Inside story of 'The Australia Visa Scandal'

BY ABCNEWSGH.COM - Sep 14, 2019 at 0:51am 100

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The Akufo-Addo government’s fight against corruption in recent weeks has come under scrutiny by a section of Ghanaians, particularly, because of the high expectations and assurances given by the President prior to his ascension into office.

Since coming into office, there have been several allegations against appointees of President Akufo-Addo, one of such is the Australia Visa Scandal involving the current Deputy Information Minister, Pius Hadzide who was then a deputy Sports Minister.

ABC News has conducted deeper investigations into the scandal including interviewing the deputy Information Minister who was then the deputy Sports Minister.

The Australia Visa Scandal arose after 50 people who paraded themselves as journalists were refused entry into Australia for the Olympic Games by their Immigration Service after sufficiently failing them.

Pius Enam Hadzide told ABC News that the Sports Ministry were not mandated to carry along journalists to the games in Australia.

According to the Deputy Information Minister, who was then the deputy Sports Minister and in charge of overseeing Ghana’s participation at the games, the contingent Ghana sent were made up of about 80 people – out of this number 33 were athletes whiles the rest were made up of coaches and Ministry officials.

The Ghana contingent according to Pius Hadzide was in Australia close to a month before the supposed journalists attempted to smuggle themselves to the Games.

Visas for the Athethlets, the deputy Information Minister recounted were arranged for by the Ghana Olympic Committee adding that the Ministry did not work on Visas for any member of the contingent it took to Australia.

“At the International Games, we were not responsible for journalists. Our job was focused on the contingent – the athletes and their coaches. We were supposed to cater for their training before the games and so we have the longest training session here in Ghana, we also organised a training session in Australia to get them to acclamatise and so the contingent left Ghana like a month in advance of the game. Their feeding, their hotels, their their air transportation, their equipment they are going to use, those were our concerns. So our focus was on the official contingent which is the athlete and their coaches.”

Pius Hadzide mentioned that “A total of about 33-man delegation was what we took. We took in a certain number of disciplines, we did not participate in all disciplines”.

“And even the number of coaches, there is a calculator. There is a games calculator so depending on the number of discipline, there number of coaches will shoot out automatically. So, for instance, we took a hockey team and the hockey team has a number of players so that will give you a certain direct number of officials” he submitted ABC News.

In total, the deputy Information Minister recalled that “less than I think 80, was the total Ghanaian contingent that went which is the contingent of officials, coaches and the athletes. It was less than 80.”

When asked specifically if the Ministry took along private people as journalists he said, “No, not one.”

About 50 people who posed as journalists from Ghana were denied entry into Australia for the games for failing to meet the criteria set for journalists.

They were deported to Ghana and investigated by appropriate authorities on their arrival, triggering speculations that then-deputy Sports Minister who was in charge of the Ghana contingent had attempted ‘smuggling’ them into Australian on false pretenses.

But dismissing these assertions, Pius Hadzide explained that the processes provided for Journalists to apply for Visa at the games did not require the assistance of the Ministry or any official at the Sports Authority.

“Any journalist who wanted to travel, they travelled on their own. They went on their own to apply on the internet, straight to the organises. The games organises sent the accreditations to them straight and the accreditation once you have it, it is my understanding that the Visa is guaranteed for you because the games organisers and the host country have that agreement. They didn’t interface, I didn’t have to interface, they didn’t have to come to me. I didn’t even know one journalist who was going to travel” he detailed to ABC News.

When asked whether the Ministry took interest in finding out the identities of the alleged journalists from Ghana denied entry at the Commonwealth Games, Pius Hadzide suggested that it was not a part of his assigned duties thus took no interest in the matter.

“I didn’t find it part of my job to go around finding out who are these people parading themselves as journalists” he insisted.

Documents available to ABC News, obtained in the course of its probe into the saga reveal that the CID cleared the Deputy Information Minister and two others alleged to have engaged in Visa racketeering of any wrongdoing because no evidence was found against them.

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