General News of Monday, 11 February 2013
A leading member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has lambasted the Kufuor-led NPP administration for the construction and completion of a modern edifice to serve as the seat of government whiles the country had surmountable problems to tackle.
He slammed the opposition party saying “Today, if the NPP was so shortsighted not to know that solving our water problem in this country was more paramount than building an Ashanti-styled Presidential Palace for us as a national edifice, and it was not the priority at that time and they choose to build that palace instead of providing water, should we leave it to rot?...It is tax payer’s money, we will make use to it.”
President Mahama, on Thursday, relocated to the Flagstaff House as the new seat of government. At a short ceremony to symbolize the relocation of the seat of government to the magnificent edifice, President Mahama described the relocation as the closure of a chapter of Ghana’s history and the dawn of a new era.
Present at the outdooring ceremony were President John Dramani Mahama, former President Jerry John Rawlings and Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood among other dignitaries.
The over $70 million edifice, which has office and residential premises for the president, has been the subject of a hot debate after the late President John Mills’ persistent refusal to relocate there.
The NPP, in 2007, pulled down the old structure of the Flagstaff House and rebuilt it with a grant from the Indian government to serve as the new seat of government.
The Kufuor government commissioned the project in 2008.
But President Atta Mills refused to use the facility when he took over power in 2009, citing security reasons. In that same year, however, part of it was handed over to the Foreign Affairs Ministry temporarily after its offices were razed down by fire.
Consequently, the decision to relocate the seat of government from the Osu Castle to the Flagstaff House was met with a barrage of criticisms from some stalwarts of the opposition party, who wondered why the President would now want to use the facility.
But Samuel George debunked claims that the ruling party abandoned the use of the Flagstaff House during the reign of the late President.
He stated categorically in a radio discussion programme that there is no truth in such claims since the late President undertook some official duties in the Presidential Palace.
“It is not true that the NDC abandoned that building for five years, it is not true. President Mills of blessed memory received credentials in that building. It was put to use; it was put to (good) use. If you say it was left to run down, it is a lie, a plain lie,” he asserted.
The NDC activist stridently asserted on Citi Fm’s News analysis program; “The Big Issue” on Saturday that the office of the Vice President within the Flagstaff House, sometimes became waterlogged when there was a heavy downpour; one of the reasons that led to the NDC’s partial abandonment of the facility.
He explained that during the time that the Flagstaff House, then Golden Jubilee House, was established water used to leak from the ceiling of the Veep’s office.
He revealed some structural defects in the building, for which reason the NDC under the leadership of the late President Mills refused to relocate the seat of government to the place.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. Again, I need to set the record straight. The NDC as a party and the government which was then led by President Mills has issued two statements on the Flagstaff house. One, was that it was not going to use that place because of security concerns. The second reason it gave in a second statement was also the fact at that point in time, there were civil construction deficiencies in [and] structural deficiencies in that building. Those are the two official reasons and statements which have emanated from government.”
“The second one which had to do with structural deficiencies…The office the Vice President….when it rained…water dripped into the office…,” he said.
He also recounted: “At that time we took over that building or we took over government, the entire block which was supposed to house the Vice President and the Chief of Staff, the central air conditioning was not working.
Samuel George, who also doubles as a member of the NDC’s Communication Team, had issues with the contractual obligations surrounding the construction of the edifice.
He explained that “When that building was going to be built, we were told it was the Indian government that was giving it to us as a gift. We were told that that building was going to cost us 70 million dollars, 30 million dollars is the only money the Indian government advanced us…But in the long run, the last time the Parliamentary Committee checked the cost of that building, it had cost us at that time 120 million.”
He also raised security concerns over the relocation of the seat of government to the Presidential Palace because according to him, “a major concern raised was the fact that when Nkrumah used the Flagstaff House, the apartment buildings across the road were then used to house the Presidential Guard which acted as the security cover for the Flagstaff House. Today, it is no longer a military facility; it is now a civilian facility."