One of the most sinister moves in sports politics is known as “drive-by”. It occurs when a current leader purposefully withholds documentation that would enhance the image of their organization in a misguided attempt at self-preservation.
Between 2015 and 2016, the previous Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) administration began the process of negotiating a multi-million euro deal with African Tiger to support preparation of national federations for the Tokyo Olympics to the tune of 1.5 million euros per year.
The signed letter of intent indicates that GOC would also have received a direct cash payment of over 1,000,000 GHC per year to use as it saw fit for its own activities. For comparison, GOC raised only 70,000 GHC from sponsors in 2019 to support its activities for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
One must also distinguish the 70,000 GHC that GOC raised from sponsors in 2019 from the automatic funding GOC gets from the Association of National Olympic Committee in Africa (ANOCA) to support national federations. That money is guaranteed and not dependent on the ability of the GOC President to raise money.
We must also distinguish the 70,000 GHC raised in 2019 from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Solidarity Scholarship for specific athletes to train for the Olympic Games.
The Solidarity Scholarship is also not based on the GOC’s ability to raise sponsorship but rather on the potential caliber of Ghanaian athletes who the IOC thinks can qualify for the Olympic Games. In summary, the entrepreneurial ability of GOC to raise funds resulted in getting only 70,000 GHC in 2019.
So with such low ability to raise sponsorship money, why did the January 2017 agreement signed by the previous GOC administration and African Tiger that would have brought in so much more money get canceled in 2018?
At the December 2020 GOC General Assembly, the current GOC President Mr. Nunoo-Mensah said he was not aware of any contract with African Tiger.
But the GOC Secretary-General made the correction that GOC had a copy of the contract and that it was also referenced and shared in the handing over notes from the previous GOC president.
Mr. Nunoo-Mensah asked the former President to share the contract with him. The contract was later shared with members of GOC who attended the congress. Mr. Nunoo-Mensah responded to the revelation by suggesting that the agreement was “just” a letter of intent and not a contract, even though legally letters of intent are considered contracts that are legally enforceable unless stated otherwise
Despite Mr. Nunoo-Mensah downplaying the significance of the contract, he seems to have unintendedly revealed the importance of the African Tiger contract to him. After taking office, Mr. Nunoo-Mensah has had numerous meetings with African Tiger; clearly on the basis of the existing agreement document.
He also recently released many email correspondences between him and African Tiger, which betrayed that he was well aware of the contract that he claimed at Congress he had not seen.
Remarkably on 14 January 2021, Mr. Nunoo-Mensah revealed a cache of emails from as far back as late 2017 to mid-2018 between himself and the African Tiger. The intent of his document dump was to make the argument that the African Tiger contract, which he initially said he did not have a copy, was terminated because of his predecessor.
Mr. Nunoo-Mensah was advancing the argument that the previous GOC administration failed to account for the $171,000 USD given by the African Tiger in support of the Ghana contingent to the 2016 Olympic Games.
However, Mr. Nunoo-Mensah’s own evidence shows that African Tiger’s request was directed specifically to Mr. Nunoo-Mensah, not his predecessor as he tried to make it seem.
To better understand why Mr. Nunoo-Mensah is responsible for GOC and Ghana losing the possibility of securing millions of euros to support national federation and athletes, consider the following.
It is true that African Tiger asked Mr. Nunoo-Mensah in December 2017 for GOC to submit documentation for its 2016 Olympic Games support.
The same request was not made by African Tiger to the previous GOC President who left office in on the day of the GOC’s March 2017 Congress. This was the same Congress meeting that approved the audited accounts which included the expenditures from the 2016 Olympic Games.
In its December 2017 request to Mr. Nunoo-Mensah, African Tiger specifically acknowledged that documentation of its 2016 Rio Games support would be part of the reconciled GOC 2016 financial accounts. That is, Mr. Nunoo-Mensah was obligated to simply submitted the approved 2016 GOC audit report to African Tiger to satisfy their request. This is the reason why African Tiger specifically asked Mr. Nunoo-Mensah, and not his predecessor, for the documentation.
