into the agreement with the University of Ghana in 2014 which was signed by its former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey to invest US$64 million in the construction of new students’ housing on the Legon campus.
The project was structured under a 25-year Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement.
It was also to construct a new dedicated facility for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and the Institute of Technology and Applied Sciences, as well as a new facility for the College of Health Sciences.
Education Minister, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, once suggested that the University of Ghana risked being privatised if it failed to meet its obligations in the agreement.
But on Citi TV’s Face to Face, Andrea Pizziconi insisted that Africa Integras had other means to enforce that contract that did not involve privatising the school.
“There is nothing in the contract that gives us any right to operate the university whatsoever. That is not what we do. There is no mechanism in the contract that allows us to enforce the contract.”
The CEO of Africa Integras said she still longed for the deal, which has been stalled, to be realised.
She said it was “completely tragic that those buildings are not even built. They are 65 percent complete.”
“I think about the 1,200 construction workers that lost their jobs and didn’t get Christmas bonuses when the project was suspended and I think about the thousands of young people who could have gone to UG but may or may not ever get a university education.”
According to Prof. Aryeetey, Africa Integras may have already spent $28 million on the project.
Following the exit of Prof. Aryeetey and the swearing-in the new Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro-Owusu, the university changed its stance on the deal and felt arrangement by Prof. Aryeetey did not offer value for money.
The success of the project hinged on the recruitment of more students, which Africa Integras felt was feasible.
Andrea Pizziconi said the project was expected to accommodate 19,000 students through the university was “only required the university to increase its enrollment by around 2,00 students to be viable.”
But despite university’s concerns over the recruitment, the Africa Integras CEO felt they were not valid.
“They never gave us a specific report or analysis. All they said was how could you think that we could have recruited those students… we did not think it was accurate that they could not recruit those 2,000 students.”
Prof. Aryeetey’s role
It was claimed that Prof. Aryeetey had received financial inducements to allow the project to proceed since it was deemed economically unreasonable and would cost the University more money.
Prof. Aryeetey, however, rubbished these claims, explaining that UG had gone through all the right procedures before signing the agreement with the company.
He insisted the processes leading up to the signing of the agreement with Integras were transparent, with all relevant stakeholders being kept informed of all developments.
“I can assure the public that nothing untoward took place. The processes that were followed were very transparent. It’s being suggested that there was something corrupt, but there’s no such thing. I was never offered any money by any of the persons we dealt with. I have never asked for anything nor have I taken money from anybody in relation to this or any other project. Any suggestions of wrongdoing will be completely misplaced,” he said back in 2017.