A Ghanaian Politician Wants Starchitect David Adjaye to Return $21.4 Million in Fees for a Planned Cathedral in Accra

The politician says the money given to Adjaye’s firm was not approved by parliament.

A rendering of the National Cathedral planned for Accra, Ghana. Courtesy of Adjaye & Associates.

A Ghanaian lawmaker is calling on architect David Adjaye to return tens of millions of dollars paid to his architectural firm for the design of the country’s new National Cathedral in Accra. 

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a minority member of Ghana’s Parliament, says the $21.4 million doled out to the firm Adjaye and Associates was not approved by the legislature and therefore should be given back. In social media posts and interviews with local news outlets, Ablakwa described the process as “fraudulent.”

In a recent tweet, the MP also claimed that Adjaye charged the Ghanian government an additional amount of money for the project beyond the original fee.

Adjaye’s architecture firm, which maintains offices in the capital city of Accra, was tapped to design the National Cathedral in 2018. Adjaye’s plan for the venue includes a two-tiered auditorium with some 5,000 seats, a baptistery, a grand central hall, an art gallery, a music school, and several chapels. 

The interdenominational cathedral is to be built on 14 acres of land next to Osu Cemetery, where numerous existing buildings have already been destroyed to make room. It’s expected to be unveiled in 2024. 

Ablakwa, who belongs to the center-left National Democratic Congress party, says that timeline is unrealistic, pointing to the fact that construction on the project was halted earlier this year. For him, responsibility ultimately falls on Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo, who, Ablakwa claims, has obscured and mismanaged state funds.

“Already there has been a lot of destruction, a lot of damage, a lot of demolition, and so much money has gone into all kinds of pockets,” the MP told local media this month. “It appears that a little has gone into the project. The question, therefore, is what do we do?”

Ablakwa’s accusations have thus far gone unacknowledged by Nana Akufo-Addo, the leader of the majority New Patriotic Party, and Adjaye. The National Cathedral of Ghana has released two statements addressing questions about the funding of the project but neither made mention of Ablakwa.

Representatives from Adjaye and Associates did not immediately respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.

Others say there are holes in the MP’s arguments, arguing that the fee for Adjaye’s firm amounts to just 10.5 percent of the total construction costs, despite the Ghanaian’s Ministry of Works and Housing’s recommended rate of 16.5 percent, according to Designboom. The architect’s team won’t be paid in full until the project is completed. 

The outlet also reported that, while the fee for Adjaye wasn’t formally approved by Parliament, it was okayed by Ghana’s Public Procurement Authority, a board established by the legislature in 2003.

“I find it sad to see men we celebrate for their intellectual artistry being the lead campaigners against a globally successful Ghanaian such as David Adjaye, who chose to relocate his global business in Ghana,” wrote prominent New Patriotic Party member Gabby Otchere-Darko in a statement on Facebook.

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