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Rock City Hotel had no tax clearance certificate when it bid to purchase SSNIT hotels – Ablakwa

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North Tongu Member of Parliament, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has stated that per information available to him, Rock City Hotel should have been disqualified from bidding to purchase a 60% stake in the four hotels of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

According to him, Rock City Hotel, owned by the Minister for Food and Agriculture and Member of Parliament, Bryan Acheampong, did not possess a tax clearance certificate when it submitted its bid in 2022.

Speaking on JoyNews’ Newsfile on Saturday, June 22, Mr Ablakwa clarified that Rock City Hotel has been incurring significant losses, making it unfit to purchase additional hotels.

He stated that Rock City filed its 2022 tax returns on May 23, 2024, which implies that when they submitted their bid for the hotel purchase in March 2022, they did not have a valid tax clearance certificate.

“They didn’t have a tax clearance certificate…. So they should have been disqualified and all of this evidence is before CHRAJ,” he said.

“So, we’re waiting for the CHRAJ report because how do you allow them to qualify for the process without a tax clearance certificate? They can’t say they relied on the 2021 filing because even the 2021, they filed it in 2023 after the process.”

His assertion follows a challenge from Bryan Acheampong, the owner of Rock City Hotel, who demanded evidence to support the claim that the hotel is incurring losses.

Mr Ablakwa had earlier indicated that the hotel, located in the Eastern Region, was unprofitable and claimed to have documents to prove his assertion.

Mr Ablakwa also questioned the expertise of the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Bryan Acheampong, in hotel management.

But responding to his claims, Mr Acheampong challenged the North Tongu MP to produce evidence that his hotel was making losses, dismissing the claim as unfounded.

“Rock City is not making losses. There is no one anywhere who can say that Rock City is making losses. I saw Okudzeto and Sammy Gyamfi in the studio exaggerating. Okudzeto was in a smock exaggerating that Rock City is making losses and that he has intercepted documents from GRA,” he stated.

Speaking on Accra-based Metro TV on Friday, June 21, in response to the Minister’s challenge, Mr Ablakwa presented what he described as evidence.

According to him, on March 12, 2021, Rock City Hotel reported to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) that they would make losses that year.

“Then two years later, they returned on the 9th of March 2023 and did a debit adjustment that they had two withholding taxes, which came up to 20,782. And that’s all you have for 2021. So they told the GRA on the 12th of March that that year, they will make losses,” he said.

Ablakwa continued, “For 2022, there were no filings at all. If you notice, no filings at all. Then I break this news. I go to CHRAJ on the 17th of May. I broke the news here on this show. The following week, they rushed to the GRA.

“So you see here, 23rd May 2024 that – we now want to come and make do our tax obligations for 2022, for two years ago.”

He clarified that Rock City Hotel should have filed by June 2023 but did not, stressing that by the rules, they have to pay a penalty.

“…So it means that when they put in the bid, they clearly didn’t have a tax clearance certificate. .. So you see here that after my exposé, they go to GRA on 23rd May 2024, and say we will post losses. We made losses for 2022. Then they went back again the same day and said, no, we are changing that fact.

“We believe that if you process the profit we made, we can pay a tax. A tax liability of 395,000 Ghana cedis. And so on that 23rd May, they are then asked by GRA to pay a penalty of 4,390 Ghana cedis,” the North Tongu MP said.

Mr Ablakwa further revealed that Rock City Hotel had not filed their taxes for two years, questioning how they got a tax clearance certificate to participate in the bid.

“According to the SSNIT statement that was put out on the 19th of May, a copy of which I have here, if you look at the timelines, they said they started this process in 2018 and got the transaction advice in 2018.

“Then they started the bid for the hotel purchase, the tender, for the sale of the hotels in 2022. So you hadn’t filed your taxes for two years. How did they get a tax clearance certificate to participate in the bid? So 2022, it was after my exposure that they hurriedly rushed to GRA, and they went there twice,” he said.

“First they say, we made losses in 2022. Then they went back and said, no, the way the trajectory, the way this MP is going – we made some profit. So they amended the records and they were fined. This is the penalty that they paid 4,390 [Ghana cedis].”

Mr Ablakwa further revealed that in 2023, Rock City Hotel filed their taxes on April 20 after the first quarter that they will make losses that year.

“So when I said that what you [Rock City Hotel] have told GRA about your operations last year – that you will make no profits and you are now going to buy a Labadi Beach Hotel – making a profit of one hundred and fifty-eight million, it should have been the other way round.

“Labadi Beach Hotel is more profitable. I was speaking to the documents, I was speaking to the intercepted filling at the GRA,” he said.

The North Tongu MP added that “31st March 2024, they had informed GRA that we don’t expect to make a profit this year. Then after my petition to CHRAJ, they went back – on 24th May 2024 and say do a debit adjustment for us. We think that things are looking good.”

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