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General News of Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Source: Daily Guide

Segbefia grilled over stolen cars

Deputy Minister-designate for Defence, Alex Segbefia was subjected to thorough grilling on Friday when he appeared before Parliament’s Appointments Committee vetting ministerial nominees.

He was covered in beads of perspiration as the MPs, mainly the Minority group on the committee, asked probing questions, with the nominee occasionally seen wiping the sweat with his soaked handkerchief.

Among the issues that took centre stage were the car-stealing syndicate allegedly operating from his then office as deputy Chief of Staff under late President Atta Mills at the Castle; one time NHIS payment, and the controversial Woyome payment which he defended as a deputy Chief of Staff at the Presidency.

Mr Segbefia denied that money ever changed hands in his office as deputy Chief of Staff in the infamous Carl Wilson auction car scandal.

Carl Wilson, who was involved in a series of auction car scandals, was finally chased out by NDC footsoldiers when they marched to the party headquarters at Kokomlemle in Accra to demand his head.

Segbefia said there was no complicity on his part in the scandal which involved some missing cars at the Tema Port, under Carl Wilson, who was believed at the time to be the nominee’s right hand man.

“At no point did money change hands in my office,” Mr. Segbefia told the Appointments Committee when the MP for Komenda Edina Eguafo Abirem, Nana Ato Arthur quizzed him.

He claimed he was not in custody of stolen cars and denied being involved in any shady deals.

During the brouhaha over the stolen cars, some exotic cars including Jaguars were said to have found their way to Lome in Togo under some spurious explanations as well as some motorbikes at Cotonou in the Republic of Benin for sale in a very clandestine way.

On the alleged GHC51.2million fraudulent Woyome payment, the chairman of the committee, Ebo Barton Odro, who was apparently in a conflict of interest situation, saved Segbefia’s skin.

Alex Segbefia, as deputy Chief of Staff, defended the fraudulent payment to Alfred Agbesi Woyome, an NDC bankroller, which is now a matter of criminal prosecution at the court.

However when asked whether as a state official it was right for him to defend a private individual who claimed that the state owed him, Mr Barton Odro quickly intervened, claiming that the matter was before court and therefore could not be the subject of an inquiry.

The Chairman of the committee himself had defended the payment when he was a deputy Attorney General, saying that Woyome deserved the payment because the State had no defence.

One Time NHIS Premium

On the electoral promise of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for a one-time premium payment for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Mr. Segbefia, who was the campaign coordinator for the NDC in the 2008 general elections, debunked the view that the party had not lived up to its promise.

He said the promise was made on the information available at that time, but admitted that current information from the Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) indicated that a one-time premium would not be feasible for now.


He denied that his new appointment is a demotion since he was calling the shots at the presidency as a deputy Chief of Staff.

The nominee told the panel that he had acted on behalf of the late President Mills, the then Vice President John Mahama and the Chief of Staff, but he never considered his appointment to the position of deputy minister as a demotion, saying “my nomination is another avenue to serve my nation.”

“I never look at this job as a step down. When you crossover from one to the other, who is to say it is a promotion or demotion?… Mine is to see whether I can serve the President in the best possible way,” Mr. Segbefia said.

Asked what his advice would be to leadership, having been very close to the late President Mills, the nominee answered that presidents should not be hasty in taking decisions, and paid tribute to the late President Mills for exhibiting that trait.

“They used to call him ‘go slow’, but he did well,” Mr. Segbefia said, and commended current President John Mahama for also not being hasty in taking decisions.

On transitional matters after the nation’s general elections, the Deputy Minister designate stuck to a recommendation he had made on transitions for an elected president of the land to be sworn in on January 5, rather than the constitutional date of January 7.

He promised to work with the sector Minister to investigate perceived regional and tribal imbalances in the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).

Expressing confidence in the Minister, Mark Woyongo, he assured Ghanaians that they would work on the situation if it was found to be true.

Mr. Segbefia, a lawyer by profession, also pledged to collaborate with the sector Minister to improve the relations between the military and the police, as well as the general public.