Fast forward to January 2021. Mr. Nunoo-Mensah now claims his predecessor did not account for African Tiger’s 2016 funding even though the funds are captured in GOC’s 2016 financial audit report; a document he has had access to since March 2017. Yet, after receiving a request for the documentation in December 2017, he did not reach out to his predecessor UNTIL SEVEN (7) MONTHS LATER (JULY 2018) AND 24 HOURS BEFORE AFRICAN TIGER CANCELLED THE AGREEMENT.
When he contacted his predecessor, he wrote to accuse his predecessor of not providing documentation what Mr. Nunoo Mensah already had access to.
Tragically for Ghana sports, and perhaps sinisterly, GOC members only became aware of African Tiger’s request purely by chance. Mr. Nunoo-Mensah revealed the seven-month request in an email to GOC members questioning him about the massive 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games visa scandal that he Mr. Nunoo Mensah presided over.
Mr. Nunoo-Mensah’s attempt to blame his predecessor also defies logic when one focuses on the timing of events. Before Mr. Nunoo-Mensah was president, African Tiger gave the previous GOC administration 171,000 USD for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The money was given as part of a funding support “trial” to determine the viability of developing a long lasting partnership with GOC.
African Tiger worked closely with GOC and even sent a representative, Mr. Joost Bellaart, to the Rio 2016 Games. The African Tiger representative spent time consulting with athletes and GOC officials during the Games to better understand Ghana’s needs and how the trial funding was utilized.
After the 2016 Olympic Games, African Tiger and the previous GOC administration met a few more times to iron out details of an agreement to support the four years leading to the Tokyo Olympics; this was the start of what was expected to be the most lucrative private sponsorship in GOC’s history.
In January 2017 GOC and African Tiger signed the multi-year 6.5 million euro letter of intent. Indeed, the initial letter of intent contract was to be followed up with an additional agreement after African Tiger nailed down commitments from with KLM, the Netherlands National Olympic Committee, and other third parties.
They (African Tiger) were going to contract travel and deal with relevant logistical issues for supporting training and camping in the Netherlands for Ghanaian athletes and officials in each of the four years till Tokyo. Ghanaian coaches in multiple sports were also supposed to benefit from coaching development opportunities.
So, why would African Tiger have signed an agreement with GOC in January 2017 if, according to Mr. Nunoo-Mensah, it wanted 2016 funds to be accounted for before supporting GOC? To better answer this question, let me refer to the letter written by Mr. Nunoo-Mensah to his predecessor just 24 hours before African Tiger cancelled the existing agreement in July 2018.
On July 29th 2018 Mr. Nunoo-Mensah in an email to his predecessor about a visa scandal that threatened to consume Mr. Nunoo-Mensah, made the following request to his predecessor.
“I will also appreciate if you kindly give me a detailed breakdown on how the sponsorship amount of USD$171,580.00 from Cocoa from Ghana [Insert: African Tiger] for the Rio [insert: 2016] games was disbursed, since they [insert: African Tiger] are threatening to cease all sponsorships to the GOC until the amount is properly accounted for.”
Note that before that March 2017 Congress that brought Mr. Nunoo-Mensah to power, nobody had the authority to submit GOC’s year-end financial document as audited and approved.
It seems that out of concern for GOC’s loss, Mr. Nunoo-Mensah’s predecessor wrote to the CEO of African Tiger on August 2nd 2018 to inquire about Mr. Nunoo-Mensah’s request.
As part of this investigative piece, we asked the former GOC president to share the correspondence which he had with African Tiger’s CEO. Professor Dodoo referred us to the email exchange of 2018 which he had had with Mr. Nunoo-Mensah to which all the national federation presidents were the audience.
When we consulted that email trail of August 2018, it was interesting and very important to note that the contents were shared with all GOC member federation presidents in July and August 2018. Therefore, those email contents, shared below, can be independently verified through the national federation presidents.
Professor Dodoo, the predecessor, wrote to African Tiger’s CEO on August 2nd, 2018:
“Dear Henri, I pray you and yours are well? I have received an email from the President of the GOC, copied to all Federation Presidents, indicating that you are threatening to cease Cocoa for Ghana [insert: African Tiger] funding to the GOC because my administration did not properly account for an amount of $171,580.00 that we received from you? What Mr. Nunoo-Mensah wrote was:
[I will also appreciate it if you kindly give me a detailed breakdown on how the sponsorship amount of USD$171,580.00 from Cocoa from Ghana for the Rio games was disbursed since they are threatening to cease all sponsorships to the GOC until the amount is properly accounted for.”]
