A Corruption Watch (CW) investigation has found that nine Toyota Hilux pick up state vehicles have been auctioned under questionable circumstances, with the auctioneer taking one of the vehicles for himself, sparking immediate action by the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), the entity the vehicles were assigned to.
CW investigations also found that instead of auctioning the nine vehicles at the stated venue on the said day, only two out of the nine vehicles were displayed for the auction. Six disappeared.
CW gathered that the six vehicles disappeared from the premises of the RGD, Accra Central, the venue for the auction, between October 1 and October 4, with the latest vehicles disappearing just a day before the auction. One of the vehicles was also auctioned in the Ashanti Region.
When RGD was contacted about the whereabouts of the seven vehicles on the auction day, CW was told by the Registrar General, Mrs Jemima Oware that the vehicles were auctioned at a mechanic’s shop, quoting a response she had received from the auctioneer.
The nine vehicles, Toyota Hilux pickup vehicles with registration numbers, GV 618-14, GV 619-14, GV 620-14, GV 621-14, GV 622-14, GV 623-14, GV 626-14, GV 647-14 and GV 631-14 were supposed to be auctioned at the RGD premises. Only GV 622-14 and GV 619-14 were displayed on the auction day at the RGD.
CW learnt that the auctioning of the six vehicles at the mechanic’s shop and Kumasi without notice contravened the law governing auction sales as the auctioneer is expected by law to state the exact location for the auction and hold the auction at the said location on the auction day.
According to the Notice of Sale under the Auction Sales Law, 1989, “A notice of sale shall state the time and place of the sale and give a catalogue of the goods to be sold.”
The notice of sale which was advertised in the Saturday, October 28 and Monday October 30 editions of the Ghanaian Times newspaper mentioned the premises of the RGD as the only place of sale and not a mechanic’s shop or a different location in the Ashanti Region.
In addition, out of the two vehicles displayed on the auction day, the auctioneer, Torro Matt of Offstar Torro, declared one of the vehicles for himself through the use of the auctioneer’s hammer/ gavel and allegedly sold the second vehicle to a lower bidder ignoring the bid by the highest bidder, a difference of GH¢1,000.00 between the lowest and highest bidder.
The auctioneer did not return CW’s calls and WhatsApp/text messages for comments after several attempts even though he had initially promised to get back to CW after being contacted.
When CW contacted RGD about the circumstances surrounding the auctioneers’ action, CW was informed that the auctioneer said he needed a vehicle for himself and the law gives him the right to take one for himself, a material misstatement of the law governing auction sales.
Though the auction sales law permits an auctioneer to declare an item/good for himself at an auction, such taking must be done with the express permission of the vendor, in this case the Registrar General’s Department. The auctioneer did not seek the express consent of the RGD, CW found.
Under the ‘Duties of the Auctioneer’ in the Auction Sale Law 1989, “The purchase of any property at an auction by the auctioneer himself without the vendor’s consent shall be voidable and may be set aside at the instance of the vendor unless there is evidence of acquiescence.”
Lack of value for money – Loss to the State
According to CW sources who were present at the auction, at the open of the auction, the auctioneer announced that he was there to auction two vehicles and that the highest bidder will win the bid.
Prospective buyers began bidding for the first vehicle and one of them who had earlier introduced himself as an auctioneer friend of the auctioneer and who had come to assist him to conduct the auction, mentioned GH¢9,000.00. Another bidder immediately mentioned GH¢10, 000.00 but the auctioneer declared the GH¢9,000.00 the winner on the grounds that the lower bidder made the offer first.
When they moved on to the second vehicle, the auctioneer is alleged to have announced that there is something called ‘Hammer take-up’, explaining further that that means, he, the auctioneer could take the vehicle for himself, adding he doesn’t have a car. He then proceeded to the take the vehicle for himself.
Misstatement of facts in auction report
Although only two out of the nine vehicles were auctioned at the advertised auction venue on the said date, the auctioneer presented a report to the RGD indicating that all nine vehicles were actioned and the revenue accrued from the nine vehicles supposedly auctioned paid into the consolidated account as directed by the office of the Chief of Staff in its approval letter to RGD for the auction.
The auctioneer was subsequently paid his 7% commission on the sale of the vehicles.
Protest by prospective buyers and RGD Staff at auction
The turnout of events surrounding the auction caused protests by some prospective buyers and staff of RGD which eventually sparked the decision by the Registrar General, Mrs Oware to recall the auctioned vehicles for re-auctioning.
When CW contacted Mrs Oware, she indicated that although she was aware of the auction, she could not independently verify what exactly happened on the said date because she was not in the country, hence her decision to write to the office of the Chief of Staff for the vehicles to be recalled for the entire auction process to be redone to ensure transparency.
She added that six out of the nine vehicles have been returned by the buyers and was optimistic the rest will be returned soon. Meanwhile, revenue from the auction has already been paid to the Bank of Ghana and can’t be recalled, hence Mrs Oware disclosed that she will have to refund the monies of the buyers personally and recover it later after the re-auction.
Meanwhile, checks by CW indicated that the six vehicles already returned are the six vehicles that disappeared before the auction day.
Mrs Oware grounded her reason for the recall and re-run of the auction on the fact that not all the vehicles were made available at the auction venue on the day of the auction depriving the wider public the opportunity to participate in the auction.
Meanwhile, when CW enquired about how the auctioneer got the power to declare one of the vehicles for himself, Mrs Oware said that the auctioneer said it was his right by law to take one of the vehicles for himself.
She added that the auctioneer even failed to announce how much he offered for the vehicles and that the department only got to know he paid GH¢9,000,00 through the report he presented to the department after the auction.
She further explained that according to the auctioneer, the six vehicles which were not present at the auction venue were taken to a mechanic’s shop, Dandee Motors, for repairs and they decided to auction them at the mechanic’s shop.