I just wanted to verify whether this is really what you have told him and, if so, whether this position is why Cocoa from Ghana is reluctant to continue to support GOC? I ask because we have accounted for all the money you gave us in our financial report for 2016, which was audited, and I am not sure why Cocoa from Ghana would say something like this. Please kindly let me know so I can figure out what needs to be done if I need to do anything. Thank you in advance,”
On August 6th, 2018, the CEO and owner of African Tiger responded to Prof Dodoo. His email stated:
“Dear Francis, How are you? Long time no see! At the moment I am in Holland. Ref: your email below, which I received with surprise.
I don’t think the GOC should have written to you the frase below because it is not the complete truth that I have said that to the GOC. Cocoa from Ghana’s concerns is far more than that, even though we have definitely asked for accounting for the Rio as well as Pyongyang funding.
I have never focused on Rio accounts alone, as the Pyongyang accounting is more recent and should be available. If for instance your audited accounts including the Rio 2016 expenditure, capture the use of these monies, why can those audited accounts not be sent to us?
I will be happy to meet when I return. It has been too long since we met. Rgds Henri”
From Mr. Henri’s response, it is obvious that simply sending in the 2016 GOC financial audit report would have been acceptable to African Tiger and help preserve the funding support agreement.
So why Mr. Nunoo-Mensah did not just do that is strange.
A review of the newly released documents from Mr. Nunoo-Mensah shows that African Tiger’s request for GOC to acknowledge its 2016 Rio Olympic Games support was first made in December 2017, under the tenure of Mr. Nunoo-Mensah. It was a very simple request for GOC to:
“Kindly acknowledge receipt” of the 2016 payment after it (GOC) had “reconciled its accounts”. [insert: reconciliation of GOC’s 2016 accounts concluded in March 2017; on the day Mr. Nunoo-Mensah became GOC President].
GOC issue a receipt in the name of Cocoa for Ghana (subsidiary of African Tiger)
GOC provide a statement showing how the 2016 Rio funding was spent per terms of the sponsorship agreement.
What has stunned GOC members is the realization that despite Mr Nunoo-Mensah’s assertions, African Tiger knew that it was the responsibility of Mr Nunoo-Mesah’s administration to furnish it with the requested 2016 financial audit report.
Equally stunning is that Mr Nunoo-Mensah waited until July 29th, 2018, seven(7) months after the request and the day before African Tiger cancelled the agreement to contact his predecessor about the issue.
Indeed, further review of Mr. Nunoo-Mensah’s email to Prof Dodoo on July 29th 2018 suggests a possible troubling explanation for the timing.
Prof Dodoo had just written to him about the damage the 2018 Commonwealth Games visa scandal was doing to GOC’s brand.
Did Mr. Nunoo-Mensah bring up the Rio 2016 funding issue to divert attention from the visa scandal? After all, his administration could have easily furnished African Tiger with the requested information in December 2017 as indicated in the August 2018 email from African Tiger’s CEO.
Surely, Mr. Nunoo-Mensah cannot say that he spared no effort in December 2017 to furnish African Tiger with the requested information.
On a sad note, Mr. Henri Wientjes CEO of African Tiger passed away in Jan 2021; a major loss to sports development in Ghana. It is heart-breaking to know that the largest private investment in GOC’s history for athletes and national federations got cancelled simply because the available 2016 financial audit report was not sent in as requested.
Ghana’s sports federations lost 6.5 million euros of funding over the 2017-2020 period. So much could have been done to develop our athletes for Rio. The GOC also lost over 4m GHC direct support guaranteed in that agreement.
For Mr. Nunoo-Mensah to suggest that the cancelled agreement was just a Letter of Intent is a shame. In taking over the GOC in March 2017, it was his responsibility to ensure that that Sponsorship Agreement was consummated and that Ghana got the benefit of all that sponsorship.
Was the funding sabotaged just because it was originated by a predecessor? Were there attempts to change the nature of the contract that had originally been agreed?
Time and the later release of more information will definitely bring the truth to light. But the simple point is that if Mr. Nunoo-Mensah cared about Ghana’s athletes he would have moved everything to ensure that this sponsorship came through. Meanwhile, we continue to bleed for Ghana sports